leadership coaching
Management & Mindset

How to Encourage a Leadership Coaching Culture in Your Workplace

In soccer, a coach is the go-to person to motivate a team. Whether hyping up players to win a big game or to just push through a tough practice, the coach is there to help players achieve their goals.

Swap out a soccer field for a workplace. Instead of a coach, we see a manager who mentors, motivates, and guides their direct reports. Your managers know how to properly coach—that’s a major part of their job already. But these leaders need support and access to skill-sharpening resources just like anyone else.

That’s why it’s important to focus your workplace culture around the idea of leadership coaching.

A strong leadership coaching culture curbs burnout and encourages more ambitious, communicative, and productive managers. It means empowering your managers to gain the self-awareness to take control of their learning experience. And the way to encourage a leadership coaching culture is to build opportunities for managers to support each other’s decision-making skills, celebrate each other’s wins, and continually motivate one another to learn new skills.

The desired outcome is a growth mindset among your managers. But to do that, you have to adjust your current company culture.

Get buy-in from the group that matters the most—your leaders

Just because someone engages in coaching doesn’t mean your company has a culture of coaching. So, you need to get buy-in on the changes that need to happen from the people who will benefit the most—your managers.

Research shows that the organizations that invest in their leaders see improved performance all-around. Take, for example, the software development company Pivotal Labs, which invested in leadership coaching in its workplace. The company saw major changes as a result, including a 173% improvement in interpersonal skills and an 83% improvement in time management skills.

Plus, each manager reported similarly improved performance in their direct reports. This implies that leadership coaching can help managers identify high-performing direct reports that could, one day, move up the funnel into management.

You can begin to generate interest in a coaching culture by talking with your managers and leaders. It sounds simple enough, but the key is to make room for continual conversation, especially if you have leaders on the fence.

Make time during one-on-one meetings to talk with managers and leaders about how coaching might be of value to them—especially taking care to ask about competencies they want to learn.

You could also create a Google form or anonymous online survey for your managers and ask them to share the elements of coaching they would benefit from the most, like productivity tips, presentation skills, or help with conflict management. You can use the feedback to find ways to implement coaching opportunities on a continual basis.

For example, if your managers tell you they would benefit from learning how others use internal tools, consider hosting a monthly skill-share series where managers can highlight their expertise, or ask a subject-matter expert to create a course on the topic.

Just because someone engages in coaching doesn’t mean your company has a culture of coaching.

Shift your mindset from “training” to “learning”

The best leadership coaching happens when your managers have an always-on opportunity to learn.

As you encourage a coaching culture, emphasize the need to focus on coaching from a place of learning rather than training.

Training implies an open-and-close learning opportunity. Learning, on the other hand, sparks curiosity and supports a continual approach to skill-building.

Imagine you have a manager who needs to improve their time management skills. So, they take a three-hour course. Once that training program is over, it’s assumed the manager has learned what they needed, and the issue is not addressed again.

The problem here is that training is a bandage. It offers some support, but it doesn’t set the manager up for success. It’s no mystery, then, why employee engagement in learning is one of the top challenges among L&D professionals.

Now, imagine instead that the same manager is connected with colleagues across your organization that are time management experts. That manager can build relationships with colleagues, talk about productivity best practices, and get recommendations for resources like blogs, books, and podcasts. Not only has the manager built lasting relationships with colleagues, but they’ve also gained access to resources that continually improve their time management skills throughout their entire career.

When LaRissa O’Neal began her role as the Director of Learning and Development at Allied Electronics & Automation, she prioritized the shift from training to learning. According to LaRissa, “real learning is about growing as a professional,” meaning it’s just as important to build soft skills—like listening, conflict management, and emotional intelligence—as it is to perform a job well.

Now, all levels of staff at Allied Electronics feel comfortable speaking up about their experiences with the company and sharing their own performance, both wins and failures, with each other openly.

“When people have solid interpersonal relationships and communication skills, they feel comfortable bringing their authentic selves to work,” says LaRissa. “It’s all part of having a great learning environment and elevating a company’s potential for success.”

Related: A Practical Guide to Employee Coaching for L&D Teams

Support your leaders with regular check-ins

Your managers do an excellent job of caring for their team members. But they need support from their peers to feel seen and heard. Help them avoid burnout by creating opportunities to check in with their peers—fellow managers.

Findings from Gallup show burnout from managers is getting worse, while burnout from individual contributors or lower levels of staff is decreasing somewhat. This implies managers are doing a stellar job at supporting their employees and encouraging teamwork but aren’t getting the same support for themselves.

This finding is supported by our own recent research on the Great Resignation, which found that most managers on the brink of burnout wished they had more training and support:

Great Resignation study
Most managers on the brink of burnout feel that additional training and support would have helped them manage their stress better.

To remedy this, build in time for managers to meet with each other for open and honest conversations. This might be as simple as setting up one-on-one meetings using software like Donut or Around. Or consider creating a monthly or quarterly meet-up for managers only.

These opportunities let your managers talk frankly about challenges, discover potential blind spots, learn about other leadership styles, and motivate each other to keep working toward their goals. And it’s how you turn good leaders into great leaders.

If you’re remote or have a workforce that’s generally crunched for time, consider a Slack group or online forum that your managers and leaders can access to navigate tough times. Think about it as a safe space to talk asynchronously or simply share resources like webinars or interesting articles on topical issues of burnout or manager stress.

Keep in mind these shared spaces are best for general challenges or feelings of burnout. Inter-colleague issues are still best handled in a private conversation.

Manage your leadership coaching with a collaborative learning platform

When learning becomes communal, it motivates learners to work harder. That’s the basis of the Social Interdependence Theory, in which the success of an individual depends on the success of the group. It’s also why we believe collaborative learning is the key to success in the L&D space.

It’s easy to facilitate a culture of coaching with a collaborative tool like 360Learning, which gives leaders the resources they need to take control of their coaching experience. 360Learning was designed to let team members create individualized learning paths by letting anyone create a course or lesson based on their expertise.

Managers can leverage our collaborative learning platform to learn a skill at the moment it’s needed. Plus, the platform comes with fun features like leaderboards, which show off top-performing managers and encourage a little healthy competition. Want to learn more? You can get your free demo, below:

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