Just about everything written concerning today’s organizations inserts the general theme that with AI and advanced technology, the pace of change is picking up more and more speed so that the need for deeper innovation and creativity is urgent to the point of an emergency for companies hoping to survive in the near future. With the present pall of the covid pandemic, many companies, especially small businesses are disappearing and large companies are adjusting to more virtual strategies to remain viable.

In an anthology, Elevating Learning and Development, edited by Nick van Dam[1] (2018), there is an article by Maria Eugenia Arias, Brodie Riordan, and Allison Thom entitled Developing an organizational strategy and culture. It’s tucked away as chapter 16 of nineteen chapters, possibly lost in the crowd but hugely important for survival in the pressures of keeping up with advancements.

Organizational coaching is coming to the fore as one of the most vital strategies for creative innovation.This kind of coaching is systemic in that it must be integral to the organization’s culture, which means that coaching is embedded in the top C-suites and implemented through the levels of managers and peer colleagues.

A sidebar might be helpful here to distinguish coaching from mentoring and feedback that are common in companies. Mentoring is mostly advice that is based on what works in company process; it’s usually informal, open-ended per situation; feedback assesses performance to be improved. While coaching could include mentoring and feedback, coaching is deeper in that it invites the employee to think through questions and challenges for understanding; this coaching is personal for developing better skills and capabilities.  Coaching is a short-term, dedicated process of learning and development. As Marcia Reynolds[2] (2020) outlines in her most recent book, Coach the Person, not the Problem, in depth coaching uses reflective inquiry as a tool of understanding and development.

This personalized coaching shifts learning and development to the employee/colleague’s responsibility to close the gaps between “business as usual” and the agility needed to push into the future as self-directed workers, fully engaged and committed. An organizational culture of coaching fosters purposeful growth, productive behavior, and both personal as well as corporate development.

A corporate culture of coaching matters when leaders at the top provide coaching in the daily interaction of personnel across the board. This is not micromanagement but rather a conscientious performance management environment in which everyone is aware of the need to assist everyone else to be successful. In Alex Trebek’s[3] recent autobiography, he revealed that he wanted to be known “as a decent man who did his best to help people perform at their best” (p 285).  This is the heart of a culture of coaching.

The authors of this article suggest a 5-step process to establish, maintain, and nurture a culture of coaching in an organization:

  1. Assess – what gap analysis is used to understand and deal with the challenge
  2. Develop – what strategies must be put in place to provide necessary coaching
  3. Implement – what appropriate coaching and what timeline will render desired results
  4. Evaluate – what metrics will measure the quality, the learning and development of the coaching
  5. Connect – how the coaching strategy impacts the learning and development of the organization.

There is no doubt that creating a culture of coaching can be a monumental endeavor, beginning with a change of mindsets. Employees by and large just want to do their job and be left alone; this seems to be the American way of personal freedom and independence. An insightful book was recently published by The Arbinger Institute[4] – Leadership and Self-Deception, Getting Out of the Box (2018, new edition) that addresses self-deception as the root of a fixed mindset. This should be a must-read book for organizations looking to implement a culture of coaching. And of course, Carol Dweck’s[5] now classic book, Mindset: the New Psychology of Success (2007) is companion reading.

Once a change of mindset is achieved, an organization is further faced with the cost of training in-house coaches, particularly managers and HR personnel; and then the occasional hiring of someone from outside can be expensive. Time is another inhibiting challenge to introducing available coaching throughout the company.

Take away: The note at the beginning of this blog is a red flag for companies looking into the future. It is going to take daring and courageous measures to assure one’s existence going into the volatile, uncertain, confusing, and ambiguous future. It is not wise to wait until one is near the precipice to pull back from falling over. The article that is the basis of this blog is one of those considerations to preclude final failure.

[1] Van Dam, Nick, (2010); Elevating Learning and Development, Insights and Practical Guidance from the Field, McKinley and Co. Publishers, New York, N.Y.
[2] Reynolds, Marcia, (2020); Coach the Person, Not the Problem: A Guide to Using Reflective Inquiry, Berrett-Koehler Inc., Oakland, CA
[3] Trebek, Alex, (2020); The Answer Is … Reflections on My Life, Simon and Schuster, New York, N.Y.
[4] Arbinger Institute, (2018); Leadership and Self-Deception, Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Oakland,CA
[5] Dweck, Carol S., (2007): Mindset: the New Psychology of Success, Ballantine Books, New York, N.Y.