Creating a coaching culture

30 August 2017

Over the past eight months I’ve been project managing a global culture change piece for one of our largest clients, a global consultancy firm. The brief: create an engaging programme that will kick start the business’ shift to a more coaching style of management while at the same time providing in depth skills development for the participants. The challenge: getting a solution focused business to appreciate the value of embracing and believing in a coaching style relationship with their teams.

At its core, coaching is designed to support a person being coached, sometimes known as a coachee (I know that’s not a word), to discover their own solutions and ways forward to a problem they’re facing or a goal they’re working towards. In the world of consultancy, the business demands their people be expert solution providers for the client. Years and years of being solution focused, have made the managers in this business the best in their field. And naturally, as people, we rely on our most successful skill sets as a behavioural default to feel confident in ourselves and our work.

I hadn’t appreciated how this paradox of approaches could be a barrier to the success of a new coaching style of management. Understanding the concept of coaching is fairly simple in and of itself, but being successful at putting it into practice can be rather difficult. Essentially you’re asking someone to completely change they’re style of people management.

With this thought in mind we set out to create a solution using our Steps to Change approach as the foundation.

Our four step approach comprises:

  • See It – Seeing their working culture played out before them and identifying themselves within it.
  • Own It – Recognising unhelpful behaviours and wanting to change them. Understanding what this means to their roles, teams and organisations.
  • Change It – Gaining insight into different behaviours and learning how to adopt new ones.
  • Live It – Embedding the new behaviours into their ways of working.

Through our film that mirrored the current culture of the organisation, participants were able to recognise that a change needed to occur if they were going to make the coaching model a success. To support this change we developed an in-depth skills develop session for the managers to practice using the GROW model with our experienced Steps’ coaches. This session allowed for the managers to cut the process into pieces and explore each stage of the GROW model based on scenarios that reflect real time challenges they face. Its here where the real value of coaching hits them; they realise they don’t have to provide solutions to people’s problems, they simply need to support them in discovering how to tackle their issues through a series of open questions. The feedback from the participants has been extremely positive, but most importantly they have stated within the feedback that their confidence and skills have grown on the subject matter presented.

As part of the two day programme, we created an exercise focused on getting the participants to Own It, when considering their responsibility in making the change stick. As part of this process there is a session where they are asked “what are the top three challenges they face that will keep this culture change from being successful?” We then share those responses with their respective market leaders who spend part of the morning responding to the group. The market leaders put themselves on the line and commit to finding solutions to the barriers or pitfalls to making the coaching culture a success. They make a public commitment to supporting the change. Participants will hold them to accountable. This has helped the participants realise they are being heard and that the leadership team is going to support them in the change. Nevertheless, they also now need to Own It themselves if it’s going to be successful.

I’m convinced that the participants left the two day session with a new skills and confidence to implement a coaching culture within their teams and the business. They are committed to Change It and are starting to Live It. I’m looking forward to seeing the effects of the change in the next six months to a year when coaching is second nature in their conversations and how the approach as not only grown the business but more importantly, the people who make up the business.

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