Growing a Coaching Culture

Growing a coaching culture is an exciting, rich and sometimes daunting experience. It’s a bit like planning and then creating an elaborate garden. You have to have a vision of what you want, and what’s going to work with your terrain. You’ll plan the foundation first, then adjust and improvise as you see what grows, what doesn’t, and what doesn’t fit quite right.

A coaching culture will be in full bloom in your organization when everyone, at all levels of the organization, naturally integrates coaching approaches into their day-to-day conversations. The focus of these conversations will be turning everyday challenges into opportunities to help others embrace new ways of thinking and doing things. People will learn with and from each other as a matter of course, because that’s just the way things are done. When coaching becomes a way of life change happens more quickly, easily and completely. Wouldn’t that be a beautiful sight to behold?

How to get there, from here – when command-and-control leadership is still firmly rooted as the leadership style of choice in most organizations? As you cultivate your plans there are four things to keep in mind about growing a coaching culture.

Envision and share how a coaching culture will deliver value

We refer to growing a coaching culture as cultivating a Change-Able® organization. That is, an organization that can move through change much more quickly, smoothly and successfully.  Coaching capabilities give people at all levels of the organization the ability to successfully engage in the conversations they’ve been avoiding. That’s what makes change happen.  When people can successfully talk through challenges and build connections with diverse stakeholders, change gets traction.

Consider pairing the transition to a coaching culture with a significant change initiative such as shifting a business model or moving through a merger. When people can immediately apply their coaching skills in ways that deliver immediate value, they learn faster. That’s because they immediately see the difference that taking a coaching approach can make, particularly in sticky situations. Connecting coaching to the achievement of strategically important outcomes prepares the ground for coaching-based leadership to grow quickly.

Coaching is a worldview

Coaching will only take root in your organization and deliver impressive results if you begin with the understanding that coaching is far more than a set of tools. The capacity for coaching to deliver transformational change is seeded in three fundamental principles:

  • Insight ignites engagement, which is the foundation of true learning.
  • Learning, “in the moment” from one’s experience is essential for creating new connections and synthesizing new possibilities
  • All people have the potential to learn, grow and contribute in some meaningful way.

Choose an approach to coaching that is founded in these principals. The lasting value of the culture you grow will reflect the quality of the seeds you begin with. Keep that in mind as you choose the coaching approach to plant in your organization.

You can’t command people to coach

How you approach creating a coaching culture must reflect and reinforce the core principles of coaching. You can’t command people to embrace coaching-based leadership, they must be inspired and engaged to take on such a fundamental rewiring of how they see the world and interact with others. Top down, compliance-based approaches that judge people for being “resistors” and punish people for “not getting with the program” are the antithesis of a coaching culture.

At Cylient, we advise working with the willing. Begin your coaching culture change initiative where the ground is most fertile and the seeds of coaching are most likely to take hold and grow. That might be with a division where coaching-based leadership would help to address a significant strategic challenge, or you might begin with a cohort of key influencers who understand the value that coaching-based leadership can deliver and will serve as spokespeople and champions to seed coaching in other areas of the organization. Cultivating change in this way promotes deep roots and the organic growth of a coaching culture.

Multi-faceted learning is essential

You can’t just stick a seed in the ground and hope for the best. That’s no way to grow anything. The same is true with coaching. Once people receive training in coaching skills it’s essential to nurture the development with those capabilities in ways that work well for your particular organization. You can deepen coaching capabilities by:

  • Reinforcing the learning through practice and reviewing how to use coaching approaches in real-life situations
  • Training local champions to provide personal support as people are learning how to apply their new coaching skills.
  • Sharing stories of successes in multiple venues, such posting insights and tips on social media platforms, leaders sharing how they’ve used coaching approaches to make a different, and teams supporting each other to make coaching a habit.

Gardens don’t spring up overnight and neither do coaching cultures. Cultivating a coaching culture requires taking a coaching approach to creating change. We’d love to partner with you to grow a vibrant coaching culture in your organization. Please give us a call to set up a time for a conversation. You can reach us at 515.727.4200 or

Dianna Anderson, MCC

CEO, Cylient

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