A Research Paper By Serena Truong, Executive Coach, SINGAPORE
Creating a Coaching Culture Pre-pandemic World
In the pre-pandemic world, many companies saw their offices as being an essential part of their business. The pandemic in 2020 resulted in many organizations adopting different models of work arrangements. These range from working from the office to a hybrid model of employees adopting both a work from home as well as returning to the office for specific activities to a remote working arrangement.
Leaders and people managers have had to adapt a new way to lead their teams with their workforce in different work arrangements. Managing a workforce that could be working partly remote and partly in person requires managers to rethink and pick up new managerial skills to engage and motivate their teams. Leaders of more than a dozen companies researched in an article published by HBR sought to be proficient across a wide set of characteristics rather than relying solely on their areas of strength. In a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world, leaders would need to rely on the teams on the ground who are closest to the situations to be able to make the right decisions to bring the organization forward. By leveraging the teams on the ground, the organization would be able to scale at a faster rate to keep up with the rate of change in the world. To keep their diversified and possibly fragmented geographically teams engaged whilst bringing the organization towards the business ambitions of the company, people managers and leaders should be playing the role of a coach to the teams.
The role of a coach is to unlock the potential of the individual to maximize their performance. A coach helps the individual to learn rather than to direct or teach them the way forward. This is a skill that can be taught to the people managers and requires people managers to be curious and open to learning a new way of leading their teams.
Therein lies the question of how organizations can infuse coaching as a practice for the people managers within the organization.
Introduction of Coaching Into the Organization
The following outlines broadly the steps which an organization can take to introduce coaching as a practice within their teams. This is done through the adaptation of Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model:
Creating an Impetus for Change
The first step of introducing coaching into the organization is to create a sense of urgency for the change. This can be done by collating and presenting various data to support the need for change. Examples of data points that can be gathered include attrition rate, engagement scores, projected growth rate of the organization, project people manager growth rate, exit interviews.
Build a Coalition
One way to do this is to make a business case for this change to the senior leadership team and management. Gather information and feedback from organizations that may have already implemented these changes and share this feedback (both positive and areas for improvement) with the leadership team. Help the team to understand that this would be a journey that the team would embark on and that the team remains open to trying, learning, and adapting the practices as we go along
Form the Vision of the Structure
As with any good change management strategy, start with the end in mind. An example of such a goal could be to build a coaching culture within the organization to bring out the best of the team members and to promote greater diversity of thought within the organization. This is part of the strategy of the organization to scale and project the business into the next phase of growth.
Milestones are a critical part of the formation of the vision. Some examples of milestones could be:
Forming a team of coaching leaders within the organization
- Number of coaching leaders who have obtained their coaching certification
- The utilization rate of the coaching leaders by the organization for coaching purposes (Consumption rate) – milestones can start with 30%, 50%, 70%, 80%, etc.
- Feedback from the leaders on these coaching leaders
Identifying a scorecard for the people managers within the organization
- This can be specific to the deliverables of the people managers
- The attrition rate of the people managers
- The engagement level of the team reporting to the people manager
Communicating the Vision
Communicate the vision of the coaching culture clearly and frequently at every opportunity you have. Communicate widely to the business leaders, the larger workforce, and also the coaching leaders.
Coaching for the larger community and business leaders
- Utilize the group of coaching leaders to address the coaching needs of the business leaders. Obtain quick wins and encourage the business leaders who have benefited from coaching to share their experiences with the other business leaders.
- Share the benefits of utilizing the coaching leaders in multiple forums – team meetings, town halls, group discussions, etc.
- Tailor group coaching sessions for business leaders to sign up for based on the needs of the leaders
Address the concerns of the team
- Coaching Leaders: As this would be a relatively new setup, the coaching leaders could feel unsure of their career progression and development within the organization. Hold open forums and Q&A sessions for the coaching leaders to address their concerns. Another platform to utilize would be having anonymous forms set up where the coaching leaders can raise their concerns openly.
