How do you create a coaching culture from within?

Michelle Lowe discusses her experience of forming a successful coaching relationship within her team. Michelle is speaking at the CIPD Coaching for Business Performance Conference, 12 September in London. Book your ticket today.

As someone who naturally has a coaching style of leadership and could occasionally be described as a fervent enthusiast about the power of coaching (or maybe something slightly less polite), I know that it is not without its challenges.

I recall the feeling when Alex* (*not her real name) wanted to talk about her career. I guessed that there was likely to be a difference between her aspirations and what I could realistically provide within the organisation. I momentarily wanted to be anywhere other than in that room right then. There was a sinking feeling that this could be the beginning of the end to a wonderful working relationship.

However after the initial reaction (about two seconds), I soon realised what a privilege it was that someone trusted me enough to open up in this way, and the small part that I could play in helping them to achieve their goal. During the conversation, we talked about her hopes for the future, challenges and frustrations that she was facing in her day-to-day job, what I could do to bring her current role closer to what she needs (and unfortunately what I couldn’t), and what could help her to ultimately realise her dream.

Fostering a culture of coaching and mentoring can bring amazing (and sometimes unexpected) results, both on an organisational and individual level. But the above illustrated to me that it does not mean that it is always easy, and it can feel uncomfortable at times, particularly for managers.

Trust plays a big role in forming successful coaching relationships, and this trust is undoubtedly built upon through the coaching relationship. Furthermore, coaching in the workplace not only has an impact on individual performance and well-being, but it also has a broader positive effect on the team – creating a more supportive atmosphere amongst colleagues and teams. For the managers themselves, coaching and mentoring employees also has a positive impact, enhancing their leadership flexibility and giving a greater sense of fulfilment.   

So, what can we do to make life easier for the managers in our organisations? For those of us lucky enough to work in HR, the great answer is a lot. We can start by designing jobs for our leaders that empower them to focus on people, not just delivering business results – and of course, by focusing on people, chances are that our results will improve so it is a win-win! Secondly we can also ensure that our HR processes, such as performance management, are aligned to rather than opposing what we are trying to achieve through coaching. We can also provide ongoing learning opportunities and the opportunity to experience coaching themselves, so that they can start to build their own coaching experience. And last, but not least, we can lead the way by incorporating coaching into our own daily practice, or in other words ‘walk the talk.’

Within a coaching culture, you can create a whole new level of openness and opportunities. It just takes a bit of courage to show some vulnerability, let go of control and make the most of an occasional failure – or as I prefer to call it learning opportunity. And Alex? I’m enjoying being part of her journey.

Michelle Lowe is presenting in ‘Making coaching stick: Creating a coaching culture in your organisation’ and ‘Exploring alternative coaching methods and relationships’ at the CIPD Coaching for Business Performance Conference, 12 September in London. Book your ticket today.