Creating a coaching environment

Coaching is great. In many cases, there’s no better way to support an individual in developing their full potential, benefiting both themselves and the organisation which employs them. But allocating an executive coach to everybody in the workforce is not an approach that tends to be economically. However, your people can still benefit from coaching.

What’s needed is to create a coaching environment; to add coaching to your workplace culture, as part of how you manage performance, learning, and personal and career development.

What does a coaching environment look like?

If you want to create a coaching environment, you’re aiming for a setup like this:

  • All managers have an understanding of coaching and the necessary basic skills; including essential listening techniques, the ability to ask open-ended and exploratory questions, and an understanding of what constitutes a good objective, and how to agree one.
  • All employees understand the concept of coaching and have experience of being coached.
  • The use of measurable goals and objectives is in common use for personal development.
  • People with more advanced coaching skills are available when necessary (often HR professionals and/or senior managers).
  • Feedback on performance is seen as the norm (and not just done at a once a year appraisal meeting).
  • Errors and mistakes are seen as opportunities to learn (and therefore people are not anxious about admitting to them).
  • Performance conversations are facilitative, and not directive or authoritative.
  • Good coaching is rewarded (e.g. via the performance management of your managers)

Operating in a coaching environment

While some of the above can be achieved through communication and training initiatives (such as coaching qualifications for key personnel) dissemination of information and a few training courses do not a coaching environment make. As with any true culture, it grows over time and depends on the daily interactions and transactions within the workplace.

In coaching, as with anything, your senior people should be leading by example. They should be seen to be inviting feedback, examining and improving their own performance, and generally acting as role models, both as coaches and coachees.

Everyone, especially managers, should be focused on improvement. Start with a focus on improving the business (How can we do that better?) and that same attitude will spread to personal performance (How can I do that better?)

Learning should be shared. Knowledge sharing is a big part of a coaching environment and the opportunity to learn someone else’s lessons can mean not making the same ‘mistake’.

Furthermore, as the culture develops, coaching will not only be carried out by coaches. As the core approach of reviewing and using specific goals to improve is embedded, the essence is used whether or not a trained or qualified coach is present.

The ideal is that your managers (at all levels) have the skills and awareness to take a coaching approach when it’s indicated. Not to sidestep formal procedures when they’re necessary, but as an additional approach which is better-suited to many situations and as an environment factor can create widespread improvements.

Naturally, this kind of workplace is not built overnight, nor can it really be imposed. By nature, it’s a workplace culture constructed together, by consent. The first step is being clear on exactly why and how your organisation could benefit from being a coaching environment.


If you want to explore the topic coaching environments further, including how to build one in your organisations, check out our three-day Creating a coaching environment programme. Or give us a call on 01582 463461. We’re here to help.

Categories: Coaching

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