First of all, this is not the Ministry of Coaching, and I am not an evangelist. However, I do know that coaching as a resource is pivotal to the success of your organisation. It doesn’t matter how big or small, what sector or industry you are in or where you are located — coaching is something that will help advance the performance of your people and your organisation.

So, what is meant by coaching “culture”? Well, I will tell you (and provide some resources along the way). It’s also helpful recognize that one size does not fit all, so I will show you how this approach can be tailored to suit you.

Let’s start with the definition of coaching culture. In Making Coaching Work: Creating a Coaching Culture, David Clutterbuck and David Megginson describe a coaching culture as one where “coaching is the predominant style of managing and working together and where commitment to improving the organisation is embedded in a parallel commitment to improving the people.” While I fully support one aspect of this definition, I would like to challenge another part and add a third aspect for consideration.

“Commitment to improving the organisation is embedded in a parallel commitment to improving the people”:

This is a vital part of the attitude and mindset of the organisation’s senior leaders, Board and stakeholders. An organisation’s best asset is its people, and this is often either underestimated or even ignored.

For several years, I worked as a strategic project management consultant, helping organisations change and improve performance working with three key aspects: people, processes and systems (technology). Through this experience I observed, in almost all cases, it was the people that were considered last and given the least time, attention and resources. We then wonder why most change initiatives fail! Therefore, before we can begin to build coaching culture, the existing culture needs to be one that places genuine and tangible importance on its people.

“Coaching is the predominant style of managing and working together”:

This is the part that I would challenge, as I do believe that coaching as a way of leading, communicating and working with others is a very powerful and positive approach. However, by using the term predominant, I would not wish this to convey that coaching is the golden panacea of leadership and culture. Other styles of management, leadership and communication are also valid and have their place, and it is the intelligent combination and application of these styles that is important in building a performance culture.

The part I would like to add to our understanding of coaching culture is around principles and values.

Coaching is a behavioural practice with associated competencies, and I propose that it is much more than that. Coaching is much more than behaving in a certain way, more than displaying some behavioural competencies. Coaching, good coaching, is also a mindset. A coaching mindset is underpinned by principles and values that seem to typify those who apply these skills most effectively. These are qualities such as respect, trust, openness, integrity, collaboration and excellence.

Carol Dweck’s reference to a growth versus fixed mindset is an important aspect of how an organisation can make the best use of coaching as a resource to improve performance through its’ cultural development. In practical terms, what this means is that even if spending lots of time and money on coaching, lots of people will not necessarily leverage the long-term change and cultural qualities an organisation needs for sustained success.

What is needed is a more holistic and long-term approach, where coaching and coaching principles are used in many and varied ways so that the skills and principles become embedded within the fabric of the organisation and are not just a skill set used by and offered to a certain group of people.

In order to bring this understanding of coaching culture together, I’d like to suggest that coaching culture is when an organisation has a long-term cultural intention and strategy (who do we want to be?), genuinely recognises its people as a key asset, honours values—such as respect, trust, openness, integrity, collaboration and excellence—and takes consistent steps towards combining those values with coaching-related activities. With this mindset and systematic approach, every step along the way will reap benefits for your organisation including:

  • Improved performance and results
  • More effective change management
  • Enhanced internal mobility
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Employees better prepared and ready for senior positions
  • Increased retention of high performers
  • Increased productivity
  • Better communication skills and teamwork
  • More effective leadership
  • Improved decision-making

Is your organisation missing out on some of these benefits? If you are not leveraging coaching in some way as a strategic resource, I think you might be. You can read more about the positive impact of building a culture that is infused with coaching skills, activities and principles in this report by the International Coach Federation (ICF): Building a Coaching Culture for Change Management.

In this series, I will be sharing ideas on how your organisation can do more with coaching. Regardless of your current state of progress and use of coaching, the Coaching Culture Series will offer resources and food for thought. Sign up to receive this full series directly to your inbox! I want to help you bring coaching into your organisation in a way that truly makes a positive difference through developing a strategy that is just right for you, your people and your business.

Tracy Sinclair, MCC

Tracy Sinclair is a multi-award-winning Master Certified Coach (MCC) with the International Coaching Federation (ICF). She is also a trained Coaching Supervisor, Mentor Coach and ICF Assessor. Tracy trains coaches and works with managers and leaders to develop their coaching capability. She works as an international Corporate Executive and Board Level Coach, a leadership development designer and facilitator working with a wide range of organisations. Tracy also specialises in working with organisations to support them develop coaching culture. Tracy has co-authored a book Becoming a Coach: The Essential ICF Guide published in 2020 which provides a comprehensive guide to coaching for coaches at all levels of skill and experience, the psychology that underpins coaching and the updated ICF Core Competency Model. In this same year she founded Coaching with Conscience which exists to have a positive impact on society and our environment through coaching. As part of this work, she collaborates closely with MIND, the UK’s leading mental health charity and the British Paralympic Association (BPA). She also offers pro bono personal development and coaching programmes to young leaders (18-25-yrs). Tracy was named as one of the Leading Global Coach winners of the Thinkers50 Marshall Goldsmith Awards of 2019 and was a finalist for the Thinkers50 Coaching and Mentoring Award in 2021. She won the ICF Impact Award for Distinguished Coach in 2023 and is a member of the Marshall Goldsmith 100 Coaches. She was the President of the UK ICF from 2013-2014 and was an ICF Global Board Director since 2016, serving as Treasurer in 2017, Global Chair in 2018 and Immediate Past Global Chair in 2019 and Vice Chair and Director at Large on the International Coaching Federation Global Enterprise Board in 2021.

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