7 Steps for Developing a Coaching Culture

…and get a solid return on your investment

7 Steps for Coaching is no longer restricted to private conversations for the privileged few at the top. It’s not just a perk for rising stars. Today coaching is woven into the culture of the organization and impacts people at every level.The research is clear… coaching improves performance, collaboration and output. For more than 20 years, coaching has been a key component of leadership development programs and nearly all large organizations develop top performers by using external coaches or developing internal coaches.1 Developing a coaching culture is a game changer that shifts the way people work together. Companies with strong coaching cultures have much higher employee engagement, greater revenue growth and radical improvement of results.2You know you have a strong coaching culture when coaching conversations flow in all directions—upwards, downwards and sideways. Learning becomes a way of life as people actively seek feedback and support. Drawing strength from diversity, people share power and make collaborative decisions that speed up the change process. A strong coaching culture offers customized support at every level, and as a result, people fully engage in crucial, candid, respectful conversations.

Despite feeling energized by the changes that coaching brings to your organization, you may harbor some doubts…
1) Our people already have basic coaching skills…isn’t that enough?
2) We’ve invested so much time and money in coaching… what’s the return?
3) Isn’t there a faster, more efficient way to create a resilient culture?
4) Aren’t people more likely to leave the organization once they are coached?
5) People might feel good about coaching, but does it really impact performance?

Leadership that Works has developed a complete Coaching Culture Assessment to help you answer these questions and more. As one of the world’s leading coach training organizations, our coach consultants have the experience to support you in developing your organization’s coaching culture.
Ready to create agility in your team, your division, and your entire organization? You’ll discover new ways to:
1) Increase employee engagement at all levels
2) Develop high potential leaders into peak performers
3) Drive organizational change by collaborating with all stakeholders
4) Embrace and leverage diversity to attract and retain top talent
5) Develop a collaborative leadership team that can face the most challenging circumstances

How do you get a high return on your investment when you develop a coaching culture? We use a customized approach following the 7 steps below to move your organization forward.

7 Steps to develop a coaching culture

1. Perform a coaching culture assessment
2. Address resistance to change
3. Select a pool of external coaches
4. Develop internal coaches
5. Expand leadership capacity
6. Align policies and procedures
7. Evaluate the program and measure the results

1. Perform a coaching culture assessment
To build a world-class coaching culture, we start with a rigorous assessment. The Coaching Culture Assessment reveals strengths and opportunities, and helps you anticipate the challenges of developing a coaching culture.
As part of the assessment, we interview key players to determine:
– how well is coaching understood and integrated into performance and talent management?
– what competencies does the organization need to develop within five years?
– how well is coaching embedded in the policies and procedures in your organization?

If you have started embedding coaching in your culture already, you’ll get an overview of perceptions within the organization of:
– what behavior changes and performance improvements are most needed now?
– how effective are your internal and externally sourced coaches?
– how does coaching support the achievement of your organization’s objectives and outcomes?

After the Coaching Culture Assessment, we create a customized program that helps you develop the next generation of leaders and reach your goals. Throughout the process, you will be supported by a team of highly experienced coaching consultants who have a long track record of achieving results.
“We were like crabs in a bucket, pulling each other down. Since the coaching program, we are more trusting, more supportive, more respectful. We are achieving a lot more because we actually like working together.”

2. Address resistance to change
Most organizations handle many change initiatives at once. They undertake six sigma audits, launch a bold diversity initiative, move into lean manufacturing, and get serious about social responsibility. The pace of change is not slowing down anytime soon.
The resistance to change is real. Many people perceive change as painful. Addressing push-back is often the most difficult part of any change initiative. When change is implemented across complex systems, diverse cultures, and high-speed environments, the challenges increase. The majority of time spent implementing change initiatives is in getting people on board. For example, resistance to coaching often sounds like, “We don’t have time for coaching,” or, “Our top performers don’t want to be coached,” or “Our culture is too fast-paced, too high pressure, too demanding for coaching.”
How do you deal with people who don’t want change? We address resistance to change, not by squelching it, but by getting curious about the positive intentions underneath the resistance. Naming the fears and normalizing the emotional impact helps people feel understood. They get a sense that they are valued and once they experience the power of coaching, they become the ambassadors for a system-wide coaching culture.
Add coaching skills to any change initiative and the resistance actually fuels the process. Coaching tools enable teams to harness the energy and expand the options. As people engage in the change process, the transition becomes exciting rather than painful. We help you identify early adopters who have the power to influence the culture and can make change less stressful. A coaching culture helps build social capital as people expand their connections and go beyond the traditional departmental boundaries.

“We’ve had three CEOs in three years. The last thing we needed was another consultant telling us how we had to change. But the coaching initiative was completely different. The coaches listened and they believed us. Instead of ramming solutions down our throats, they trusted us and helped us figure out what we needed to do next.”

