Here at Skills for Justice we draw on our own experiences to highlight 10 key insights to get started on the path to creating a coaching culture:

1. Large scale interventions designed to create a coaching culture are destined to fail. It takes time and effort to create a coaching culture; start with small steps and build momentum over time.

2. Plant the seeds of a coaching culture by establishing a clear purpose for coaching and allowing that intent to perfuse over time to all parts of your organisation.

3. Gather a group of people who are advocates of a coaching culture, and ask the question: “what are the behaviours and attitudes that will enable those we lead to be at their best?” and “how do we acquire those behaviours and attitudes”? Go where the energy is, and if that effort doesn’t reach across the organisation boundaries, build slowly, but do make a purposeful start.

4. Identify areas in your organisation where the essential ingredients for a coaching culture are already in place. Practices such as mentoring, and peer support are fertile grounds to build on. Seek out leaders who share the ambition to create a coaching culture and leverage their influence.

5. If the seeds of a coaching culture have not yet been sown in your organisation, consider starting out by establishing mutual mentoring partnerships between senior leaders and those at the frontline. This can help in two key ways:

a) help more senior leaders to better understand the world of privilege that they inhabit from the top of the organisation looking down

b) help to generate a sense of collective responsibility for identifying and tackling organisational barriers and creating the conditions for a coaching culture to flourish

6. Consider providing some baseline training for managers in how to have effective coaching conversations. We would also suggest that this training is extended to teams, so that a coaching mindset is instilled at both an individual and a team level, and over time, at an organisational level.

7. Start by focusing on building coaching skills for those leading teams on the frontline, your middle managers. These are the people who form the backbone of organisations and yet are often overlooked when it comes to developing good leadership skills.

8. Learn from others who are already on the path to creating a coaching culture. Spend time with leaders in other organisations who have already established the foundations for a coaching culture. Be curious and ask powerful questions to understand the barriers and enablers of that culture.

9. Find a simple coaching model like the GROW model and start practicing some of the questions in your everyday conversations (Best coaching conversation – YouTube). However a word of caution. Whilst coaching models can provide a framework for having better conversations, don’t let them stifle natural curiosity. Go where the conversation takes you.

10. Forget about asking that killer coaching question and focus instead on the quality of the conversations you are having. It can feel clumsy at first if this is not your natural style but over time you will learn to use the models in a way that works for you.

 

Final thoughts

Caspar Craven suggests that as well as leading with more humanity. As leaders, we must also see ourselves as human too. And in doing that, he calls for us to have both the courage and vulnerability to set ego aside and embrace what makes us human.

It is a brave leader indeed who is willing to put their hand up and admit that they do not have all the answers to today’s problems. But that is exactly what is needed of the leaders of today and tomorrow, a willingness to be bold, to let go of our egos, and to plug into the collective wisdom of our human existence. There are those too who won’t want to give up the power associated with command and control leadership. And for those leaders, the question has to be ‘who are they here to serve’?

The unnerving task of wrestling your organisation towards a culture where a coaching mindset is a pervasive norm is one not to be tackled alone. Do not be fooled into thinking that a coaching culture can be bolted onto an existing toxic culture. Do the heavy lifting first. Adopt an ‘inside out’ perspective, i.e., distilling the idea of a coaching mindset rather than rushing to invest in coaching for managers who have not yet mastered the art of having skillful conversations. We call this a purposeful leaning towards a more positive culture.

Like the metaphor of farming, you plant the seeds, you feed and water them, you nurture them when they start to sprout. In essence, you should create the conditions for the seeds of a coaching culture to flourish and grow.

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The views expressed in this article have been informed by conversations with individuals in the justice sector but otherwise represent the views of Skills for Justice (part of The Workforce Development Trust) based on our experience of working in the sector and our research into coaching cultures.

As experts in the fields of coaching and culture transformation, our LMOD team have a wealth of experience in guiding organisations towards a coaching culture, and a faculty of associate coaches to draw from.

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