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Global Leadership Forecast 2018

Build a Coaching Culture:

Want to be a Better Leader? Ask a Peer or Employee

Amy Lui Abel

Many organizations are fostering a coaching culture to reap benefits beyond senior-leadership levels. They’ve expanded their focus to developing leaders at all levels and integrating coaching behaviors and expectations into everyday conversations and formal talent management processes. In such a culture, learning can come from a variety of sources: peers, managers, employees, and external coaches. When everyone in the company can be a coach, everyone benefits. Leaders often underestimate what they can learn from their peers and employees on their teams. Global Leadership Forecast 2018 challenges notions of where learning can and should come from. For example, when organizations use peer and employee coaching, leaders are more likely to feel strongly engaged and accountable to the company and their team than when there is no coaching.

Build a Coaching Culture

Promoting Shared Leadership

Coaching by managers, employees, peers, or external mentors promotes in leaders a stronger sense of shared leadership. This includes working with others across silos, collaborating to enhance organizational effectiveness, acting as custodians of company purpose, and supporting critical activities that align with that purpose.

A coaching culture emphasizes the skills of seeking and listening versus telling someone what to do. When asked for their input, peers and employees feel free to challenge and provoke thinking or offer solutions that might not have been considered. Given the chaotic and fast-changing business environment, having leaders at all levels of the organization (not just those at the very top) coaching each other can provide greater agility to solve problems across the enterprise. A coaching culture creates space for these conversations and daily coaching moments between leaders and teams, as well as between colleagues and peers.

A point of disconnect found in the study highlights that while leaders—including high potentials—want more coaching from external mentors (ranked highest on a list of 10 learning types), organizations aren’t providing this method of learning (only ranked number 8 of 10). This is an area of opportunity that companies can leverage to support engagement and retention.

What Is the Value of Coaching to Organizations?

Measuring and proving the benefit of coaching are not simple tasks, as it can be difficult to isolate its effects from other activities. The Conference Board’s recent study, Global Executive Coaching Survey 2016*, finds that organizations tend to evaluate coaching efforts with different approaches. Some of these include formal and informal conversations with key stakeholders, monitoring coaching deliverables, assessment of satisfaction by those who were coached, and assessment of behavioral change by managers.

While demonstrating the impact of coaching on business performance remains a challenge, Global Leadership Forecast 2018 finds specific areas of leadership impact that organizations will find valuable. Organizations that use coaching:

  • By direct managers and external mentors show greater leadership bench strength, promote more leaders from within, and are more likely to have a pipeline of talent to fill roles immediately.
  • In any form (from external coaches, managers, peers, or employees) cultivate leaders who have a greater understanding of their future leadership career paths and greater satisfaction with their advancement.
  • With an external mentor experience lower leader turnover (more so than with coaching from managers).

* Lui Abel, A., Ray, R.L., & Nair, S. (September 2016), Global Executive Coaching Survey 2016, New York, The Conference Board,

Where to Start
  • Initiate and build a coaching culture by embedding coaching elements into talent management processes (training programs, performance management processes, development plans).
  • Develop leaders at all levels to be coaches. Enhance senior leader communication around the value of coaching and create incentives and rewards to reinforce coaching behaviors.
  • Coaching often can be included in leadership cohort programs as a strong complement to other learning activities.
  • By including (and rewarding) coaching behaviors in performance expectations, every leader at any level can demonstrate the skills with peers, managers, and teams.
How to Excel + Differentiate
  • Enhance your coaching culture by designing personal and customized coaching solutions. These can be targeted types of coaching (development-focused, transition, career, on-boarding, team or group, and inclusion coaching).
  • Use analytics to measure and communicate the impact of coaching. This can be a game-changer.
  • Many organizations use internal coaches (formal executive coaches who are also employees) whose understanding of corporate dynamics and cultural norms allows them to guide leaders in navigating change and integrate teams to boost performance. Internal coaching can scale efforts in building a coaching culture and supporting a larger pool of leaders lower in the hierarchy.
Talk to an Expert: Coaching
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