Guest Post by Dan Foster
When you’re running a small business, it can be difficult to find the time and resources to work on your culture. But investing in your people is well worth the effort.
Creating a coaching culture – where managers intentionally grow and develop employees – isn’t necessarily about providing a warm and fuzzy place to work. It’s about consistent, purposeful investment in your people.
Building a Coaching Culture
Why should you make the effort?
Making the shift to a coaching culture is no small feat. It takes time and energy, two things often in short supply in small businesses. But we also know that coaching cultures outperform others.
An International Coach Federation study found that organizations with a strong coaching culture:
- Score significantly higher on employee engagement scores
- Are far more likely to be classified as high-performing organizations
- Outperform their peers in several ways, including diversity hires and retention of top performers
While it might take time and effort to shift to a coaching culture, you’re also investing in the future of your company. By building a high-performing team, your business will be far more likely to weather industry storms and succeed long-term.
Who Should Coach?
As you start on this journey, it’s important to identify the people in your organization who are well-suited to leading your initial coaching efforts.
The goal is to move the organization from a performance management mindset to an environment where every leader is coaching and developing people daily. To begin, you’ll want to determine if you’re ready to be a coaching leader.
Here are some key factors in evaluating the coaching readiness of team members, including yourself:
- Coaching leaders have a heart for every member of the organization, not just those who have a direct impact on their results.
- Coaching leaders listen more than they talk, and have the patience to let people work out solutions on their own. They read between the lines. They ask questions to understand what is not being said as well as what is.
- Coaching leaders hold people accountable – not just for black-and-white business results, but also in the gray areas like attitude and communication style. They’re willing to have the hard conversations.
- Coaching leaders hold themselves to high standards in relationships, work ethic, and confidentiality. They set an example for developing healthy habits and routines.
- Coaching leaders constantly look ahead to understand and support the vision of the organization. They can also translate that vision to their team and show them how they can contribute.
While most of these coaching skills can be learned over time, it’s the heart that matters most for coaching leaders. You need leaders who are passionate about developing others all day, every day.
When Should Coaching Take Place?
Structured coaching sessions don’t have to be a massive time commitment, especially starting out. It’s advisable to schedule these sessions based on the individual’s needs rather than applying a cookie-cutter approach.
Some individuals will do best with biweekly or even monthly sessions. Others may want more frequent sessions, especially during certain life events or seasons. You might start with 30-minute sessions as you’re establishing your coaching relationship, increasing to an hour if and when it makes sense. Coaching leaders should be willing to flex as people’s needs differ.
Also, consider group coaching where appropriate. This is a great option for new employees or a team or department with shared goals.
How Does This Strategy Differ for Small Businesses?
When large organizations undertake coaching and development efforts, it’s usually with the intent of increasing retention and identifying individuals for promotion. These are wise goals for small business owners as well.
However, it’s also true that developing people sometimes means you’ll grow them right out of your organization. They might determine their goals can’t be met within the bounds of your company.
It’s important that coaching leaders understand and value this idea, knowing you might lose some good people by helping them grow and develop. This can seem counterintuitive, but it’s likely to make the person a better employee for your organization in the short to mid-term, and it will ultimately serve the employee and the community.
What Resources Do I Have?
You can also bring in an outside firm to lead the move to a coaching culture. An organization with expertise in coaching leadership can come alongside your leaders to build them into strong coaching leaders for the organization. They can also help you objectively evaluate your firm’s current reality and better understand the steps to take to achieve a coaching culture.
The Payoff of a Coaching Culture
Creating a coaching culture in your organization is a marathon, not a sprint. This isn’t just about changing people’s behaviors; it’s about making the commitment to growing and developing people a core focus for your team. It’s not just about meeting the department’s quarterly goals; it’s about helping each person reach their full potential.
By taking these important steps, you can improve your team’s efficiency, engagement, and skills long-term. For small business owners, investing in people through coaching leadership pays high dividends.
Throughout his career, Dan Foster has successfully helped executives, small business owners, and sales professionals increase their influence, make better decisions, and achieve the results they desire. He loves helping leaders live and lead with greater intentionality and purpose.
In addition to coaching leaders and teams, Dan manages a team of Building Champions’ executive coaches and leads internal coach training and development. He also oversees client relationships in the retail, technology, hospitality, healthcare and telecommunications industries.