Developing a culture of coaching in the workplace
It’s important to provide support on the path to self-development
Last month we were invited to speak at an American Society for Training and Development ASTD, and this was a big deal for us. It’s hard to address peers who know more than you do about a subject and have read all the same books.
We were asked to speak about the future of workplace coaching. We created a nice agenda, used the opportunity to mine this peer group for ideas, and had fun. After all our planning and sharing of ideas, the conclusion we reached was that if we do our job correctly, in the future, coaching will be as much a part of our work culture as filling out a timesheet.
One of the leaders in our field, Steven Covey, knew that the path to self-development meant self-development. The best tool for growth is the mirror, and a true look at ourselves. Coaching is built around this same principle, giving people who are in ambiguous situations another objective person (or tool) who can assist in getting to the heart of a matter while helping to discover the motivation for change.
The fact of the matter is, this all makes perfect sense until we try and put it into practice. It’s really hard to look within and really hard to find that person who will focus completely on you.
In addition to our world being complex, it’s also competitive, and we are designed to compete. Therefore, as we cope with our own career, challenges and goals, it’s very difficult to support each other with the time and focus that mentoring another person requires.
The other challenge is that many of us don’t know how to be coached. We are careful of who we take counsel from, and in many cases, that counsel comes from someone who has the knowledge and experience we admire and respect. That’s important, but when it comes to really sharing what we need to work on, we’re reluctant to admit challenges or failures to people we admire or have power over us. But real development starts with complete awareness that we can’t improve if we can’t be honest.
The coaching challenge
As I collaborate with those in the field of organizational development, the solution seems clear: We need to teach everybody how to coach, and we need to truly work to support each other with self-development.
Facebook works best when everyone you know is using it. If it’s just a fraction of your universe using it, it loses impact. You can post pictures and update your status, but if nobody is there to read it, the process loses energy. However, if most people in your circle are using it, it’s productive in keeping us informed and allowing us to support each other.
If your work family is thinking about learning how to coach, then it makes sense to teach everyone. The challenge for all of us is that we will never get 100 percent participation in anything. However, there must be enough critical mass within your network that will participate to allow the organization to work towards a coaching culture.
Consider the following steps towards building a supportive coaching atmosphere:
• Hold a meeting with those in the organization who currently coach. It could be HR, or it could be the obvious people in your organization who practice high emotional intelligence. You know who they are. Define what coaching is to your organization and discuss how to expand the coaching culture.
• If you don’t have someone who is focused on this issue, expand HR to include it or retain an outside practitioner who can work with HR to guide the process.
• When designing anything, include all levels. If the CEO can benefit, so can the front-line worker. It is especially important that top management is a sponsor and is practicing coaching skills too.
• Coaching is a personal process, and while technology can support the coaching effort, there is no substitute for personal connection. Courses and programs delivered exclusively online will help educate, but unless there is a method for dialogue, it will be difficult to shift culture.
Steven Covey passed away in July from complications after a bike accident. His legacy of personal responsibility, self-determination and self-development will last well into the future.
He once said, “There are three constants in life ... change, choice and principles.”
In the future, we will all be coaching each other all the time towards these principles. That’s what will make us our most productive and happy. Only then will coaching as a concept be second nature in the workplace.
Dr. Russ Ouellette, managing partner of Bedford-based Sojourn Partners, which directs The Future of Everything project. This month’s participants included Kris Mailepors, director of organizational development and training at Catholic Medical Center, and Heather Ramsey, partner at Sojourn Partners. He can be reached at 603-472-8103 or firstname.lastname@example.org.