Why Creating a Coaching Culture is a Game-Changer
Coaching can be a big culture shift, but I have seen first-hand the impact it can have for both employees and businesses.
Having been in the talent development space for almost two decades now (let me just pause for a moment for me to let that sink in…), I have spent my career advocating for the power of coaching. I have seen first-hand how it can transform careers, teams, and even entire organisations.
Coaching is a focused, nuanced, and tailored development intervention that delivers real results, fast. Whether one person or one-thousand people get the opportunity to work with a coach, providing these experiences can make a world of difference — if done right.
In this article, we will go over three key elements of establishing a strong coaching culture:
What does ‘good’ look like in terms of an established coaching culture?
How do you get people interested in coaching?
How do you make the business case for coaching?
Now let’s dive into each one of these.
1. What does 'good' look like?
A great example I like to use is the work I have done at EZRA with Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) in Singapore alongside their Head of Coaching, Pranav Shirke. At SCB, they have a really well-thought through approach to developing a coaching culture, which has three fundamental components:
Coaching skills for all people leaders
SCB delivers core coaching skills such as listening, questioning and creating trust. This is delivered as part of a six-week programme for all people leaders, and additional opportunities are given to this group each year at their Global Learning Week.
Internal coaching cadre
SCB has a group of around 180 internal coaches called Ignite. Ignite coaches have full-time jobs but spend a few hours each week coaching colleagues. There is a cross-charge of $1,000 for an Ignite coach, and these funds are then re-invested in the Ignite community both to incentivise the accreditation of new Ignite coaches, as well as to run a coach development programme. Ignite coaches typically deliver around 4-6 sessions per coachee.
Ignite coaches are not chosen or selected by SCB but instead if someone wants to get themselves accredited to ICF standard (and pay for this themselves), then SCB encourages that by giving each person $1,000 once they have their accreditation. Once accredited, they can join the Ignite team and begin to get coaching clients.
Ignite is used strategically to support specific aims of the organisation. At the moment, Ignite is working hard to launch a program to support the company’s goals to elevate and support female talent. This happens not just within the organization, but also with some of their outreach work in the community where Ignite coaches get the opportunity to support female entrepreneurs, people working in the third sector and other areas where it is involved in doing charitable work.
Ignite has proven a hugely engaging programme for those taking part.
External coaching providers
SCB also uses external providers, of which EZRA is the major player, to deliver coaching at scale to all areas of the company which would be beyond the reach of the Ignite team. EZRA’s philosophy on coaching matches that of SCB’s. We insist all our coaches are at least ACC level with the ICF (or equivalent). Our coaches are highly trained, experienced, accredited professionals, very much in keeping with the Ignite cadre.
Across SCB there are 85,000 people, and through partnerships like this, they are getting closer to their goal of making coaching accessible to everyone at the company.
2. Getting started
How do you get people interested in coaching when there is no interest in your team or organisation today?
I recently was speaking at an event with Choy Kiew Cheong, who has worked in China and Japan in the highly technically oriented culture of AstraZeneca, the global pharmaceutical company.
Talking ahead of the event, we reflected that in highly technical environments, such as pharma, coaching can be a counter-cultural style. These organisations are often dominated by science, data and knowledge, whereas the questioning, listening and supportive style of coaching is less culturally normal.
Choy Kiew has experienced this and the fact that these environments do not always support the creation of high-performing teams. She shared her story of taking personal risks to intervene in meetings, in group settings and with highly respected colleagues to take a different route — one more developmental, more reflective. What struck those of us at the event was her bravery in willing to be different, to be the point of cultural change; to be the change she wanted to see.
Choy Kiew’s behaviour changed the dynamic in the teams she worked in, and she was able to create the invitation to lead more, to coach more and to shift the culture around her. It reminded me of a wonderful quote by the anthropologist and feminist Margaret Mead;
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
3. The business case for coaching
At EZRA, we are a virtual coaching company. Companies that engage with us get access to our app, from which you can access our roster of coaches. All the scheduling happens right there on the app, which syncs any calendar you are using. There are also built-in measures of capability so that we can measure whether the coaching is working to drive capability.
Our goal is to deliver a consumer grade user experience with world class coaches, accessible anywhere in the world in (almost) any language you can imagine.
We have been working hard over the past couple of years to give you a clear sense of the business case for implementing coaching. Here are some of the highlights:
In a huge study with one of our biggest clients, we compared the productivity (financial and customer service measures) between groups that were led by leaders that had an EZRA coach, and those that didn’t. The coached group number around 80, as did the control group. Each leader had around 10-12 direct reports, so the entire study involved close to 1000 people in each group.
The two group’s performance was tracked over a two-year period before the coaching group and were seen to be identical ( i.e. there was no significant difference between the groups before coaching started). This was still true just after the coaching started, but after six weeks the two groups started to diverge, and eventually a performance gap of 18% opened and was maintained.
The organisation was so impressed that the relatively modest investment in coaching had driven an 18% performance improvement that the programme is now being made available to all 13,000 people leaders across the organisation.
Behavioural capability uplift
We have been busy collating all of the data we collect from coachees and their line managers from before, and then directly after they undertake an EZRA coaching intervention. We ask questions about their perception of their own, or their team member’s capability. In all we have checked, so far, 35 independent capability variables (e.g. communication, influence, networking, leading change) and have found that coaching drives a significant uplift in all of them, regardless as to whether you look at self, or line manager perception.
This is one of the largest studies into the effectiveness of coaching that has ever been undertaken, with around 10,000 people in the study and what it shows is that it doesn’t matter what you want to get better at, a coach will help.
Engagement, attrition, loyalty, promotion
We have done a long-term study looking at engagement, loyalty and attrition levels in coached vs. uncoached groups and seen a positive impact on all of these variables. For example:
Over two years, coached high-potential leaders were 14% less likely to leave an organisation compared to uncoached leaders
Over two years, high potential-leaders were 11% more likely to receive a promotion compared to uncoached leaders
After coaching, 77% of coachees report feeling more loyal to their organisation
We are not naïve and do not believe that coaching is the solution to every problem an organisation faces, but we see great results in terms of attrition, financial/outcome performance, and perhaps most critically, behavioural capability improvement. We see these results being repeated regardless of the level at which coaching is applied, and we are excited by many of our clients who are using EZRA’s price point which is substantially lower than traditional 1:1 face to face coaching, to get coaching right down into their organisations. We are working with first line leaders, with graduates and with people right at the beginning of their careers.
I hope this post has inspired you to think about coaching in your organisation, and about what it could unlock for your company and your colleagues. If you’d like to see how EZRA could be a fit for your talent development, click here!