Developing a Coaching Culture Through Leadership

Your organization’s leaders might feel frustrated at this point. They know employee engagement is important and believe they’re doing everything right, yet multiple surveys indicate the engagement needle is stuck on “low.” Therein lies the rub, to paraphrase Shakespeare’s tragedy, Hamlet. Focusing on engagement numbers, rather than identifying the unique strategies and effective communication processes to empower your employees, can lead to a disconnected workforce.

Giving Feedback That Matters

Research finds that organizations are spending billions on engagement, and yet 63 percent of U.S. employees are not fully engaged and find themselves lacking the support they need to be high performers. One-off seminars and “employee appreciation days” have limited impact, because people return to their jobs without feeling any more engaged in the business mission and without new insights into how their particular efforts contribute to business success. It’s business as usual until you give them a new perk that produces excitement for a short while and then wears off.

One answer is to develop a coaching culture in your organization. In a coaching culture, providing employees with effective communication, training and development, and leader feedback is an ongoing, disciplined method. Your employees regularly collaborate with each other to explore their full capabilities and competencies. Your leaders routinely interact with employees, giving them productive feedback that helps them develop new skills, innovate, and grow their careers. Annual performance reviews are going by the wayside because they’re backward-looking and usually fail to incentivize higher performance. A coaching culture energizes your workforce throughout the year, ensuring employees have every opportunity to pursue personal and organizational goals and can be as high-performing as they desire.

In this type of culture, people take the initiative. They thrive on leadership feedback and run with it to achieve higher performance. A finite two-day course on skill development may be a nice perk, but it has a limited impact. Employees who can learn on a regular basis through teamwork and goal-oriented leadership direction will be more engaged, more productive, and more committed.

Energizing Your Workforce

The first step is developing the coaching skills in your leaders. Managers need to understand how to deliver useful feedback, opportunities for collaborative teamwork, stretch assignments, and so on. They also need to be consistent communicators during the entire employee experience — from conveying the organizational vision to onboarding new employees to layoffs — addressing employee issues concerning the organization rather than ignoring them. Your employees get a solid and common foundation which prevents many of the issues that attract unions. In a coaching culture, your leaders ensure employees are always informed and have a voice, making your business union proof. Unions become irrelevant in an issue-free workplace where employees are engaged and feel free to discuss opportunities and challenges with management.

Building and maintaining a strong coaching culture strong can include communication tools like customized video, websites, e-learning, interactive and experiential training, social media, and face-to-face communication between managers and employees. Leaders know how to listen and respond to employees, whether via personal communication or technology, in a way that maintains alignment between employee efforts and the organizational mission. In a successful coaching culture, leaders coach other leaders, and your leadership team coaches employees who also coach each other.

Conveying Positive Energy

An employee watches a training video and asks your manager what they should do next. Command-and-control leaders respond with detailed instructions. In a coaching culture, your leader says, “What do you think is the best next step, and how will you approach your project?” Great leaders convey their positive energy to employees who convert that energy into personal motivation. A coaching culture transforms your workforce into a collaborative, innovative, empowered, and engaged group of people. Engagement data becomes only a guide for determining how to strengthen the coaching culture because your focus is on your people and not on numbers.

About the Author Chris Craddock

As the leader of Projections' production team, Chris loves to inspire others to perform at the highest levels! From the most challenging leadership opportunities to brainstorming the latest topics leaders want to learn about, Chris provides clear direction and vision.

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