- All concerns raised should be addressed in an open, authentic, and honest manner.
- Create platforms and encourage coaching leaders to share their wins with the other coaching leaders
Develop a career path for the coaching leaders within the organization. This is an important aspect to sustain and engage the coaching leaders. As this is role would be newly created in the organization, the coaching leaders would be concerned about their job security and career growth as the function becomes more successful and leaders of the organization become more proficient in coaching their teams
Lead by example
- Lead the coaching community with an open, honest, and authentic leadership approach.
- Lead the coaching leaders using a coaching mindset
In the course of implementing a coaching culture, you may face skepticism and resistance. You may want to use this opportunity to relook at the job description and processes within the organization. Remove processes and structures standing in the way of implementing the coaching culture. Empower the team of coaching leaders to help infuse the coaching culture within the organization. Review the progress and check-in with the team frequently to lend your support in implementing the change in culture
Celebrate Short Term Wins
Set up milestones of success – short-term goals. These goals should be achievable with little room for failure. Key considerations in putting together these short term goals include:
- Projects which can be implemented relatively independently without help from strong critics or from the team who is resistant to these changes
- Projects which do not require high budgets to implement
- List out the pros and cons for each of these short-term goals before determining what these are. The team must have early success in the implementation of the change
Build on Change
Analyze each project – look at what was done well and what could have been done better. Share these learnings with the team and build on them. Create a growth mindset in the team. Encourage team members to share their journey, their challenges, their wins, and their learnings. The best way to encourage such behaviors is to lead by example and for leaders to demonstrate such behaviors.
Strengthening the Coaching Culture
At every opportunity, articulate the wins as a result of the change.
- Encourage managers to share their experiences and success stories of how their coaching leaders have helped them.
- Continually promote the use of coaching leaders throughout the organization.
- It would be ideal if the senior leaders in the organization can support the coaching leaders and make reference to them in their address to their teams
- Introduce the coaching leader fraternity as part of the new hire onboarding
- Involve the coaching leaders as new managers are identified within the organization
- Provide public recognition to the coaching leaders
- Create development plans and career growth plans for the coaching leaders within the organization
When the director of Team X resigned from the organization to take on a different role in another company, A who was an excellent technical expertise and played the role of a player-coach as team leader of the organization was asked to lead the team in the interim.
A had not taken on a people manager role before and while A was very excited with the opportunity, was anxious about how he should be leading the team now as a direct people manager.
A then enlisted the help of a coaching lead within the organization. Through various group coaching sessions, A learned from his peers how to navigate through the merit increment cycle and how to engage his team. A also engaged his coaching to lead every fortnight discussing dilemmas and ideas he had on how he could lead the team. A would put into practice the plans he had thought about and was always well prepared for this fortnightly coaching sessions – utilizing each session to its fullest through ideas he had thought about through the week or just walking through people issues he had faced. A recognized that as a coach to his team, he had to help his team to think and decipher challenges for themselves as opposed to him being the go-to person for solutions whenever the team had challenges they had to resolve. This approach allowed the team to scale and to take on more complex issues and also mitigated the situation where A became the bottleneck as the sole person providing solutions to challenges faced by the team.
A’s ability to pivot from a team leader to a people manager is noticed by the more senior leaders around and can also be evidenced by the increase in his team’s employee engagement scores. A attributes a large portion of his successful induction into the role to his coaching leader and has shared his positive experience with his peer who had also just taken on his first people manager role. This peer then reached out to his coaching leader for coaching sessions -hoping to achieve the same success as A.
Creating a Coaching Culture Across Different Geographical Locations
As the organization adopts having a coaching culture, the ability for organizations to scale and to leverage and bring out the best in each talent is elevated. In the new normal where a manager maybe manage a team of employees who have differing working preferences and are working across different geographical locations, adopting the coaching culture is a means to engage, scale, and attract the best talent for the workforce.