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Do you really want a “Coaching Culture”?

Coaching is an important developmental skill. Coaching relationships can be incredibly powerful ways to support people in their development both inside and outside the workplace. Much contemporary thinking indicates it should a cornerstone of leadership in all organisations.

I don’t disagree. Organisational context and need is critical but there is huge value to be gained from developing coaching skills and coaching relationships. Yet it is just one skill in an array of skills that we need. It is a cornerstone of great leadership & management but it’s not the only skill. There are many contexts and situations where coaching is not what is required and great foundations need more than one cornerstone…

So what does it mean when we say “we want to build a coaching culture?

If culture is representative of “how we do things here” or how we perceive and experience the working environment then surely coaching has a place in culture? Would’t it be great if coaching was indeed present in the values, beliefs, underlying assumptions, attitudes, and behaviours shared by everyone in the organisation?

Absolutely yes* and here’s the problem… In this “coaching culture“…

  • Which other leadership skills and relationships do you equally value that aren’t described as coaching?
  • When will you not coach, with very good reason?
  • What are you not describing but is already valued and present?
  • How will this relate to peoples actual daily experiences of the working environment?

You see, as much as I love and advocate the potential of coaching, I don’t think we want this singular thing that is described as a “coaching culture“. I think it’s potentially a dangerous fallacy to peddle out in corporate communications. I don’t think it describes what you actually mean (and this isn’t a question of semantics). Culture is far more colourful and usefully nuanced…

What I think you probably want is coaching in your culture rather than this poor shorthand of a “coaching culture”.

What I think you probably want is great situational leadership in your culture, not just coaching skills.

What I think you probably want is useful, reflective and incisive questioning skills in your culture, not just coaching questions.

What I think you probably want is great developmental attitudes across your culture, not just a coaching philosophy.

If your intent is as I’ve described above then I applaud it.

Let’s just be mindful of the stories we’re telling, the language we’re using, the realities we face and the business goal(s) we’re working towards. That’s what a coaching approach would encourage don’t you think?

*always subject to organisational context & need.



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