3. Select a pool of external coaches
We use rigorous selection criteria to produce a pool of extraordinary coaches who work primarily with senior leaders. Together we select a diverse team of external coaches who have credibility, cultural awareness, emotional intelligence and a wide range of experience. When coaches provide senior leaders with a profound experience of coaching, they in turn commit to coaching as a strategy that permeates all systems and relationships.

External coaches support the senior team to improve both personal and organizational performance, including:
1) Using assessment tools to build on leadership strengths
2) Achieving personal career and leadership goals
3) Building collaborative leadership teams
4) Creating a custom plan with a roadmap to achieve organizational goals
5) Addressing roadblocks and challenges as they emerge
Research shows that 35% of new executives fail within the first 18 months.3 Many of these failed leaders state that they did not know how to get the support they needed. Executive coaches have the tools to support successful transition to a higher role.
At every level, the coach and client agree upfront on meaningful goals, both personal and organizational. Results-oriented coaching produces measurable outcomes.

“I was a controlling micro-manager. Coaching helped me change my beliefs about people and their capabilities. Believing my direct reports can create their own solutions changed everything. Coaching has freed up my time.”

4. Develop internal coaches
Many of the functions of external coaches will be taken over by internal coaches once your organization builds internal capacity. By training internal leaders to coach, you create a more scalable, sustainable and robust approach to driving change. Because they understand the organization’s culture, landscape, and interests, internal coaches significantly increase retention, engagement, productivity and performance.
The selection process includes identifying early adopters and influencers who will serve as strong ambassadors for the coaching program. When leaders from many levels and many departments become internal coaches, they enhance the credibility and sustainability of the program.
Research shows that internal coaches do as good a job as external coaches, and in many cases a better job, when they receive high quality coach training. The only area where this is sometimes not the case is with the senior executive team. When it comes to sensitive issues, senior leaders often prefer working with external coaches.Many organizations find they can save 70% of coaching costs by developing internal coaches. It takes time up front to develop internal coaches, but the benefits are long term. Developing a coaching culture is a cost effective way to attract, develop and retain top talent.
For example, when a leader on the verge of derailment works with an external coach, the likelihood of leaving the organization increases. The opposite is true when working with an internal coach, where retention increases.4 One study shows that not only are those who get coaching more likely to stay with the organization, but their direct reports are 30% less likely to leave.5

“I was considering leaving the organization, because I didn’t fit in. After working with my coach, I realized that I’m the one who gets to determine if I fit in. My relationships with my boss and co-workers changed completely.”

5. Expand leadership capacity
Leaders who receive coaching are more likely to be promoted, create work-life balance, and develop their successor. People become even more valuable when they become internal coaches, and more valuable still when they are selected to teach coaching skills throughout the organization. To continuously reinforce the coaching mindset, a peer coaching program is established, giving people opportunities to coach across departments. In addition to expanding leadership capacity, coaching impacts how people run their meetings, organize their time, and interact in daily conversations.
The least costly and fastest way to build a coaching culture is to provide an immersion in coach training along with formal peer coaching program. As team members learn to coach each other, they develop very deep connections. Peer coaching provides the framework for creating powerful relationships and networks across the organization. When the organization invests in people, they feel valued. Hostility, distrust and burnout disappear as coaches collaborate to build sustainable leaders.
Our global team has deep experience in leading coaching seminars, facilitating change, developing leaders, and expanding collaboration. Developing a coaching culture includes a progression of programs:

Leaders as Coaches: We train leaders to have coaching conversations with direct reports and peers. Coaching leads to greater engagement, personal responsibility and accountability, resulting in improved team performance.
Train the Trainer: The most efficient way to really learn something is to teach it. In this program, internal coaches learn how to teach coaching skills. When leaders build coaching skills in their people, their own coaching skills improve dramatically. Those on the training team become ambassadors for creating a coaching culture which has a broad systemic impact across the board.
Mentoring: We provide mentoring to help leaders address the unique challenges they face in creating a coaching culture. Ambassadors also get feedback on their coaching, facilitation, and training skills. Mentors also help troubleshoot the implementation process and support the application of coaching skills throughout the organization. For long-term sustainability, internal coaches become internal mentors to expand competencies organization-wide.
To optimize results, we use a blended learning platform with both in-person and online components. The focus is primarily on experiential learning and applying coaching skills in the workplace. To mitigate concerns that training takes too much time away from work, leaders learn and work at the same time, using coaching skills in real sessions to resolve real issues.

“I thought I was already a great coach. But the train-the-trainer program woke me up to my enormous power. This was the most exciting learning experience I’ve ever had. I was totally surprised by how much we accomplished during our coaching practice sessions.”

6. Align policies and procedures
Creating a coaching culture is much more than just getting people to do a lot of coaching. To ensure the development of a coaching culture, a policy review is crucial. Which of your HR policies are already conducive to creating a respectful, energized, coaching culture and which need revision?

