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  • Maximum Performance

    Developing a
    coaching culture

    What’s the next step for your organisation? How can we help?

Developing a coaching culture

You appreciate the power of coaching. You know the benefits. But what’s the next step for your organisation? And how can you make the case for it? Here are some factors to consider.
The key decision

Let’s assume, since you’ve read this far, that you’re well aware of the benefits of coaching and that you think your organisation could make more use of it.

So the key decision isn’t ‘whether’ – it’s ‘how?’

You’ve got three choices:

  • Qualified internal coaches
  • Qualified external coaches
  • Leaders / managers as coaches


Making the best use of coaching within your organisation is a matter of making the best use of each of the three models, and of getting the mix right. There will always be times when one approach will be better than another and organisations therefore need to be flexible in their approach.

So just how can you make the most of each model and also get the mix right?

You need to step back and analyse your use of each one in turn, from basic principles, rather than simply looking at incremental improvements on what you’re already doing.

Factors to consider

  1. Organisational culture – does a coaching style fit with your culture and values? And is this the case across the entire organisation or are there different sub-cultures to take account of?
  2. Organisational maturity – do your people have the emotional intelligence or maturity to deliver or receive coaching?
  3. Development needs – looking at the spectrum of needs across the organisation, is putting more effort into coaching the right approach just now or do you need to put other building blocks in place first?
  4. Appetite for coaching – you may perceive a need, but is there an appetite? How, and with whom, should you test it before investing too heavily?
  5. Infrastructure – how much formal coaching do you envisage (ie, as compared with managers using a coaching conversations style), how much administration will this require and what’s the best set-up for it?
  6. Evaluation – you’re almost certainly using coaching already. Have you evaluated the impact? If you’re going to invest more heavily in coaching in the future have you got a robust plan for measuring the return on investment?
  7. Resources – do you have the people or the budget to match your ambition? What’s feasible? Who do you need to convince?
Developing leaders / managers as coaches

Using leaders and managers as coaches is the dominant trend at the moment.

This is not at all surprising, given the clear potential gains of having leaders and managers focused on developing their people and being able to support them in that development themselves, on-the-job.

It fits with a 70-20-10 model. It’s sustainable. It’s cost-effective.

But is it working as well for you as it should?

Did you see Jack Zenger’s HBR article the other year, reporting that 24% of leaders over-rate their coaching skills? (‘People Who Think They’re Great Coaches Often Aren’t’). They were poor listeners, poor role models, not collaborative, didn’t develop others, didn’t give feedback, didn’t encourage diversity, and lacked integrity. That’s quite an indictment. It’s also quite a useful checklist against which to evaluate your managers’ and leaders’ coaching skills. And evaluation is key, since the same survey on which the article was based showed that the higher someone rated their own skills, the lower they were rated by those on the receiving end.

So if you’re already relying on your leaders and managers to act as coaches you might want to think about how well they’re doing it at the moment and how you can help them improve before you start training any more of them to do it. And you might want to look a bit more closely at how you train them in the first place.

Factors to consider

  1. Values and processes – do your organisation’s values support a coaching approach from your leaders / managers? Do your processes allow for it?
  2. Objectives – where should your leaders / managers be directing their coaching skills? Performance management? People development? Problem-solving?
  3. Commitment – are your leaders / managers ‘up for it’? Is there a coaching culture already or are you going to have to identify some potential champions who can help you spread the practice across the organisation?
  4. Capability – are your leaders / managers ‘up to it’? How well are they doing it at the moment, if at all? Do you need to improve the skills of those who are currently doing it before you train any more of them?
  5. Approach – do you want all your leaders / managers taking the same approach, using the same model(s), talking the same language?
  6. Training – what are the implications for your view on these issues for how you should be developing the coaching skills of your leaders / managers? What should you look for in a ‘leader / manager as coach’ programme? How are you going to make it sustainable?
  7. Evaluation – how are you going to measure any coach training outcomes?
Developing qualified internal coaches

No matter how capable your leaders and managers, there will be times when someone else needs to be the coach. And those times are likely to call for a more practised, a more highly qualified coach. So if you’re developing coaching capability within the organisation, a key question is: which qualification do you go for?

Two of the most popular routes to accreditation are with the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and the Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM). The globally recognised ICF tends to be the accreditation of choice for professional coaches and for internal coaches who are delivering a coaching service across the organisation. The ILM Level 7 is recognised mainly within the UK and tends to be more popular within the public sector. For a detailed comparison of the two, download our note on the subject, here.

But it’s more than just a question of which qualification to go for. You need to set some parameters. What role do you see for your internal coaches? How much time do you want them to spend coaching? How much of an internal resource do you need? How are you going to manage access to it?

