One of the top reasons why people choose to leave an organisation is a lack of coaching and mentoring from their manager. Closely trailing this reason is a lack of career development opportunities which is as much about personal growth as it is about progression or advancement. Even more important than both of these is the ongoing statistic that the number one driver of a person’s happiness in the job is ‘the relationship they have with their immediate supervisor. This is why it is so important for companies to change the conversations that their leaders are having with team members.
Coaching conversations are almost universally accepted as being a core expectation of any high-performance leader. They are, however, far from being a core strength of many organisations.
A coaching culture is critical for businesses in the retail, hospitality, and services sectors. This is because a consistent and quality customer experience is shaped by the efforts of managers to constantly fine-tune the skills of lots of team members who are attempting to implement service standards in a multitude of unpredictable situations. Training and procedures alone cannot ever account for all of these circumstances.
Creative companies and startups also depend heavily on a coaching culture because it is the only way to ensure that personal learning happens at a fast enough rate to innovate, pivot, and respond within very compressed timeframes and with problems that are very grey.
A coaching culture is characterised by a mindset of looking at all people for their ‘potential’ rather than their ‘performance.’ It is where people are helped to learn rather than just being shown or taught.
To build a coaching culture, there needs to be the right environment followed by the right skills.
Change the expectation of leaders
Creating the right environment means ensuring that coaching is actively encouraged. Companies won’t create a coaching culture if the prevailing management style is still one of ‘Command and Control.’ That is because people are afraid to make decisions and managers are generally recognised for ensuring their teams ‘get things done’ as opposed to innovating or learning, two things that are critical for a coaching culture.
The other reason is that ‘knowledge is power’ for command and control managers, so why would they give up what has made them great, in order to pass it on to others? A coaching culture is underpinned by a need to give people ownership of their roles and an opportunity to grow as part of achieving better results.
A totally different conversation needs to happen between managers and team members, one that is positive, empowering, and challenging. For this to happen, companies need to be crystal clear that the style of leadership that is expected from their managers is linked to coaching and that they will be held accountable (and recognized) for having coaching conversations, as well as held accountable for the development of their people.
It’s about more than ‘G.R.O.W.’
Building the skills of managers to have good coaching conversations requires more than an understanding of the common tools. It is about developing their awareness of human behaviour and how this affects people’s ability to learn and change. It is also about resilience and adaptability in the communication styles they use to build relationships, along with the core coaching skills of questioning, storytelling, honesty, and feedback.
Coaching conversations help team members see opportunities for personal growth in their day-to-day activities simply by challenging the way they are doing it and linking new potential approaches to a person’s career aspirations. Finally, managers need to be supported in the art of knowing when to pivot from the role of the coach into other roles such as mentor or trainer.
One of the great reads on how to become a leader capable of shaping a coaching culture is ‘The Tao of Coaching’ by Max Landsberg.