How to Improve Teamwork with a Coaching Culture


Business leaders like to talk about creating a coaching culture because they’ve heard enough about it to know it’s a good thing. But they may not really know what it means or why it’s so important. 

Developing a coaching culture is about so much more than running 360 Degree Feedback Surveys on key leaders, challenging managers to hold their team accountable through regular performance reviews, and sharing weekly “state of the company” speeches from the CEO. A true coaching culture requires the entire organization to fully engage in the new approach, including setting the expectation that any and all team members have not just the right but the responsibility to provide honest, specific, in the moment feedback. It’s about developing your leadership team to embrace an organizational approach where communication is more about insight and less about hierarchy. It’s about changing the way the team looks at feedback, from something scary that potentially feels bad to a key factor in how they all do their jobs better.

But what impact does this really have on the company? What’s the payoff for this significant investment? What changes can you reasonably expect to see by taking a coaching leadership approach?


Increasing employee engagement

The research is clear – employee engagement leads to employees who are not only more likely to stay with the organization but who are the ones you want to stay. They are dependable and positive, and they show an emotional investment in their work and the business’ success. They believe in the vision and work hard not just for their own success but for the good of the team and the company.

Developing a coaching culture means providing an environment designed to increase employee engagement. A culture where your team understands how their efforts contribute to the organization’s goals and are provided regular, in-the-moment feedback on their efforts. A culture where they are provided clear direction and goals as well as assistance to make course corrections as needed. Engaged employees want challenges and growth opportunities, and creating a coaching culture allows you to fully engage your team.

Strong female leader coaching employees in the workplace with computer

Building trust and respect

Honesty is imperative to building trust, and you can’t have honesty in the workplace if you aren’t willing to have hard conversations to address issues or publicly and frequently recognize team members who put forth exceptional effort and achieve results. 

Anything less than frequent and truthful conversations about performance could be seen as disingenuous or leave your team wondering how they’re doing. People need to know where they stand and if their efforts align with expectations. Open and honest communication, while not always pleasant, especially in the beginning, leads to trust because it eliminates surprises in performance reviews and keeps your team from feeling blindsided.

Once you establish that trust, deep and abiding respect can begin to form. People respect those who work hard and speak the truth, and they look for leaders who are honest and forthcoming. That open communication says to your team that their leader respects them, and we know that respect begets respect. This means not only will your employees be more comfortable hearing and acting on feedback, but the trust and respect now established means they will feel comfortable enough to express concerns and challenge the status quo when they see potential for improvement. Individuals will develop skills for communicating directly and appropriately, allowing them to share more openly and honestly amongst themselves as well. This, in turn, leads to more invested and excited team members willing to go above and beyond for the organization and the team.


Talented people want to play for winning teams

Competitors want to win. If you’re hiring talented, motivated employees (and we hope you are), then you can rest assured that these are people who want to do work they’re proud of, and they aren’t afraid to put in a great deal of effort to exceed expectations. But those people are far less likely to stick around if an antiquated system of annual performance reviews means that underperformers are allowed to linger in the organization. Strong performers want to work with other strong performers, and they want to know that issues are being addressed in an honest and timely manner. We each become better when we’re surrounded by coworkers who challenge us, and teams with lackadaisical, apathetic employees are likely to keep the underperformers while the talent heads quickly out the door for new and better opportunities.

Senior leader coaching employees in conference room with screen

Healthy conflict makes us all better

For many people, conflict is uncomfortable and to be avoided at (almost) any cost. For others, conflict is acceptable as long as it’s resolved as soon as humanly possible. Most people are never taught healthy conflict skills, which leaves them at a disadvantage not only in their personal relationships but at work as well. When done well, colleagues can passionately debate different approaches to the same situation without maligning or alienating the other person. Healthy conflict means being able to disagree on the approach without disrespect or anger, and it also means being able to live with the outcome, even if you don’t get your way. Healthy conflict allows for compromise and even acceptance of someone else’s ideas if that’s the decision ultimately made by the group. Allowing team members to be heard, even if they don’t ultimately win the argument, lessens the potential for resentment and tension within the team and further strengthens their ability to work together toward the decided goal.

When honesty is set forth as the example, and team members are held accountable for being forthright, then you enable team members to express opinions openly, even if those opinions differ with those of the leadership team or if they mean a change from what the organization has always done. It means allowing them to express frustration or disappointment when a team member has let them down and to speak up in meetings rather than publicly agreeing with the proposal only to privately criticize or undermine the decision. Creating a coaching culture means telling your team that they can and should speak up to encourage and correct others as well as to communicate ideas to leadership.

Ready to make the switch?

Now that you understand the valuable impact that creating a coaching culture can have on your efforts to improve teamwork, do you need some help to get started? Our coaches will work with you to build a custom plan for your organization. That plan could involve a Becoming a Coaching Leader workshop with your leadership team, a tailored approach to coaching throughout your organization, or perhaps just key engagements as needed. No matter how significant or minor your current needs, our team at Building Champions would love to partner with you in developing a coaching culture.



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