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Creating A Coaching Culture With Model Behavior

According to a 2015 International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Human Capital Institute study (paywall), the three top barriers to implementing a successful coaching culture are lack of time, budgetary constraints and a limited ability to measure the return on investment.

We have found that the challenges of not having time, money or means to measure value to implement a coaching culture are often presumptuous. The problem lies in addressing a gap that is far deeper and more meaningful. When we think of culture, we reflect on experiences. Understanding, changing or improving culture means first engaging in experiences that uncover the values, beliefs, language and so much more about an organization. Coaching is deeply rooted in helping achieve greater clarity and understanding of challenges and co-creating solutions that are achievable. Engaging your leaders in deeper and more meaningful coaching experiences will contribute to building a successful coaching program for the long term.

Senior executives must begin this journey by shifting their focus from defining time, money and value barriers to understanding, defining and improving what they see as model behavior. Start with two foundational coaching experiences that lead to model behavior for leaders: learning and practicing model behavior, and understanding and improving model behavior. These two experiences will provide valuable insights about the organization’s current leadership culture and the potential for improvement.

Learning And Practicing Model Behavior

The first coaching experience provides leaders with three integrated capabilities to uncover model behavior and practice it: learning coaching skills, practicing coaching in daily work and reflecting with feedback and by journaling coaching experiences. These are the foundation for the what, when and how coaching will happen and continuously improve.

Learn: In learning coaching, we have found that coaching workshops are most effective as many leaders already possess experience and some exposure to leadership best practices from their past. Leaders engage in learning and simulating coaching conversations that mirror current situations and challenges in their daily work. Learning to coach within the context of their work allows them to gain insight about how subtle differences in values, beliefs, language and behaviors impact their leadership performance.

Practice: In my conversations with executives, the concern with time and money for coaching comes with the assumption that coaching is something that happens separately from a leader's "day job." Many assume that leaders must take time away from their core responsibilities to coach. This is true some of the time, but not all. Coaching can happen anytime and in any situation. Coaching is much like consulting, teaching or mentoring in that it is a tool that allows leaders to be effective in many different situations. The key is for leaders to improve in recognizing coaching opportunities, sometimes referred to as coachable moments.

Reflect: Coaches can utilize journals to reflect on their experiences and make use of feedback sessions to help improve their coaching skills and continue to discover coachable moments. Over time, with increasing feedback, leaders help workshops to continuously evolve in becoming more culture-specific and personal to the organization. The helps organizations deliver better quality coaching education to future leaders.

Understanding and Improving Model Behavior

The second experience requires active collaboration between senior executives and leaders in defining and measuring model leadership behavior. Various coaching techniques help facilitate the discussion between executives and leaders to discuss, define and improve best practice. As leaders practicing coaching and engaging in feedback sessions, they are uncovering valuable knowledge about themselves and their teams.

Facilitate collaborative sessions with senior executives and leaders to co-create leadership best practices. These sessions benefit leaders in establishing model behavior criteria to which they hold themselves accountable. They also help senior executives make strategic decisions in how they will commit to expanding and improving the culture.

These sessions can include questions like:

  • As you are coaching, what are you learning about this organization's culture?

  • How often is coaching happening? In what situations is coaching most beneficial?

  • What is best about the organization's leadership practices? What can be even better?

  • In what ways are leaders succeeding?

  • When leaders are successful, what qualities, behaviors and results demonstrate this?

  • What does model behavior look like?

  • How do we, as leaders, hold ourselves accountable to utilizing model behavior?

  • How do we, as an organization, hold ourselves responsible to continually improving model behavior?

These facilitated sessions set the foundation for understanding and uncover model behaviors that work best within the context of your organization's culture. These sessions become more familiar and regular as coach learning, practicing and reflecting increases across the organization.

Final Notes

The barriers of time, money and value are best measured once you complete a full cycle of the coaching experience and become empowered by the knowledge and expertise to appropriately scale your coaching program. Often, scaling the coaching program entails new leaders enrolling in the full experience from within project, department, functional areas, or across multiple functional areas. Reduce time constraints by allowing coach learning, practicing and reflection to happen in small bursts. Reduce costs of building a coaching culture by completing a full cycle of the coaching experience with a smaller group of leaders. Realize the value of a coaching culture by iterating through multiple cycles of the coaching experience and improving along the way.

[Originally posted on Frobes]

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