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Building a coaching culture in the organization - ICF report

Building a coaching culture in the organization - ICF report - Empowerment Coaching Kraków

Modern workplaces are complex systems like the ocean, the human brain, and the economy. This means it is almost impossible to predict how they will behave because they are made up of many elements that interact with each other - and the environment - in unpredictable ways.

It's no wonder that managers and executives with tasks such as reducing employee turnover and increasing employee engagement are challenging. You can, of course, try strategies that have worked in other organizations or even worked in the past in yours. However, the science of complexity means that there is no guarantee that it will work again and that this time it will not have unforeseen consequences.

But there is also an exciting side to this complexity, especially when managing change in a team or workplace. Sometimes even small, positive changes in the behavior of a few people have an impact on the entire organization.

How a coaching culture can create lasting change

As with many terms fashionable in the business environment, especially those created in English ( so-called buzzwords ), there are many definitions of coaching culture. So let's return to the sources and definitions from academic literature. It reads as follows:

A coaching culture is one in which all employees and managers use a similar approach (coaching) to develop and interact with other people - one in which the priority is to help other people develop in the workplace.

This is one of those rare concepts that sounds good in theory and also works in practice. In October 2023, the results of the latest meta-analysis were published, in which representatives of the world of science analyzed the impact of coaching on organizations.

The following words can be found in the introduction to the summary of the conclusions of this meta-analysis:

"Over the last few years, interest in coaching has increased significantly. Coaching has been described as one of the fastest-growing specializations in the HR profession (Bozer and Delegach, 2019). The International Coach Federation ( ICF ) reported that there were over 71,000 coaching professionals in 2019 (ICF, 2020), and this number has more than tripled in the last 10 years (Theeboom et al., 2014).

Indeed, workplace coaching has been so well received that many organizations provide it as part of a benefits package to their most valued employees. The ICF estimates that over two billion dollars are invested in business coaching globally annually (International Coaching Federation, 2020).

As coaching has grown in acceptance, it has also evolved to meet client demands. The percentage of coaches who have received formal training is much higher now than in the past (Passmore and Sinclair, 2020). The number of assessment techniques (Möeller and Kotte, 2022) and intervention tools (Greif et al., 2022) available to modern coaches has also increased.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated a shift in the way coaching is delivered, with many coaches moving to online technology-based platforms as opposed to face-to-face interactions.

Despite the popularity of business coaching, researchers have lamented the lack of empirical research in this area (Jones et al., 2016; Silzer et al., 2016). Critics of coaching have questioned whether coaching is empirically based (Sherman & Freas, 2004; Greif et al., 2022) and whether it is worth the investment (Sonesh et al., 2015). Fortunately, over the past decade, researchers have begun to respond to this need, with a dramatic increase in the number of studies examining the effectiveness of coaching (Kotte & Bozer, 2022).

This increase in research activity, combined with the increased popularity of workplace coaching, raises the need to revisit the scientific literature to assess the state of knowledge and provide directions for future research. Therefore, this manuscript provides a meta-analytic review of research on the effectiveness of coaching in the work environment conducted since 2018. This review also considered the influence of several moderating variables that may influence coaching effectiveness.

The main conclusions from this latest research published in October 2023 are:

When managers received coaching, people on their teams were more satisfied with their jobs, more engaged in their work, and less likely to consider leaving.

Another study on coaching by the Human Capital Institute (HCI ) and the International Coaching Federation, which involved 432 organizations, shows that:

  • organizations with a strong coaching culture are more than twice as likely to be classified as high-performing. To be precise, it is a ratio of 61% to 27%.

  • but only 15% of surveyed companies currently have a strong coaching culture.

This study also found that coaching is one of the most helpful methods for developing change management skills.

The three main conclusions from the ICF and Human Capital Institute study are:

  1. On-site training, e-learning and face-to-face meetings with senior leaders are the most frequently used methods of preparing employees for change. However, coaching activities (e.g., individual coaching, team coaching, and group coaching with a professional coach) are rated as most helpful in achieving the goals of a change management initiative.

  2. The most common reasons for using coaching activities to manage change are the following:

    1. Improving leadership style, working with leaders' strengths and weaknesses,

    2. Overcoming resistance to change,

    3. Building resilience and readiness for change.

  3. The use of coaching to introduce an agile culture is also clearly correlated with greater benefits and increased employee confidence in planning and implementing change.

The results of this study also allowed us to define what a strong coaching culture is in an organization. It is a culture in which:

  • coaching is valued throughout the organization, both by employees and top management,

  • all employees of the organization have equal opportunities to benefit from professional coaching,

  • the organization uses the services of both internal and external coaches,

  • managers, leaders, and internal coaches have undergone accredited training in coaching techniques,

  • coaching has a dedicated budget in the company.

The knock-on effect begins with individual behavioral changes encouraged by internal or external coaches or managers that help them better use their coaching skills.

Anyone can help create a coaching culture in their organization by working to develop and practice these skills with others. A growth mindset can be an advantage, and while some coaching skills may seem simple, they are difficult to consistently put into practice.

The full ICF report on the impact of coaching on organizational culture can be obtained by clicking the button below:

Building Coaching Culture for Change Management-2018
Download PDF • 2.85MB

To build a coaching culture - ask better questions

Managers often feel pressure to have all the answers and continually add value during meetings and correspondence.

