Emerging Leaders Series: Creating a Coaching Culture

emerging leaders series

We’ve all had bad coaches over the years. Whether it’s in sports, academics, or any other field, a bad coach can have a negative impact on our growth and development. While no coach is perfect, most recognize the qualities of a good one and seek out those who can provide the support, guidance, and motivation we need to succeed.

In 2008 Google embarked on a quest to uncover the essence of exceptional management within its ranks. Interestingly, they initially sought to challenge a prevailing belief: managers did little to impact team performance. This skepticism stemmed from a viewpoint held by some Google leaders and engineers who saw managers as either a necessary evil or adding to unnecessary bureaucracy.

The objective centered around unraveling the defining traits of their most influential manager through data analysis. Their discoveries dismantled the initial belief, and as they delved deeper, a prominent revelation emerged: the manager’s proficiency as a skilled and effective coach is a principle quality synonymous with exceptional leadership.

While data is a great starting point, knowing how to apply that data to real-life situations is an entirely different animal.

Distinguishing Developmental Coaching from Performance Improvement

Pressure. It can come from different sides and individuals. Sadly, it tends to come from leaders interested in immediate performance gains and organizational goals that align with short-term objectives that have a faster impact. This short-term outlook often means managers focus their attention on individuals whose performance needs to meet desired standards rather than centering on individuals already performing well or who may have more potential. While crucial for long-term growth, developmental coaching might be perceived as time-intensive and less directly tied to immediate results.

Performance improvement addresses pressing issues, while developmental coaching requires a forward-looking perspective. Emphasizing performance improvement over developmental coaching can also inadvertently lead to conversations with a negative undertone. It’s imperative to shift the focus toward developmental coaching.

The goal is to equip employees with the necessary skills and guidance to step up and assume greater responsibilities in the future. A balance between immediate performance and long-term development is ideal. By doing so, we proactively prepare individuals for elevated roles and responsibilities, steering clear of the sole focus on performance improvement.

Why Use A Coaching Approach and When is a Good Time to Use it?

coaching approach

Managers want people who are proactive, self-directed, and critical thinkers. Coaching helps with all these qualities and helps team members gain the skills and motivation to do them.

Several studies by The Harvard Business Review and Journal of Applied Psychology emphasize coaching’s positive impact on employee motivation and initiative and underscore how coaching interventions cultivate proactive behavior. These back the theory that it improves morale, retention, engagement, productivity, competence, inspiration, and recruitment. It also leads to self-directed team members who can act on their own.

Coaching entails an interaction between two individuals, wherein one individual asks questions, listens, and offers constructive feedback and intermittent guidance to aid the other person in recognizing areas of improvement, identifying gaps, and formulating a strategic plan.

Coaching conversations can be impromptu, such as hallway discussions or take on a formal structure. They may involve post-meeting acknowledgments of a job well done, inquiries about what aspects were successful, and insights into areas that warrant improvement.

In essence, coaching serves as a conduit for meaningful exchanges. Whether conducted formally or informally, a discernible framework underpins these interactions.

What Core Competencies Are Required of a Coaching Manager?

core competencies

In 2008, upon concluding the Google Oxygen project, the people analytics team identified . These behaviors subsequently became integral to manager development programs. The emphasis on cultivating effective coaching skills was at the forefront of their list.

The coaching mindset starts with a core belief that coaching is part of a manager’s job to motivate and develop others to improve. Strong coaching relationships matter, resulting in a win-win-win (management, individual, organizational) with better business results.

Secondly, coaching managers cultivate an environment of trust and psychological safety, where according to the Harvard Business Review, “the highest-performing teams have one thing in common: psychological safety, the belief that you won’t be punished when you make a mistake.”

While allowing employees to feel safe to voice an opinion or “to be wrong” may be difficult for some, active listening is crucial to effective coaching. It allows people to feel their views are being listened to without judgment, with an open mind. While asking questions and listening is the foundation of coaching conversations, that does not mean you shouldn’t use that opportunity to provide feedback, but it does require a different mindset.

Use feedback and coaching sessions to ask inciteful, open-ended, and thought-provoking questions. Ask with curiosity in a non-judgmental way and be prepared to surface assumptions and beliefs to help the individual be open to the possibilities and help them get out of a set mindset to see other ways to look at a situation. A suitable approach method starts with “What” and “How” questions.

Every individual is different, shaped by their varied experiences and personal history. Working with individuals over time allows you to recognize strengths that would benefit from further development. You can develop a coaching program around each person by understanding their needs and motivations.

Lastly, one of the best reasons to coach is to facilitate growth. Give people stretch assignments that push them outside their comfort zones. But don’t just leave them on their own. Support them in taking on the challenge and completing the task. They may trip and fall along the way, but with the right coaching mentality, you will pick them up and help them move forward.

How to Structure Coaching Conversations

structure coaching conversations

Effective coaching conversations are a cornerstone of professional growth and development. They provide a structured framework to guide individuals toward their goals while fostering insights and actionable steps.

This comprehensive approach involves defining desired outcomes, identifying areas for improvement, and seizing coaching opportunities. Through respectful permission-seeking and collaborative conclusion-building, coaching conversations become a dynamic exchange of ideas.

The process continues with formulating actionable plans, regular follow-up, and necessary adjustments. Ultimately, recognizing achievements and celebrating successes further fuels motivation and reinforces the growth journey. This guide delves into the key components that shape the structure of coaching conversations, enabling meaningful and transformative interactions.

A Concrete Coaching Example

You are Jack’s manager. Jack is a talented young man who aspires to become a manager (the desired outcome). You believe Jack has the potential to do this, but he is hesitant to share his ideas in a group setting and gets flustered when presenting (areas for growth and development).

As a coaching manager, you meet with Jack to ask him questions about his goals and identify his desire to be a manager. This aims to understand what strengths will support him in achieving that goal and recognize the skills and behaviors requiring development. (Asking questions and listening).

Finally, you ask him if he wants some coaching from you to help him move toward his desired goal (asking permission).

Later in a team meeting, you notice that Jack hesitates to share his ideas for the direction of a new project (coaching opportunity). After the meeting, you ask Jack if he would be open to discussing the meeting and his participation with you (asking permission again). He agrees.

You ask him several questions and listen for his response (questioning and listening again). He acknowledges that he had some ideas he didn’t share and is disappointed in himself (gaining insight). You ask how you can support him in sharing his ideas in the future. Together, you develop a plan. You then follow up to see how it is going.

The key to coaching is asking questions and listening.

An exercise and Sample Coaching Questions.

sample coaching questions

Think of a challenge, issue, or opportunity that you have currently. Share the information with a partner. Have your partner listen, ask questions, paraphrase, summarize, and occasionally give suggestions.

Share what was helpful to you as well as ideas they could consider for next time. These could be potential exploration pathways, fostering even deeper insights during your discussions.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Are you looking to cultivate a thriving coaching culture that drives results and inspires success for your organization? We are committed to building healthy organizations, offering consulting and training solutions and tools for leaders to improve teamwork, clarity, and engagement within their companies.

Contact us to learn more about how you can create a coaching culture and turn managers into effective coaches.

Share With Your Colleagues
POSTED ON: Coaching, Culture, Leadership