Foster a Coaching Culture
Every entrepreneur I know wishes he had more time to coach all the members of his team. I often hear the excuse that coaching takes more time than simply diving in and doing the job for the other person, but is that true? Studies have shown that the long-term value of coaching is between 2x and 100x the cost.
Of course, that assumes that you or someone you trust knows how to do it right, has the right attitude, and has the trust of the people who receive the coaching. These things don’t happen automatically and require you, as a business leader, to build a culture of coaching at all levels from the very beginning. The core elements of this culture should include the following:
- Be the role model for providing coaching and assistance. Expect and plan for the need to invest your time in developing people as the business grows. Your team will be far more receptive and able to coach when they see you coaching and being coached. How you coach is important, too, because your team will model their approach based on how you coach them.
- Exceptional communication is a prerequisite to coaching. A business with a coaching culture needs to start with a well-defined and documented roadmap, and with leaders who can communicate these goals clearly and often. Coaches must also be able to give direct feedback regularly, reinforce key messages, and acknowledge success.
- Reward team members who make the time and effort to share. These are your natural coaches as well as your best performers. They need to know that helping others is appreciated and beneficial to their career and performance. Effective rewards include public recognition for their efforts, special development assignments, and financial compensation.
- Seek out people who are not afraid to confront issues. People who seek to avoid all conflict or never disagree make poor coaches. Healthy, constructive conflict encourages people to face their limitations and to understand the customer and operational issues fully. That’s why I recommend that you, as a leader, always seek opposing viewpoints.
- Look for evidence of a willingness to learn and change. Great coaches typically have a continuing need to learn from self-development courses, reading, and seeking coaching themselves from people in unfamiliar areas. They will inspire other team members to look outside the box and try new things to develop their potential.
- Focus on team members that are emotionally mature. There is no place in coaching for emotional outbursts and petty biases. Good coaches build sustainable, healthy relationships with others, both at work and outside. This trait is important because it shows empathy and compassion, which are qualities commonly found in the most effective coaches.
- A coaching culture thrives on agility and resilience. Both good coaches and good businesses are strong enough to change course quickly as needs and markets change. People need coaching to weather setbacks and surprises as they happen so that confidence can remain at its highest.
- Good coaches prepare for each session and follow up. Coaching is not a casual conversation. Coaching sessions should be scheduled in advance and organized around specific topics. Be prepared with information, examples, and feedback, and be ready for discussion.
- Find people who actively listen before responding. You can’t coach someone if you don’t understand their point of view, and you can’t get that point of view without listening first. People who pre-plan their response are prone to miscommunication or misunderstanding. A coaching culture requires real dialogue rather than pontification.
- Only hire and partner with people who have a positive outlook. To build a culture where constructive coaching is prevalent throughout the team, you will need people who have a positive outlook. Optimistic people will typically be more receptive to organizational changes, coaching, and being coached. Since a resume usually doesn’t reflect a person’s life perspectives, you’ll need to pay just as much attention to the attitude and body language of the interviewee as the work experience they possess.
People often ask me about the difference between coaching and mentoring. I see these as two different disciplines: a business mentor helps to fill an experience gap, while a business coach helps fill a skill gap. Both may be required, but a coaching culture is necessary for either to work.
A mentor aims to teach by using specific examples of what to do and how to execute. A coach differs in that they help you develop your mindset and behavioral skills that dictate what you do and when. Neither is about job titles, or what your expertise is, but is more about who you are.
Thus, a coaching culture is well worth the investment of your time and effort. In fact, in today’s digital age, with a rapid shift to new generations of workers and equally rapid changes in technology and market demands, your business may not survive without it.