How to create an informal coaching culture

Can we talk about coaching for a moment? We need to demystify it. A few months ago we soft launched our coaching suite to the market (you didn’t know? check it out here). We launched it because coaching was often too far out of each for most people, in terms of price and accessibility, which doesn’t make sense to me. Since the soft launch and wrapping a recent client engagement on creating an internal coaching culture, I’ve become even more certain that the way to embed coaching is to look for the moments that matter the most, formalise informal coaching, and let teams design the way.

Frameworks are often the first port of call when it comes to coaching, which is a real shame because at its core, coaching is just about having a conversation. Frameworks often get in the way of people being fully present in a conversation because they’re mind is focused on where they are in the process. Coaching isn’t a process that is clearly defined. We need to look for the moments that matter most to people.

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Moments that matter

I recently ran a series of leader workshops for an iconic Australian client on building a coaching culture. The leaders were quickly able to articulate that positive coaching came down to presence, listening, and authenticity. They found that coaching at its best meant that they were completely focused on the individual to help them with the moments that matter in their work.

What do we mean by the moments that matter? It’s being available, mindful, and open to someone regardless of how important we believe their need is. Many of the leaders realised that when they get busy, this important behaviour slipped away. So the A-HA moment for the leaders was to look across the business cycle and identify where significant moments really do matter and become conscious of their actions.

Formalise informal coaching

It goes without saying that most people know that they can call on a friend or colleague to help with a problem or challenge. In fact, many of us arrange to meet over lunch, coffee, or cocktails (depending on the situation) to sound out different ideas. So why do these coaching moments work so well in comparison to formal coaching moments like performance and development conversations? It can’t just be the alcohol that lets us relax and trust the other person.

There is merit in discovering where informal coaching has a place in the organisation. It is immediate, builds trust, and encourages people to be curious and explore more options. Shifting the mindset towards an informal coaching approach encourages more people to collaborate every day to help one another and push through challenges together.

Let teams design it

If your organisation likes to use frameworks, that’s fine. Consider engaging your teams differently so that they can design how it ought to work for them. Not every team has the same needs so one framework isn’t going to work for everyone. So why not ask them just what will work for them?

The sessions we ran allowed the leaders to custom design the best fit coaching approach specific to their team. They created ideas, prototyped them, pitched their ideas back to their colleagues, and took a vote on what would gain the most traction.

We then helped them build a plan on how to take it back to the wider team and start implementing. So there’s no need for HR to hover from above with this approach. The leaders were / are engaged and now committed to implementing a simple and custom-built approach to coaching.

The A-HA moment

Don’t let coaching become this onerous task that feels bigger than Ben Hur. Break it down to its simplest form and engage teams to design a custom built approach that caters to individuals’ moments that matter the most, encourage more conversations with the intent of learning and discovering, and finally, giving leaders and teams the permission to do it their way. We have to be comfortable that not every team will coach the same way.

Instead of rolling out your next big coaching program, consider taking a more targeted approach aimed at teams designing in their way. If you’d like to chat about coaching in your organisation, drop Simon an email at [email protected]

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