The Coaching Culture Blueprint: Steps to Foster a Thriving Workplace

The Coaching Culture Blueprint: Steps to Foster a Thriving Workplace

For a decade, the emphasis on coaching in the workplace has increased exponentially. The benefits have been dramatic and consistent.

However, only recently have organizations focused on creating a coaching culture — rather than just coaching. What is the difference and why does it matter?

What Is a Coaching Culture?

In a coaching culture, virtually every conversation is a coaching conversation.

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That said, this idea can be overwhelming unless an organization adopts an approach to coaching that is manager-driven (rather than by dedicated coaches). This approach should be easy and natural to implement, flexible enough to adapt to most work situations, and should focus on encouraging employees to take ownership and execute their tasks effectively.

What Does a Coaching Culture Look Like?

While that may seem more nirvana than reality, it’s happening every day in thousands of workplaces. And the characteristics of a coaching culture are observable.

On the manager's part, in conjunction with their coachee:

  • They start every conversation with a goal for that meeting.
  • They actively listen and reflect to ensure understanding.
  • They set clear agreements about actions, ownership, and timeframes.
  • They hold each other accountable for commitments.

From the coachee's (employee’s) perspective, they feel the conversations are:

  • Caring
  • Candid
  • Constructive

As a result, people start solving problems by themselves. They proactively ask for help when needed. They think and speak in terms of ‘A to B by C,’ meaning ‘(A) where am I now, (B) where do I need to be, and (C) when do I need to get there?’

As this becomes the normative behavior, there is a palpable change in everyone's feelings. They move:

  • From dependence to independence
  • From possibility to probability
  • From compliance to commitment

Associated with the behavioral changes and attitudes discussed above, changes in outcomes become apparent.

Benefits of a Coaching Culture

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Changes In What People Do

When coaching shows up in most conversations, there is a noticeable change in how work gets done.


There’s a laser-like focus on completing the right tasks without getting distracted by other important work, problems, personal issues, or feeling overwhelmed by the workload. Coaching ‘suffocates’ distractions by exponentially increasing focus on the most important tasks at hand.


The right coaching approach won’t hand answers to workers who are stuck. But it will invite them to examine the challenge, consider the possible resolutions, and make choices for the most productive action plan.

In most cases, we all already know the answers to the challenges we face; we just don’t do what we already know. Good coaching eliminates the shortcut of handing one’s problems over to another to solve and asks everyone to own their challenges and potential solutions.


A good coaching conversation never ends without a way forward, or a clear action plan with owners and timeframes. It will crystallize the conversation into next steps that will dramatically increase the likelihood that the best work gets done.


Ultimately, results are what we’re all striving for. There’s no magic in the formula — if we understand what’s most important, we focus on it, create action plans, and execute them, we’re going to get results.

Coaching simply taps into the well-known and proven approaches to accomplishing goals.

Changes In How People Feel

In addition to all the above, there are clear derivative benefits that both come as a result and subsequently reinforce the work benefits.


Employee engagement increases or decreases based on how well someone understands their role, its importance to the organization, and their value in the process. By keeping focus on the most important things, increased engagement becomes a natural by-product.


Job Satisfaction

It’s typically not hard work that prevents people from being satisfied with their job; it’s confusion about what they do or what it accomplishes for the organization. Coaching drives clarity that, in turn, drives satisfaction.


When someone moves from compliance to commitment, they literally start to use their brain in a different way. Different levels of energy, creativity, and problem-solving are tapped into.

Great coaching draws attention to what matters and an individual’s capacity to achieve it. When the way is clear, commitment goes up.

How to Build a Coaching Culture at Work

Making something cultural takes more focused effort than simply exposing training to the early adopters. There are five key steps to helping a culture of coaching gain traction and change the organization.

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1. Clarify Wins

Everyone always has too much to do, meaning choices have to be about where to spend time and other resources.

Most people will gravitate to the project that will drive the most important contribution. Developing a coaching culture must, therefore, begin with clarifying the wins for the business. 

The objectives or goals need to be expressed as:

  • Where are we today?
  • Where do we need to be?
  • When do we want to be there?
  • What is the value of achieving that goal to the organization?

Then, there is no confusion about the importance of what the organization is about to commit resources to.

2. Engage Leaders

Leaders will need to be educated on the project and asked to promote it to their teams. Specifically, they need to align the work of their departments to support the implementation, model the coaching the organization is trying to achieve, and support the initiative — both verbally and in their own efforts.

3. Set Up for Success

Any project will die a quiet death without the critical elements of successful project planning, and building and sustaining a coaching culture is no different. The team needs to:

  • Create accountability meetings, dates, and agendas to ensure focus.
  • Implement the rights systems required to support the effort. For example, if managers are supposed to score themselves each day, create the means of collection and reporting to make that happen.
  • Communicate goals and progress clearly and consistently.

4. Deploy Actionable Learning and Tools

This is where the coaching culture training actually occurs. But just to train is not enough. The organization must:

  • Match the training demands to the daily work of the participants. Is the training self-paced or instructor-driven? Is it classroom or virtual? In parts or all in one day?
  • Work with real-world examples that reflect their own work environments.
  • Mix application into the training, as well as clearly lay out post-training application responsibilities.

5. Make It Stick

Finally, participants must apply what they learn immediately, which happens faster if they are using real problems as examples in the class. There must be a way to track implementation. There must be accountability for using coaching. There must be recognition for the leaders who are applying and winning with their coaching. 

How to Measure the Impact of Your Coaching Culture

There are two choices (which are not mutually exclusive) for measuring your internal coaching culture. The first is to measure the actual application of the coaching principles. In short: Are people coaching?

In this case, the lead measures, or those that are behavioral, are what the manager actually does when they coach. Do they start with a goal? Do they actively listen? Do they conclude with commitments? Do they hold their coachee accountable?

The lag measures, or those that are outcomes of the behaviors, measure scores for engagement, satisfaction, commitment, and retention over time.

The other choice is to measure what you point your coaching efforts at to improve. Are you hoping it will increase sales? Did it? Are you hoping customer satisfaction will improve? Are they happier? Did you want manufacturing waste to go down? Did you get that benefit?

In each of these or any business-oriented measurement, answer the following questions to establish the measure:

  • Where are we today?
  • Where do we want to be?
  • When do we want to be there?
  • What is the value of achieving the goal?

Then, as you measure, the answer is simply “Where are we today on those measures?”

What Next?

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