In this series so far, we have looked at how to define a coaching culture, some of the key principles that underpin strong coaching cultures and three initial key steps to get started. Now, we will look at some practical approaches and strategies you can use to introduce, and begin benefiting from, coaching within your organisation.

Before that, a brief word of advice on how to make the best use out of this information: firstly, note that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of all possible options, and secondly, remember that one size does not fit all and this issue offers a range of approaches, some of which, and perhaps not all, are necessary or suitable for your organisation. The key here is to take the time and care to proactively develop your own bespoke strategy that is aligned with want you want to achieve.

In terms of introducing coaching and initiating steps to gain progress and momentum, there are typically four key approaches:

  1. “Top-down” A “top-down” approach begins with senior leaders receiving coaching and developing/using coaching skills with the initiative, which then cascades down throughout the organisational “hierarchy”; i.e., starting with a small audience and then increasing the size of the population involved.
  2. “Bottom-up” A “bottom-up” approach focuses on first-line managers and their teams having access to coaching and coaching skills (largely through coaching as part of the line management relationship) and then gradually moving upwards to gain support and greater engagement from senior leaders as the benefits of the initiative become evident; i.e., starting with a larger audience and gradually making the focus increasingly targeted and specific.
  3. “Multi-pronged” A “multi-pronged” approach is initiated with several, potentially separate projects across the organization. The intention being that, over time, the ripple effect of their impact in the organisation will reach a tipping point and reap more evident systemic change.
  4. “Multi-functional pilot” A “multi-functional pilot” approach takes a defined population within the organisation (e.g., a department, division, business unit or geographical location) and implements a scaled-down version of the big picture and what the long-term strategy might look like, and it is “mirrored” in a “mini” version. This can encompass various approaches across the infrastructure and hierarchy in a measured and controlled way. The results of the pilot are reviewed and adjusted for further roll out.

All of these approaches have their merits and drawbacks. The “multi-pronged” approach can easily turn into a “scattergun” approach that lacks focus and clear intention. On the other hand, it offers the broadest and possibly fastest way to introduce coaching practices across the whole organisation.

How do you decide which approach will work best for your organisation? Here are a few questions to consider:

  • What is the current level of awareness of and support for coaching from senior management?
  • How many first-line managers are there in the organisation and where are they located?
  • Is your organisation structured in such a way that a multi-pronged approach could be sufficiently tracked and monitored for progress and success in a cohesive way?
  • Is there a part of your organisation that would suit being a pilot for coaching? (e.g., a specific branch/location, a particular business unit of function, a specific project or initiative?)
  • What budget do you have available?
  • What timescales do you have in mind?
  • What do you see as the pros and cons of each of these approaches in your organisation?
  • How does each approach align with your ultimate vision for success?

These four approaches focus on exploring and deciding the initial target population. Additionally, you need to consider what specific activities and methods will be used within that population to tangibly bring coaching into the organisation. Here are some suggestions to get you started:

Coaching related activities:

ICF research indicates that the following coaching-related activities are utilised by High Performing Organisations (HPOs) for the greatest impact:

  • Group coaching with a professional coach (78%)
  • One-on-one coaching with a professional coach (78%)
  • Access to managers with coaching skills (70%)
  • Team coaching with a professional coach (67%)

Other activities that might include or incorporate a coaching approach:

  • Conversations adopting a coaching style
  • Online learning and development packages (self-coaching)
  • Reflective journaling
  • Meeting with senior leaders
  • Action learning
  • Focus groups
  • On-the-job training
  • Learning labs
  • Stretch assignments/Job rotations
  • Projects
  • Change management initiatives

Schemes and processes utilising coaching:

  • Coaching integrated as part of a development programme (either during workshops or in between modules)
  • Graduate schemes
  • First 90-day/new role induction
  • Talent management programmes
  • Return-to-work programmes (e.g., after long-term illness or other absence)
  • Maternity programmes (pre-/during/post-maternity leave)
  • Workplace transitions (in, out, across, up, etc.)

Leveraging the 3-modalities:

Previously, we noted that one characteristic of organisations with a strong coaching culture is when all three coaching modalities (internal coach practitioner, external coach practitioner and managers/leaders using coaching skills) are present. Not only is it important to utilise all three, it is also useful to consider when, if, and how they will be intertwined and fully leveraged in order to maximise the benefit coaching activities. Here are a few things to consider:

  • How many internal coaches do you need?
  • What type of coaching activities will they be involved with?
  • Full or part time?
  • Dedicated or as part of, or in addition, to their current role?
  • How many external coaches will you engage?
  • For whom?
  • How will you source and “manage” them?
  • What type of 1-1 coaching engagements will be offered (by internal or external coaches)?
  • How many managers and leaders might you offer coach-specific training to and at what level?

Operational processes:

Finally, let’s think beyond the obvious … coaching is also about how we do things and not just who does it. What if coaching was integrated into some of your operational processes? For example, one great business function to utilise a coaching approach is sales. Imagine your sales teams being trained to coach prospective clients to explore and elicit their expectations and criteria to buy your products or services? Some other examples might be to utilise coaching in handling complaints, establishing user requirements, or during interviews and customer service calls.

As you can see, coaching culture is about a lot more than formally arranged coaching sessions. By utilising a coaching approach and infusing it into the very fabric of your organisation’s operations, culture becomes informed and a powerful growth mindset is nurtured.

Once you have decided upon an initial approach, good project management comes into play so that your strategy leads to successful implementation! All good plans have clear milestones, objectives and measures of success, which is exactly what we will explore next.

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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