LEAD Model: Journey to developing a coaching culture

Jonathan Passmore
May 23 2024 | Einblicke

Fünf Kollegen saßen mit einem Laptop an einem Tisch und besprachen die Arbeit.

Coaching is now widely used across businesses. But having a coaching culture is more than just using coaching. Some organisations are still stuck using an old-style approach to coaching, coaching which is primarily tactical, personal, and privileged, as opposed to strategic, integrated, and inclusive. In doing so, they lack the ability to really create a coaching culture. We believe that only by integrating coaching into the wider people management strategy can organisations create cultures which can unleash the full potential of their people.

What is ‘culture’ in the workplace?

The term ‘culture’ is widely used, but like the term coaching, it has a wide variety of definitions that are applied by different leaders, in different organisations and different sectors. One of the clearest and shortest definitions is by Terence Deal and Alan Kennedy: ‘the way things get done around here’ (1).

At EZRA, we define coaching culture as: “an organisation that aims to maximize the potential of all who work with it, through its use of coaching as the default style of leadership, and where individuals are supported and challenged to become more self-aware, with increased responsibility, to achieve continuous personal improvement and deliver organisational goals”.

How to introduce a new culture at work

To bring a new culture alive the organisation requires a planned approach; one way of delivering culture change is a three Cs approach:

1. Common mindset

A common mindset is a shared view about the role of coaching within the organisation from the senior team to team leaders.

2. Creating champions

Creating champions requires the leadership team of the organization having a vision for the role coaching can play in achieving the organisation's strategic objectives.

3. Compelling campaign

Finally, it requires a compelling campaign to tell each employee what coaching is (definition), what role it plays in the wider business strategy (contribution) and how they can use and access coaching (application).

Old style approach to coaching

While coaching has been actively used by managers for more than three decades, in many organizations it has remained a personal benefit, like a parking space: disconnected from the wider organisational activities. This approach to coaching is typified by several common features.

1. ‘Why’ of coaching – the organisation understands that coaching is valuable to its executives, but not how to integrate it into the wider HR or business strategy. Individuals in the organization understand how coaching can help them (the ‘why’ of coaching).

2. Appointments – the selection of the coach and their appointment is undertaken by the individual manager, often without due process and frequently based on personal relationships or a recommendation.

3. Assignment focus – the focus of the assignment is decided by the individual manager with little or no reference to the wider organisational perspective.

4. Coaches – the coach is seen exclusively as an external contractor, responsible for their own development and standards and separate from the client’s business.

5. Evaluation – the evaluation is based on the perceptions of the manager as to how they felt the coaching went, with little consideration of metrics or alternative perspectives.

Each of these five aspects reinforces the personal and privileged aspect of coaching, rather than the strategic contribution coaching can make to an organisation. The old style of coaching keeps the focus on personal needs and personal impact. In contrast, a coaching culture approach contributes to the organisation’s agenda.

At EZRA we deploy a unique approach to helping organisations evaluate where they are on their developmental journey (2). This is something called the LEAD model.

What is the LEAD model

The LEAD model (3) is a practical framework which can be used in two ways: 1) To audit the organizations current progress towards a coaching culture, and 2) To inform an organisation’s next steps in building a high-performance coaching culture which delivers organisational value.

The reality is that with digital technologies, coaching can now be scaled across the business. It can be focused on strategic change objectives, used to provide targeted development feedback or used to support current senior leaders or align and develop the next generation of senior leaders.

Jonathan Passmore is a Professor of Coaching & Behavioral Change at Henley Business School, Senior Vice President at EZRA and Chair of EZRA’s Science Board


(1) Deal, T & Kennedy, A (1982) Corporate Culture: The Rites and Rituals of Corporate Life. San Francisco: Perseus Books

(2) EZRA. (2023) Building a Coaching Culture. London: EZRA

(3) Passmore, J. & Crabbe, K. (2023) LEAD: Building high performance coaching cultures. The Coaching Psychologist, 19(2).

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