Creating A Coaching Culture 101: A Guide To Leveraging Coaching Results In Organizations


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By: Corry Robertson, PCC

Coaching culture in the workplace

Professional coaching has had a proven impact over the past 20 years and is now seen as a ‘must have’ offering within organizations. Many organizations have heard about the benefits of coaching and coaching culture and are curious about building a coaching culture strategy themselves.

Benefits once reserved for senior executives have permeated beyond the top tier of management for an excellent reason: professional coaching brings demonstrable ROI and ROE (Return on Investment and Return on Expectations).

Let’s take a look at exactly what a coaching culture is, and how it can benefit your organization.

Why is a coaching culture important?

The democratization of coaching is taking hold quickly because decision-makers interested in ROI now see that coaching is by far the best way to develop employees and improve engagement. 

Because of the results that coaching delivers, organizations are more and more devoted to giving their managers throughout the ranks access to coaching. Coaching brings many direct benefits to the bottom line.

The problem is that executive, leadership, and team coaching are perceived as pricey because they involve bringing in outside coaching professionals (external coaches), so decision-makers are looking for the best way to leverage coaching results on a large scale without the daunting expense.

Building a coaching culture is important because it is a proven method for organizations to get access to high-impact coaching and the ROI that comes along with it without the high ticket price.

Building a coaching culture paves the way for leaders to increase employee engagement, create leadership development programs, and create high-performance teams. It takes away the “how do we get there” problem that leaders often face.

The coaching culture approach provides a solution that works across all levels of management, and that is adaptable to all industries. Developing a coaching culture within your organization meets you where you are, and gives you the tools to make a real difference.

coworkers with hands together in celebration

What is a coaching culture in an organization?

Coaching culture can be defined as a workplace environment where coaching competencies are woven into the values of the organization. The workplace becomes one where coaching competencies are learned, wholeheartedly embraced, and consistently leveraged throughout the ranks.

In coaching cultures, leaders are formally trained in coaching skills and practice these skills to develop the potential of their direct reports, who then work to maximize their performance and make meaningful contributions to their teams and workgroups.

​​A coaching culture offers employees at all levels the opportunity to grow professionally, contribute value to the organization and reach their goals with coaching as the fundamental style for leading, learning, and working. 

A coaching culture is like a three-legged stool comprised of Internal Coaches, External Coaches, and Managers who all use coaching as a leadership style to transform potential into performance.

To understand how the three legs of the stool work together, let’s define what we mean by internal and external coaches.

Internal Coaches

Internal coaches are employees who are trained in the core coaching competencies. Having an in-house coaching service department enables an organization to get coaching out to workforce members in a cost-effective way. 

In addition to the cost-effectiveness of having a bench of internal coaches, another benefit of internal coaches is that they have first-hand knowledge about the company culture and inner workings of the business. These are insights that the external coach does not have.

External Coaches 

External coaches are outside coaches in private practice who are hired on a contract basis. The benefit of working with external coaches is that there are professional coaches to call upon when none of the members of the Internal Coach team are suitable or appropriate for the person seeking coaching. 

External coaches are often called upon to coach members of the C suite or when reporting structures create a conflict of interest between the internal coach and the person asking for coaching.

Coaching culture in action

Coaching as a leadership style

For an organization to achieve a coaching culture, coach training is considered Leadership 101, and all leaders on the management track are trained as professional coaches.

But coaching as a leadership style can be different than most 1:1 coaching relationships. For example, a manager can and should default to the coaching competencies as their fundamental leadership style; however, it is not always appropriate or possible for every conversation with a direct report to be a pure coaching conversation. 

Often, the manager who makes the final decision will be forced to correct a direct report or exercise authority. The power dynamic may impede the level of trust and safety that we strive for in coaching conversations, but it is still an integral part of managing. For more on the role of managers in a coaching culture, read here.

What are the characteristics of a coaching culture?

Let’s first take a look at how a coaching culture is defined in the research. Here are some findings from the International Coaching Federation and The Human Capital Institute’s 2016 research report “Building a Coaching Culture with Managers and Leaders”.

