By the end of this session:
- You will be able to define a coaching culture and why it is important.
- You will be challenged to become an organizational anthropologist.
We will introduce our programme by considering the three terms which make up the title of this course coaching, culture and cultivating. Determining the nature and implications of these terms will help us to establish a bigger picture of the context and application for our learning.
At the heart of all coaching is the idea that the coachee has answers and agency. The coach’s role is, therefore, not to direct or advise, but to create the conditions in which the coachee can access their own knowledge, ideas, motivation, and capability to address the challenge they face:
“This speaks to the very heart of coaching: building self-awareness and enabling people to find the answers themselves through active listening and genuine inquiry.”
So, whilst not training to become coaches specifically, developing a coaching approach takes place through conversation and relationship:
“A conversation where the coach acts as the facilitator to the coachee, so that they learn, gain insight and take action toward a specific and agreed outcome.”
“Coaching aims to help release potential and to improve performance, primarily through a non-directive approach in a structured discussion.”
These conversations do not need to be lengthy, like those a trained coach might have, but are structured:
“…the major function of coaching is that it moves the client from one place to another in a purposeful, planned and motivating way … coaching helps people cope with change because it teaches them mechanisms for how to mitigate uncertainty and creates self-direction to manage the unknown.”
The coach’s role is, therefore, not to have all the answers but to empower people who are ready willing and able to make progress to direct their own learning and make their own decisions and take responsibility for their actions.
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between coaching and mentoring is that mentors are often people with more experience in an area in which the mentee is trying to grow. Coaching, however, does not require the coach to be an expert in the topic where the learning is taking place. In coaching there is a shift from an expert-led approach to one focused on encouraging choice, individualisation and responsibilisation.
This course is about adopting a coaching culture rather than being trained as coaches, which leads to our second key definition, that of culture. Organisational culture can be considered as:
“the deeper level of basic assumptions and beliefs that are shared by members of an organisation, that operate unconsciously, and that define in a basic ‘taken for granted’ fashion an organization’s view of itself and its environment.”
“Culture is what you stop noticing and take for granted when you have worked somewhere for over three months”
“what happens in reality; the practices that are common and visible which hint at the assumptions beneath.”
So, throughout our course we will be looking beyond coaching as a role which can be undertaken by an individual to consider how core coaching principles can form the basis for your organisations practice paradigm.
We have spoken of cultivating rather than creating. This is to reflect the core coaching approach that a coaching culture is not something which can simply be implemented by managers but is one in which the organisation works together to encourage and empower.
This cultivation requires the organisation to be willing to shift to a new culture of minimal policing, moving from an ideology of top-down command and control to the ‘new deal of the enabling state’:
“It’s about creating an organisation that identifies success with the ability to learn, adapt and grow through the talents of its people.”
“…the power of the leader-coach, who explores and awakens possibilities rather than offers advice or gives solutions, and thus generates commitment and energy.”
You might also be wondering why you should cultivate a coaching culture in the first place if it means giving away power and control. There are several responses:
- Is it possible to control other people’s behaviours with any level of effectiveness, economy, or efficiency?
- We are living in a fast-changing world which requires people who can adapt quickly.
- When people are engaged, they are more likely to enable their own solutions and take responsibility.
- Individual creativity can contribute to a more rounded team.
- “There is also a social change in western societies towards less deference to authority and higher expectations of how individuals are related to at work.”
Yet, more philosophically there is a far more fundamental reason to do with our humanity:
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our happiness.”
Cultivating a coaching culture will not be right for every organisation. It requires practitioners to have some control over how they go about their work and assumes service-users have the agency and resources required to make responsible decisions. It also recognises that it’s about knowing when coaching is not appropriate, for example, a major crisis which requires direction and action.
In a coaching-culture, the managers role becomes creating an empowering environment and context. The coach-leader is curious, has good rapport, asks questions, and engages people. A coaching culture asks how those being coached will live their shared values.
So, our first challenge is to become organisational anthropologists and explore the culture of our own organisation and how it might look different if that culture was cultivated to become a new coaching culture.
 P.19, Steed, J (2013), ‘Why the emphasis on coaching for organisations?’, in Forman, D, Joyce, M and McMahon, G, Creating a Coaching Culture for Managers in your Organisation, London: Routledge
 P.13, Jones, G and Gorell, R (2018), How to Create a Coaching Culture: A Practical Introduction, London: Kogan-Page
 P.42, Hawkins, P (2012), Creating a Coaching Culture, Maidenhead: Open University Press
 P.56, Jones and Gorell (2018)
 P.11, Schein (1985) in Jones and Gorell (2018)
 P.35, Hawkins (2012)
 P.11, Jones and Gorell (2018)
 P.18, Steed in Foreman, Joyce and McMahon (2013)
 P.9, Jones and Gorell (2018)
 P.28, Steed in Foreman, Joyce and McMahon (2013)
 P.13, Hawkins (2012)
 P.65, Covey, S, ‘Forward’ in Pattakos, A (2004), Prisoners of our Thoughts: Viktor Frankl’s Principles for Discovering Meaning in Life. San Fransico: Berrett-Koehler