15 Ways For Leaders To Cultivate A Strong Coaching Culture In The Workplace

Originally published by Forbes.com

Loren Margolis, Founder & Managing Director, Training & Leadership Success

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Coaching has become an essential tool for leaders who want to develop and retain talent in their companies. In a workplace, a “coaching culture” is one where every employee, regardless of their level, is empowered to learn, grow and develop to their fullest potential and feels supported by their leaders.

Business leaders can (and should) prioritize the cultivation of a coaching culture that impacts every level of their workforce. Here, 15 Forbes Coaches Council members share some key elements of a coaching culture and the steps leaders can take to build that type of culture within their organizations.

1. Establish Regular One-On-Ones
Get back to basics and establish regular one-on-ones that foster two-way interaction in an environment that gives the coachee your full attention. This routine creates a “safe space” to engage in coaching that is relevant and just in time. Hallway conversations or a question posed at the end of a meeting does not allow for the depth of conversation and learning that is needed for a coaching culture. – Kim Ramsey, The Executive Edge, Inc.

2. Have The CEO Lead The Initiative
First, the CEO must lead the initiative. Without that executive sponsorship, the effort will be in danger of being disregarded by the business. Then, appropriate rewards and recognition must be centered around “coaching” behaviors, with salient examples being advertised throughout the organization. Unless these fundamental elements are in place, all other efforts and frameworks will fail. – Henryk Krajewski, Kilberry

3. Value The Discovery, And Model Engagement
A coaching culture promotes curiosity and collaboration. Value the discovery instead of the solution. Be open-minded to different approaches. Let people come to answers that best fit their style when a flexible solution is an option. Leaders can model and promote asking questions and engaging people to deepen insight, develop capability and create more success. – Cheryl Breukelman, Epiphany Coaches Inc.

4. Build Relationships, Then Skill Sets
Start with the end in mind. What is the overall intention of coaching? What expectations do you have of the coach and coachees? Build and strengthen relationships first, then build skill sets. Engage in conversations where both people are in the conversation—talking, listening, asking questions, acknowledging contributions and co-creating a path forward. This builds trust and confidence. – Tracy Quinton, Quinton Group

5. Be Open To Feedback
Leaders who are open to feedback cultivate a coaching culture. Too often, executives and senior managers see feedback as something only directed to those below them. When a senior manager asks for feedback, accepts it openly and then lets their team know what they are going to work on, they create the right environment and the mindset that coaching is for everyone. – Shane Green, SGEi

6. Vary Level Of Support By Organizational Level
It all begins with the introduction of coaching at all levels of the organization. Not everyone, however, requires the same level of support. The key factor is technology. Top executives need more one-to-one time with a coach, whereas midlevel executives can engage in digital coaching exercises with limited live coaching. It’s also critical for leaders to develop coaching skills to coach their teams. – Ozlem Sarioglu, SparkUs Digital Coaching

7. Get Buy-In At All Levels
In my over 10 years of executive coaching, I have found that a coaching culture must start with the C-suite and the buy-in must be real. Second, roadblocks often arise at the middle management level, so managers must be empowered, trained and, most importantly, provided enough time so that they are not totally inundated. Finally, the workforce must also buy in. Authenticity and commitment from senior leaders are key. – Ash Varma, Varma & Associates

8. Leverage Key Coaching Skills In Every Interaction
The leader can leverage the key skills of coaching in each interaction with their people by listening actively, asking open questions, showing empathy, providing useful feedback and clarifying goals. Then, sit back and watch how the energy shifts at every meeting, town hall and one-on-one. When used consistently, these coaching skills will transform your culture, yielding greater engagement, innovation and results. – Linda McLoughlin, LeadershipWorks

9. Use Key Influencers
First, use key influencers. You must get buy-in at every level. There are people at each rung and in each unit of your company who serve as connectors between groups. These influencers know a lot of people and understand how they think—and if they endorse a new idea, others will follow. Identify them by asking yourself and trusted colleagues: Who are the key people you turn to for information to get work done? – Loren Margolis, Training & Leadership Success LLC

10. Help Others Uncover Possibilities
Since culture is caught and not taught, the easiest way for leaders to create a coaching culture is by doing it themselves. Instead of telling, ask questions. Help others uncover the solutions and possibilities, then coach them on how to do the same with others. – Kristy Busija, Next Conversation Coaching, LLC

11. Set Goals And Manage Performance Conversations
A coaching culture is part of a strong people strategy, system and culture. For a coaching culture to be genuinely beneficial, the organization needs to set goals, align overall goals with individual goals, measure progress, manage performance conversations and coach for growth and development. Coaching can become part of regular conversations relating to performance and growth. – Maureen Metcalf, Innovative Leadership Institute

12. Reward Others For Asking Great Questions
While a crisis may demand decisive leadership action, most day-to-day activities—the ones that establish your culture—require collaboration and supportive leadership. Coaching is about learning, and learning happens through curiosity. Leaders should be seen asking questions and rewarding others for asking great questions. Reserve your bold statements for accentuating and celebrating learnings. – Jim Vaselopulos, Rafti Advisors, LLC

13. Practice Active Listening And Reflection
Coaching skills should be a core component of any leadership and management development program. When leaders learn the power of active listening, asking powerful questions and reflecting back, it can be a game-changer, as they shift from a “solution provider” to a “solution enabler.” This frees up their valuable time to focus on the important strategic stuff that adds value and growth to the business. – Gabriella Goddard, Brainsparker Global

14. Walk The Talk
Be as receptive to receiving feedback as you are eager to dole it out. The best business leaders are open to other people’s perspectives, and to the possibility that someone else has a better idea. If you want to embed a culture of coaching and collaboration throughout your workforce, walk the talk—be authentic, transparent and vulnerable, and embrace input and ideas from your team as a gift. – Claire Chandler, Talent Boost

15. Define Coach Leadership Versus Directive Leadership
Step one is to define coach leadership (facilitative, curious, inquiry-based) versus directive leadership (command and control). Most leaders don’t know how to coach—although they think they do! Step two is to offer training in the “coach approach.” Start at the top and cascade it through the whole organization. Step three: Just do it! Start an all-hands meeting with a curious question instead of a report and directions. – Jennifer Zaslow, Clear Path Executive Coaching