A coaching culture can be defined as an organization where:

  • Employees value coaching.
  • Senior executives value coaching.
  • Leaders spend more time on coaching activities than their industry peers.
  • Leaders have received accredited coach-specific training.
  • Coaching is a line item in the budget.
  • All employees have an equal opportunity to receive coaching from a professional coach

What does a coaching culture start with?

A coaching culture is established in an organization by creating a Coaching Culture Action Plan. In brief, an action plan defines the structure of your coaching culture, the purpose, vision, and mission, and then clearly outlines the budget, stakeholders, policies, procedures, and tools to assess and measure your results.

To take a deeper dive into a coaching culture action plan, and learn the steps to implement coaching in your workplace, download our White Paper – The Coaching Culture Action Plan (coming soon).

employees happy and smiling

What are the benefits of investing in a coaching culture?

Since 2014, The Human Capital Institute (HCI) and the International Coach Federation (ICF) have been studying organizations that have adopted a coaching culture strategy.  

Findings from those early days showed:

“A strong coaching culture positively correlates with employee engagement and financial performance. Nearly two-thirds of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures rate their employees as being highly engaged, compared to only half from organizations without strong coaching cultures. In terms of financial impact, 51 percent of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures report their 2015 revenue to be above that of their industry peer group, compared to 38 percent from all other organizations.”  – Building A Coaching Culture, 2014

The most recent study in 2019 polled 900 human resources, learning and development, and talent management professionals, leaders, and managers. The key findings are solid indicators of the benefits of coaching culture.

The data indicates that those with coaching cultures outperform those without in the following areas:

  • Attracting talent
  • Productivity
  • Regulatory compliance
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Shareholder value
  • Profitability
  • Change management
  • Product development

In conclusion, the report stated, 

“In an era where retaining high-performing talent and maintaining bench strength are strategic imperatives the value of a strong coaching culture is undeniable.”

As an example, In 2021, TD Bank Group – North American Contact Centre, was a Prism Award Honoree. The ICF International Prism Award program celebrates businesses and organizations that have built strong coaching cultures. To do so and to be considered for this award, a business or organization must:

  • Fulfill rigorous professional standards
  • Address key strategic goals
  • Shape organizational culture
  • Yield discernible and measurable positive impacts

TD Bank Group has offered coaching to colleagues since 2019 and effectively developed a multi-phased Coaching Ecosystem program which defined a flexible and achievable coaching program that created space and time for leaders to connect 1:1 with colleagues to foster a culture of care, growth, and impact. 

The program resulted in improved employee engagement, well-being, and goal attainment. TD Bank Group’s testimonials from its coaching recipients demonstrate the outstanding impact of its program, both individually and across the organization. For a detailed look at a coaching culture in action, you can read the case study here

But recognizing the value of coaching is only the first step; it’s also essential to understand and plan for the obstacles or roadblocks that you will meet along the way.  

Taking The Next Steps

The most cited obstacles to a strong coaching culture are budget and executive support. The difficulty lies in clearly demonstrating the relationship between coaching activities and the pursuit of mission, vision, and strategic goals. 

Only by mapping coaching onto strategy and evaluating the metrics that matter for their organization can the architects of coaching programs gain the support necessary to move from the presence of coaching to the construction of a robust, impactful coaching culture.

But if developing a coaching culture is not your area of expertise, it can be difficult to understand all the nuances and provide clear, measurable action plans and results.

Thankfully, you can draw on the expertise of a Coaching Culture Transformation Team to help you bridge the gap between where you are and where you want to be. 

At Corry Robertson, we offer a Transformation Team to consult with you on your current situation, and to develop a comprehensive coaching culture action plan so you can begin to reap the benefits of a coaching culture within your organization.

Book a call with us here to explore developing a coaching culture within your organization – you don’t have to go it alone! 


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Corry Robertson

Sought-after coaching culture expert, Corry Robertson has been helping leaders uplevel employee retention and performance for over 20 years.

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