Creating Coaching Cultures : #LearnConnectDo June 17

After a slight delay because of the fabulous #CIPDNAP17 last Friday and Saturday, here’s a peak at what we did at Learn > Connect > Do on Thursday 8th June.

We had a small and perfectly formed group on the day – a great mix of in-house and freelance people, and it was fantastic to have Olivia from Twenty:Twenty there – her first event since we began our partnership this year, and which resulted in some opportunities for Twenty:Twenty to get involved with delegates’ businesses, supporting disadvantaged young people into work 🙂 – hooray!


So our topic for June was creating coaching cultures and, after everything that’s been going on recently, our food theme was hearts.

There are two learning parts to the LEARN of Learn > Connect > Do : the topic and the facilitation approach. For facilitation this time we worked as a group round some flipcharts – each flipchart had its own question, a different colour pen and a different location in the room to help with recall of the content afterwards. We had a focused and rich conversation, keeping ourselves to 10 minutes per question so that we could cover all the priority aspects, and which allowed time in pairs at the end for more personalised coaching / mentoring / planning.

Which meetings where you work could benefit from this kind of approach?   Sometimes discussion around a meeting table isn’t what we need.

And so to the topic : creating coaching cultures.

Why would we want a coaching culture? : We created a sense of the kind of organisation that can be created through coaching cultures. A few of the aspects that seemed critical to this discussion were that

  1. The organisation can be agile because everyone knows what they’re responsible for and feels confident and empowered to act.
  2. Everyone does the job they’re hired to do – there’s clarity of responsibilities, managers and leaders stay in the space they’re intended to occupy by not taking on responsibility for doing the work that really belongs to their team.
  3. Being able to listen and ask solution-focused questions is a skill that’s at the foundation of nearly every management conversation – absence, career, performance, disciplinary…. It’s also a skill for talking to customers whether in sales or customer service, and it’s a skill that colleagues can use with each other – and take out of work to their personal lives.

These success factors also showed us where we could measure impact and we recognised that qualitative stories are as important as quantitative measures. These could be as simple as creating a word cloud every 6 months in answer to “how are things round here just now?” all the way through to more in-depth and therefore more valid analysis of language that Phil Willcox uses in this context through Emotion at Work.

What coaching and by whom led to a general view that:

  1. Day-to-day coaching needs to be something everyone does if it’s to make a difference. There was acknowledgement that we in HR / L&D need to have a good look at ourselves first – how often do you tell managers to invest in the future & invest in others’ development by coaching when they come with a request rather than giving them the answer? How often do YOU coach people rather than give them the answer?
  2. Specific-needs coaching was felt best served by more qualified internal coaches – these might be HR but they might not. And this might be career coaching, returners coaching e.g. after mat leave or a long absence.
  3. Then Exec Coaching was felt still best-served by external coaches to bring that objectivity and safety of talking to someone with no involvement with the organisation.

This conversation also led us to talk about the importance of having support available for people who are coaching. Sometimes coaching can lead to conversations we weren’t expecting and don’t feel capable of supporting – that doesn’t mean don’t have the conversation. It means be clear of the boundaries of your ability, know when to pass it on, have support mechanisms in place e.g. from confidential social network groups to share experiences, learnings and challenges to formal supervision – again something you might bring external expertise in for.

What capability exists and is needed? As part of this the group agreed that to know this you first need to know what counts as coaching in your org so that you then know who’s capable of what.

This led to a conversation about keeping the day-to-day coaching skills development simple. If we make it theoretical and professional it will turn people off as it becomes too daunting and breeds the belief “I can’t be a coach, it’s too complex”. Clare Haynes collaborated with a client in design of day-to-day coach training and together they came up with this fantastic coaching skills framework :

T. A. L. K.

Test – don’t assume, find out more

Ask – clarify, go further, find out specifics

Listen – on their agenda

Know – get to a place of shared knowledge of the situation, the desired outcome and the plan of action

Barriers will always exist. The key one was time – but time is only a barrier when the thing you’re “meant” to be doing doesn’t feel important enough. To change this we said there needs to be regular conversation and stories, identifying role models who are doing it and getting results, celebrating their successes, rewarding and promoting those who display a coaching approach, sharing successes and lessons learned. A key part of success with a coaching approach is going to be the creation of a brave organisation who can talk about their mistakes and learn from them so this needs to become part of the narrative.

Another barrier could be about who’s on your side – or not. Top leadership buy-in is essential. If it starts at the top then that’s ideal. If more influence is needed then start doing something somewhere. Do it well. Measure the difference. Talk about that. Find the people who have a natural skill, invest in them, get quick wins. And find the people who’ll be opposed. Understand the barriers early. Get those people on side by solving-together, giving them an experience of coaching or demonstrating the impact it’s having.

Then one of the best parts of these events for me; hearing what people were taking from it.  Everyone left with so many thoughts and plans buzzing round their heads, ready to go and DO something with their learning sand insights!!

As you’ve read this….

What’s it prompted for you?

What do you need to do next?


If you’re interested in joining a future event, the next one’s 14th September 3-6pm – a Street Wisdom in Leicester.  If you’d like to go on the mailing list, email me.  Or keep an eye on the website, or on Twitter (#LearnConnectDo) or on my LinkedIn.

It would be great to welcome you to this growing community!


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