How to Create A Coaching Culture

By Guillermo Mendoza

Guillermo Mendoza turns managers into leaders and works with organizations to create cultures built around coaching and mentorship. He helps executive leaders and their teams create consciousness, develop leadership, and get results through neuroscience, emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and coaching.

High-performing executives and leaders have long hired outside coaches to develop their people management style and presence, work through their blocks and biases, and transform their careers.

Increasingly, I’m seeing that organizations are taking what they’ve learned via classic coaching relationships and implementing related frameworks and best practices company-wide.

What historically was an individual engagement between a coach and an executive or team is evolving before our eyes. Seeing the effects of coaching in their own lives, company leaders seek to develop and imbue coaching cultures throughout their whole organizations.

What if coaching wasn’t an activity, but a way of life? What if we coached each other the way we’ve been coached, and built coaching into the culture in every possible way?

What a coaching culture is not: asking your manager to coach their direct reports and their teams. Your people don’t need coaching certificates. What a coaching culture is: a development framework around self-awareness, leadership, and collaboration.

What Coaching Cultures Foster

Coaching cultures foster 3 important things that every organization needs. First, coaching cultures foster a new kind of organizational consciousness.

Coaching cultures deepen everyone’s awareness of values, potential, empowering and limiting thoughts, perspectives and habits to understand what you want and need. They foster curiosity about language and the power of words. Your people create a vocabulary for helping each other and improve the way they collaborate through listening, rapport, and empathy techniques.

Second, coaching cultures create new leadership development pathways that did not exist before.

Leadership starts with your capacity to take yourself from A to B. Coaching cultures make space for everyone to become better leaders. They enable your people to own their changes and own their results. They open up access to coaching, and coaching outcomes, to all.

Third, coaching cultures create better alignment around results.

People in a coaching culture are able to change how they think, talk, and execute in order to achieve shared goals. Teams tap into their inherent resourcefulness and show up with solutions instead of problems. Goals and priorities crystalize. Mindfulness leads to higher performance levels and less judgment, and your people stay fully present in projects and conversations.

How to Implement a Coaching Culture

Like other initiatives in your organization, a coaching culture must flow from the top. The CEO and executive team must embrace coaching as a central way to work and develop people.

If executives have themselves had a positive experience with coaching, it can be easy to get buy-in. You might not be able to afford an executive coach for everyone, but it’s possible for any organization to craft a coaching culture.

Be sure to align expectations on what it means to embrace a coaching culture in your organization. In essence, do the same thing you do with your own executive coach. What will the impact be for your people? The learning outcomes? The behavior changes? What areas of the organization lend themselves best to this change? How will you measure what’s working and not?

Then, invest in good coaching skills and leadership training — a program that effectively develops coaching skills with leaders. This looks half like traditional executive coaching, and half like what you might receive if you were planning to be a full-time executive coach. These leaders will carry what they learned throughout the organization. You want to be sure that you are giving them the best-available frameworks and go-forward plan for what will be, hopefully, a decade-long project, or more.

Please remember as you progress that coaching doesn’t replace managing. This is a common mistake, often made unconsciously. Instead, you want leaders with great people management skills who add coaching tools to their repertoire and learn when to deploy them.

Finally, create total awareness throughout the organization about the intents of a coaching culture and what that means for everyone. This is not something you just start doing subtly on the side.

We all have to be clear on the inputs and the payoff for a coaching culture to work in practice. Be 100% upfront about what you are doing, why, and how. This will make it possible for your people to, by turns, coach and be coached — in the context of a broader, aligned collective.

Global Considerations

When implementing a coaching culture, you must consider the values and beliefs about work and leadership inherent to the societal cultures across your organization.

One thing I’ve learned working all over the world is how dramatically what coaching means changes by country and region. You know this in theory of course, but the differences on the ground can be stark, and under-appreciated by HQ.

Coaching cultures are increasingly prevalent because they are more equitable and more high-performant. But, the kind of coaching that works in one place may not work in another. You’ll need to understand these differences and train for them in terms of how coaching shows up for everyone.

For example, attitudes around self-advocacy might prove challenging when it comes to sharing and documenting best practices. In some Asian and Latin American cultures, self-advocacy is seen as bragging or having a lack of humility.

Another good one is the worldwide spectrum of cultural bias and value around the idea of assertiveness.

In Northern Europe, there is a high value on assertiveness when expressing opinions or defending ideas. However, in India, Pakistan, and Latin America, societies value harmony and respect; assertiveness can be viewed as incompatible with those values.

Often, it’s not only cultural meaning you need to be mindful of; gender and hierarchy also play huge roles in the way your people subconsciously define what is and what isn’t “appropriate.”

Working from a shared vocabulary will help as a backdrop. What does assertiveness mean in our particular team, division, and organization as a whole? Good coaches get specific about what words mean and don’t mean.

Framing the context and how it manifests positively in leadership with concrete examples is key. Good coaches paint a detailed picture instead of speaking in broad concepts and vagaries.

I’ve also found that creating the conditions necessary to allow your people to showcase a given value like assertiveness, however you choose to define it, helps perhaps most of all. Defining and encouraging folks only gets you so far. They have to have a successful, reinforcing experience of (in this case) assertiveness in-action, too. Good coaches create small but important crucibles with clear rewards on the other side.

I would be remiss if I didn’t point out before closing one other major thing to consider, which is the different ways cultures view the division between personal or family life and work.

This division can be profound and unmoving, or amorphous, or almost nonexistent, depending on where in the globe you reside or do business. But in almost every case, your people struggle with their relationship to work, trust me. A good coach, no matter where they live or work, helps people navigate and negotiate the tension between personal and professional, and if you have the courage to start and keep having that conversation with your people, every other vector of your work with them will benefit.

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Culturati is a community of CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors and other c-suite leaders who practice & study culture building and share our play books.

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