Factors to consider

  1. Objectives – what role do you see for qualified internal coaches within your organisation? How mature is your coaching culture? Are trust and rapport an issue in your coaching relationships? What are the implications for how you use and develop your coaching resources?
  2. Qualifications – do you need to set a benchmark by choosing a particular qualification? If so, which one should it be?
  3. Resources – how many qualified coaches do you need? How much time are they going to spend coaching? Does this mean increasing headcount?
  4. Skills audit –h ow much coaching experience has your HR team got? Are you giving them the opportunity to use those skills? What’s stopping them from doing more?
  5. Access – what are your criteria for access to internal coaches? When is coaching by the line manager the answer, when is it the internal coach and when is it the external coach? Who decides?
  6. Support – qualified coaches need regular supervision (which you’ll need to budget for) but what other support is it worth putting in place in order to get the best results?
  7. Evaluation – what are your key success factors? How are you going to demonstrate return on investment?
Choosing and using external coaches

With leaders and managers trained to use a coaching approach and with qualified internal coaches also available, should you still be thinking about using external coaches?

Yes. But it’s worth being clear about the rationale. Think about the advantages an external coach can bring and think about the circumstances under which it’s worth paying a premium for those advantages. External coaches should be specialists, subject-matter experts, used to working to particular types of objective.

Elizabeth Crosse, for example, who leads our coaching practice, tends only to work as a coach with individuals who have an active agenda for change, growth and development within an organisational context. Example of this type of issue are: working strategically, implementing business change and transitions (including restructuring), driving business performance, role transitions and preparing for promotion, leadership style, etc. This type of coaching, done at a very senior level, can have a significant impact on executive performance, which is why surveys regular report very high levels of ROI. As PwC reported a while back, their survey showed ‘the mean ROI in coaching was 7 times the initial investment, and over a quarter of coaching clients reported a stunning ROI of 10 to 49 times the cost’.

And if you are using external coaches, what are your selection criteria? Do you need to refresh or expand the team? Are you getting results? Do you need to make your current coaches more accountable? Can you demonstrate ROI?

Factors to consider

  1. Rationale – if you’re investing in training your leaders and managers to use a coaching approach and if you’re also supporting the organisation with qualified internal coaches, then you need either to limit the use of external coaches or to be very clear indeed about when to use them. Set some criteria.
  2. Objectives – when you do use an external coach, make sure that it’s with very clear objectives, fully understood by all parties.
  3. Choosing the coach – use a very small team of external coaches, enough to ensure that you can match the right coach to each particular requirement but not so many that you have a succession of coaches used on a one-off basis who never get to understand the organisation.
  4. Contracting with the coach – if external coaches are to be used, then make sure there’s a very clear contract, both in financial terms (eg, a limit on the number of sessions) and as regards expectations between the coach and the individual.
  5. Preparation – make sure your ‘coachees’ know how to get the most out of their coaching sessions.
  6. Confidentiality – establish boundaries at the outset. But that doesn’t mean that the organisation can’t legitimately get some feedback on the process.
  7. Outcomes – as always, monitor, review, evaluate, follow up. And think in advance about how to do this (eg, a ‘pre and post’ 360°).

How can we help?

Develop a coaching culture

If you want to develop a coaching culture, for example, then we can help you:

  • Develop your coaching strategy
  • Engage and develop your leadership
  • Introduce a coaching approach to people management
  • Develop your internal coaching resource
  • Develop your external coaching resource
  • Evaluate the results
Implementing your coaching strategy

If you need help implementing your coaching strategy, then we can work with you to ensure that you have:

  • A plan for exactly how your coaching strategy is going to be delivered, together with all the support and development you need to get you there
  • Criteria for your internal and external coaching that fits with who you are as an organisation as well as a developed bank of internal coaches
  • People equipped with the skills they need to bring to life your coaching strategy
  • A methodology for demonstrating ROI
Developing internal coaching capability

If you need support developing internal coaching capability, then we can help you put the systems and processes in place to ensure:

  • You have the right people for coaching roles
  • Your coaches have the levels of skills and knowledge required to deliver an effective service
  • The right people are getting the right coaches
  • Your coaches remain engaged and motivated
  • You can deal with under-performance of coaches robustly
  • You have a dynamic sustainable resource which allows for people to move on and people to move in
  • Evaluate the results
External coaching resources

If you want to review and rationalise your use of external coaching resources, then we can help you:

  • Develop a framework for working with external coaches
  • Define when it is appropriate and the selection criteria
  • Integrate your external and internal coaching resources
  • Manage any selection and assessment process for external coaches
  • Evaluate the results


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