However, managers with coaching skills know that great leadership is more than that. The most effective leaders learn how to release this pressure and break the compulsion to be right or prove their intelligence. They do it not only for their teams but also for their good.

Torch Executive Coach Stephanie Staidle knows that this pressure can cause anxiety. She indicated that:

"When managers believe they are expected to have all the answers, it can lead to Imposter Syndrome or simply a lack of self-confidence. When I teach leaders how to coach their teams by asking more questions and listening with curiosity, I take some of that away from them." burden. An additional benefit is allowing the other person [in the conversation with the leader] to learn how to create solutions for themselves."

What questions can help unlock these solutions? In his book entitled Bringing Up the Boss, sociologist Rachel Pacheco shares a set of coaching questions that managers should add to their toolkit, including:

  • What have you tried so far?

  • What led to this situation?

  • What else needs to be clarified?

  • How to get clarity?

“Great managers re-ignite team members' desire to learn,” writes Pacheco. Part of what they do is curiosity - helping others pay attention to their assumptions and self-imposed limitations.

Managers aren't the only ones who can improve communication and work through more thoughtful questioning. Employees can also use questioning as a tool not only to manage key projects and gain greater transparency but also to build trust - especially during periods of change.

David Dunnington, Executive Coach at Torch, describes the experience of clients who had four managers in a year and a half. He comments on it as follows:

“This means there is no time to build a relationship of trust and suggests frequent changes to organizational strategy.” This is worrying not only for employees but also for their managers, who may be equally confused about priorities and when they may change again.”

Questions can help people who are not in direct management positions regain freedom of action in uncertain, unclear situations. Dunnington suggests asking your manager the following question: How do you feel when you change strategy frequently? What comes to your mind?

One of the most important lessons coaching teaches us is that sometimes transformational change can come from seemingly small changes in behavior: repeating what someone has told you to make sure you heard them correctly or asking questions to empower someone. , instead of rushing out with an answer. This lesson also teaches us that anyone, at any time, can make these changes, become an example to those around them, and have an impact that reaches far beyond one person.

5 Mistakes Made by Organizations Trying to Build a Coaching Culture

In another study published on the website of the International Coach Federation, you can find the 5 most common mistakes that companies make when creating a coaching culture in the organization. These mistakes can sabotage the entire process, despite your best intentions.

Mistake 1: Culture development is unrelated to the organization's strategic goals.

If the goal of developing a coaching culture is perceived as independent of other strategic goals, values, and visions of the organization, it is doomed to failure. The coaching culture must be adapted and used as a means to drive progress toward achieving strategic goals. Can it be a tool for improving results? Is it to engage or empower employees? Support the change management process? Introduce more innovations?

Organizations should start by considering their short-, medium- and long-term strategic goals and how developing and embedding coaching will help achieve those goals. As coaches, we can ask this question at the very beginning to ensure that the organization is on the right path.

Mistake 2: People in the organization are not qualified to coach.

A true coaching culture is more than just hiring external coaches – it is about building coaching capacity at all levels of the organization. Developing this skill is essential to truly embed coaching into the organizational culture.

The process of upskilling an organization in coaching typically involves engaging external coaches to improve managers' skills in using coaching as a leadership tool. While this may seem like a quick way to get rid of trainers and coaches, it's quite the opposite. If this is implemented effectively, our role becomes that of a strategic partner who guides the organization to maintain a coaching culture over time.

Mistake 3: Coaching is not organized and woven into the learning and development process.

Without using coaching to apply training and identify and overcome weaknesses, learning and development (L&D) can suffer. Too often, organizations invest in structured training programs only to see that participants do not use what they have learned and fall back into old habits. Leaving the employee responsible for the behavioral change that should result from the training he or she has just completed will not always be effective. Why do we expect employees to be able to quickly unlearn old behaviors and adopt new ones with very little support?

In such a situation, coaching is a necessary and organized step in the learning and development process. The Center of Creative Leadership recommends a 70-20-10 split between on-the-job training, learning in development relationships (e.g. coaching) and formal training. Through coaching, employees receive support and are held accountable throughout the learning process so they can immediately apply what they have learned.

Mistake 4: Senior leaders don't shape a coaching culture.

Efforts to develop the right culture often don't start at the top. Employees are working hard to take this approach to the next level. Without the full support of senior leaders, employees leading the process may lose motivation and the desired coaching culture may never be realized.

To develop and sustain this culture, it must be clear to everyone in the organization that coaching is a top priority. The only way to achieve this is to drive the process from the top down. As coaches, we can help by finding ways to gain buy-in from the leadership team early in the process. This often starts with executives experiencing coaching themselves and seeing the benefits first-hand.

Mistake 5: There is not the right balance between individual, group, and team coaching.

Many organizations that claim to want to develop a coaching culture fail to recognize the importance of providing a variety of coaching options, including individual, group, and team coaching. All three are important and if the wrong balance is struck, it can impact the value of coaching in an organization.

For example, one-on-one coaching can help each employee perform better and stay accountable to their goals. It can also help you develop better relationships with others in your organization. However, it will not ensure team cohesion and direction, nor will it allow coaching recipients to learn from others in the group while pursuing their own goals. This is where team or group coaching can provide important additional benefits.


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