– Performance Reviews: How are coaching skills reinforced during performance reviews? What support do managers need to give inspirational feedback, share power and increase active involvement?
– Key Competencies: What competencies does the organization need to develop within the next 5 years to reach their goals? How are coaching skills embedded in each of the competencies?
– Diversity and Inclusion: What policies ensure that people at all levels have access to coaching and development opportunities?
– Reward System: How does your reward system support coaching and collaboration rather than internal competition
– Job Descriptions: Do your job descriptions state explicitly that coaching, mentoring and developing people are part of everyone’s job description?
– Selection and Promotion Criteria: How does the selection and promotion criteria reinforce the coaching culture strategy?

Analysis of policies and procedures lead to recommendations and an implementation plan.

“The internal competition here was intense with people undermining each other left and right. Our policies were creating a lot of internal stress until we changed the way we reward and promote people. Instead of making each other look bad, now our people support each other’s professional development.” 

7. Evaluate the program and measure the results

You spend a lot on coaching… what’s the return on investment?

Leaders consistently rate coaching highly as a preferred method of development because it not only expands capability, but builds cohesiveness. The investment in coaching is increasing, but few organizations formally evaluate the coaching process or identify the return on investment.
What gets measured gets done. So what’s the best way to measure the impact of coaching? What metrics do you put in place to support the development of a coaching culture?
When you review key performance indicators and identify the top priorities, you can hone in on the specific outcomes you will measure. Some expected outcomes of creating a coaching culture are:
– expanded leadership skills are developed
– key challenges are addressed collaboratively
– coaching empowers people to take responsibility

But how do you measure these outcomes? To assess how well the organization has created the ideal culture and accomplished the desired goals, we tailor metrics to your organization, which can include:
– changed behaviors: competency development, relationship building
– achievement of goals: personal, team and organizational objectives
– expanded creativity: product or service development
– improved service: customer satisfaction, industry leadership

When you invest in creating a coaching culture your return can be measured many ways. Traditionally the return on financial investment is all that matters: increase in shareholder value, sales, market share and profitability. More robust ways to measure return on investment include:
– leadership and talent development: can be measured in terms of increase in promotions from within, lower recruitment costs, increased employee retention, filling the pipeline for succession planning
– relationship building: can be measured in terms of increase in loyalty, expansion of networks, sharing on social media, increase in recommendations and testimonials.
– employee engagement: can be measured in terms of reduction in turnover, absenteeism, safety incidents, quality defects, shrinkage and grievances.

The most common method of evaluating the success of a coaching program is to use your existing appraisal system, followed by measurement of Key Performance Indicators, 360 feedback, and employee feedback forms.
A thorough evaluation of your coaching program includes:
– Progress on participants’ personal goals
– Progress on organizational goals
– Mastery of core competencies and changes in key behaviors
– Feedback for each coach on strengths and development opportunities
-Recommendations for the next generation coaching program

“We had no idea how to measure the impact of coaching. The coaching culture initiative helped us put key metrics in place and we all know what to do to meet targets quickly.”

And that’s only the beginning…In all our programs the learning is profound. The impact is amplified by team bonding, laughter and elements of surprise. The learning adventure deepens by slowing down for reflection. In so doing, people connect with their personal power and their capacity to lead change. The excitement about the impact of coaching goes viral. Once set in motion, there is no stopping people who have created an agile coaching culture.

Coaching expands beyond the inner landscape of an organization as people naturally use coaching skills in conversations with board members, customers, vendors, and more.

Not only does coaching contribute to personal and organizational transformation, it impacts the triple bottom line: people, planet and profits. Coaching serves as a springboard to address the major social, economic, and environmental challenges of our times.

It’s time to move forward…

As a trailblazer in the field since 1998, Leadership that Works has been leveraging coaching in places where it’s needed most: cross-cultural organizations, developing nations, under-resourced communities, mergers and acquisitions, and multi-sector social change initiatives.


1. Creating a Coaching Culture. Institute of Leadership Management. https://www.i-l-m.com/~/media/ILM%20Website/Downloads/Insight/Reports_from_ILM_website/G443_ILM_COACH_REP%20pdf.ashx
2. Building a Coaching Culture. Human Capital Institute and International Coach Federation. 2014. coachfederation.org
3. Hitch, Chris. How to Help Executive Leaders Succeed. www.kenan-flagler.unc.edu/execdev/
4. Levenson, A.R. McDermott, M. & Clarke. S. (2004). What coaching can do for your organization … and what it can’t. Center for Effective Organizations, Marshall School of Business, CEO Publication, G-04-20(472).
5. Linley Rose, Matt Rule, Ruth Donde “DB Breweries Limited – A Coaching Impact Survey”, November 2006

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