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The 7th Commandment: Establish and Maintain a Coaching Culture
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Countdown to the summit

This is week seven of the ten-week countdown to the Conference Board’s 2015 Coaching Summit.  The Summit will begin with a pre-conference event on March 9 with the keynotes and breakout sessions on March 10 & 11.  On March 10, Dr. John Hoover from Partners in Human Resources International, co-author of The Coaching Connection: Developing Individual Potential in the Context of the Organization (Amacom), will join, Dr. Harris Ginsberg of Pfizer and Dr. David DeFilippo of BNY University in discussing The Next Big (Coaching) Conversation – The Leader and Organization as Co-Clients.  This panel is designed to introduce and discuss the significance of keeping the voice and interests of the organization alive and involved in executive coaching engagements.

For each of the ten weeks leading up to the Conference Board’s 2015 Coaching Summit, Human Talent Network is featuring one of the Ten Commandments of Contextual Coaching.  Last week, Human Talent Network featured the sixth commandment of Contextual Coaching: Co-Create the Coaching Session

Contextual Coaching commandment number seven:

Establish and Maintain a Coaching Culture

As a provider of Contextual Coaching™ services, our executive coaches are always on the new frontier looking to help our coaching clients add value to the organizations that employ them.  Working to develop enterprise-wide cultures of coaching makes enhancements of habits, skills, and attitudes pre-emptive rather than reactive.  Too often our telephone rings after an executive had been promoted into a position he or she is not qualified and/or experienced enough to occupy.  In such cases, our coaching services are often requested to instill five or more years of leadership maturity in six months or less.

That’s a tall order under any circumstances.  Instead of waiting until material and emotional damage has been done, relationships broken, and dissention sewn far and wide, a deliberate and healthy culture of coaching helps to keep people at all levels of the organization continuously engaged and working on habits, skills, and attitudes—individually and corporately—as a way of doing business; not merely dealing with difficult and challenging behavior after the fact.

Unless your organization is consciously, systematically, and strategically building and sustaining a culture of coaching, summoning an internal or external coach to contend with a dysfunctional behavior is more likely to resemble a 911 call rather than strategically developing leadership strengths.  A proactive culture of coaching focuses energy and resources on creating thinking partnerships, accelerating performance, and making good talent better rather than waiting for things and people to crash and require correction or rescue.

In our experience as a provider of executive coaching services framed in the context of the organization’s leadership development strategy, some of the most frequently-cited reasons for coaching include:

  • To enhance executive presence
  • To develop leadership potential
  • To help executives deal with stress
  • To address habits, skills, and attitudes
  • To improve intrapersonal communication
  • To prepare high-potentials for promotion
  • To prepare high-potentials for succession
  • To help find assistance with personal problems
  • To soften critical or abusive leadership behaviors
  • To help people understand and better fulfill their roles
  • To interpret 360-degree feedback and put it to good use
  • To interpret and put to good use self-reporting assessment data
  • To help with perceptions and expectations that will improve attitudes & relationships

But why should an organization adopt one-on-one coaching? Are not training and development or organizational learning activities enough?

You will never get anyone in the talent development business to criticize the practice of organizational learning. We occupy as much space in the organizational education universe as we do in executive coaching. There has never been an executive, artist, or athlete who did not improve on his or her natural talents and abilities with expanded knowledge and practice. There has never been an organization that performed better over time in a state of ignorance than in a state of enlightenment.

Training and development activities are good.  But, coaching is better. It is the difference between classroom learning for children and having a private mentor who is a subject matter expert. It is the difference between attending a golf, tennis, or skiing clinic versus private lessons.

The best possible outcome results from a combination of both training and development opportunities and one-on-one coaching.  In Action Coaching or what we refer to as Strategic Team Alignment, it is the combining of real-time learning activities with individual coaching that gives the entire learning experience maximum traction. If organizational learning is an effective topical gel, coaching is a fast-acting, quick-dissolving gel tablet with a concentrated dosage.

No single form of training and development gets a businessperson’s attention as completely as coaching. No single form of organizational learning addresses an individual businessperson’s complete range of developmental issues as completely or comprehensively as coaching. No other form of workplace intervention offers more hope of radical performance improvement.

Coaching is action learning at its very best. Completely real-time and real-world, individual coaching is a continuous living tutorial on habits, skills, and attitudes—all in the context of the organization—especially in the social and professional interactions of organizational life.

Consider what executive coaching is most commonly needed for: to fully groom and prepare people for the new roles and responsibilities the organization needs them to assume. Or when disruptive executive behavior has reached critical proportions and organizational policy makers are faced with the daunting prospect of severing ties with an expensive sample of senior talent.

When there are only seconds left on the clock to preserve this monumental investment in human capital—that is keeping a senior executive from derailing or setting the senior executive back on the rails after he or she has derailed—one does not sending the senior executive to an instructor-led classroom or an online course to bring about change.  It means calling in an executive coach.  When the whole team needs a powerful intervention or performance acceleration, the answer to the problem is dialing up Strategic Team Alignment with individual coaching for each team member.

As we mentioned in the sixth commandment of Contextual Coaching™, to articulate the shared values, beliefs, and expectations across the enterprise and then to consistently coach to them wherever in the world the coaching is taking place, there is no better list of coaching competencies than the list compiled by the International Coach Federation:

  1. Meeting Ethical Guidelines and Professional Standards
  2. Establishing the Coaching Agreement
  3. Establishing Trust and Intimacy with the Client
  4. Coaching Presence
  5. Active Listening
  6. Powerful Questioning
  7. Direct Communication
  8. Creating Awareness
  9. Designing Actions
  10. Planning and Goal Setting
  11. Managing Progress and Accountability

If your mid-level to senior-level executives practiced these competencies as a matter of daily corporate leadership culture, you could, figuratively speaking, put the executive coaching industry out of business.  I say “figuratively speaking” because executives, like entire organizations, always want to be better.  That means there will always be a place for executive coaches, especially those who align what individual leaders do best with what organizations need most.

Countdown to the Conference Board Coaching Summit – March 9, 10, 11, 2015 to be held at the Westin New York at Times Square.  For conference information and registration instructions, contact www.conference-board.org or jhoover@partners-international.com.

Photo by naturhotel_waldesruhe

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About The Author
John Hoover
John Hoover, PhD, is a Senior Vice President at Partners International in New York City where he reports directly to Founder and CEO, Amy Friedman. John is a New York Times best-selling author, a former writer/producer of marketing projects at The Disney Company, and a Divisional General Manager for electronic publishing at McGraw-Hill. He has commercially published more than a dozen books on leadership and organizational behavior (some decidedly satirical) from Amacom, Barnes & Noble Press, Career Press, HarperCollins, John Wiley and Sons, McGraw-Hill, and Saint Martin’s Press, which have been collectively published in two dozen languages. John is a veteran executive coach, certified by the International Coach Federation and is a coaching supervisor, certified by the Coaching Supervision Academy. Along the way to his PhD in Human and Organizational Systems, he became a Marriage & Family Therapy intern, licensed by the California Board of Behavioral Sciences. Dr. Hoover is a thought leader and serves as a thinking partner to Human Resources and Organization Development executives to develop global organizational leadership and talent development strategies that align what individuals do best with what their organizations need most. Dr. Hoover co-created the Contextual Coaching™ framework at Partners International and teaches a new graduate certificate program he developed called “Managing the Coaching Function in Organizations” through Fielding Graduate University.

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