There is a strong business case for building and nurturing a coaching culture in organizations. A 2017 study performed by the International Coach Federation and Human Capital Institute found that those organizations with strong coaching cultures grew their revenue much more than industry peer group members (51% versus 38%). Their employees were significantly more engaged (62% versus 50%). A lot of coach training does not produce results because of neglecting to build a coaching culture that supports coaching as a way of life. Older, traditional command and control cultures, unless changed, will come in the course of coaching, becoming the way of managing a business. No amount of training will help. However, culture is based on shared values or principles. They can make a big difference.
We have earlier discussed Why Should You Create a Coaching Culture? and Where do you start when you want to build a coaching culture? Now let us take a look at an organization that was built on a coaching culture. It has achieved remarkable growth in multiple businesses while starting from scratch and challenging entrenched incumbents. Studying Richard Branson’s Virgin Group gives us the 3 Pillars of a Coaching Culture that every organization that wants to build a coaching culture should consider adopting.
The Virgin Group Case Study
Richard Branson created the Virgin Group in 1970. As he and his partners had literally no experience in initiating and running businesses. Yet they made multiple successful businesses beginning with Music and going on to unrelated Airlines, and many others. The Virgin Group has now been in existence for 50 years, currently operating 40 companies across five business sectors and five continents. The business sectors are as diverse as Travel & Leisure, Health & Wellness, Music & Entertainment, Telecoms & Media, Financial Services, and even Space. Some quotes from Richard Branson that exemplify his coaching oriented leadership style are given below:
- “The simple fact is that nobody ever learned anything by listening to themselves speak.” A coach usually does not tell but asks questions and listens.
- “Frustration can be an enormous driver of change if you are good at spotting the opportunity sitting right at the center of a problem.” Looking for problems to solve is a way to find an opportunity than to live with frustration. Coaching is about helping people solve their problems by themselves.
- “Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you, give them everything they need to grow, and your business will thrive.” When you hire talented people without feeling insecure and give them the freedom, resources, and support they need, they will ensure the business will do well.
- “In order to grow, you must be able to let go.” It is important to give people freedom.
- “There’s only one thing that is an absolute certainty in business – we all make mistakes.” If you want team members to be creative, experiment, do new things, take risks, they will inevitably make mistakes. The most innovative organizations not only tolerate mistakes, some even celebrate them.
- “My mantra in business has always been ‘screw it, let’s do it!’ and that has meant that Virgin has pursued a number of ideas that haven’t worked out. I don’t see them as failures; I see them as experiences to be learned from.” Willingness to learn from failures helps build future success.
The 3 Pillars of a Coaching Culture
Richard Branson hired Carol Wilson to run the music business. He had asked her what she was inspired to do (a coach asks questions), and she wanted to do anything but the job of a secretary, which was what women mostly did back then. She didn’t know the music business, but no one else did either. It took her two years to realize how and in the third year, they launched the business, and in five years, they were able to compete with Warner Brother and CBS (now Sony). She writes that in the first two years, while learning, she achieved less than experienced managers, but after that, achieved much more than other managers in the industry as she was able to discover new ways of doing things. (https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/sir-richard-bransons-coaching-culture-virgin-carol-wilson/) With her extensive experience in the music business, she writes about the three principles that are the pillars of a coaching culture:
If people are micro-managed, they stop thinking for themselves. Provide a strategic plan, skills training, information access, freedom to decide, and to act how it suits them best.
Encourage diversity of skills, thoughts, opinions, and approaches in teams. Given responsibility, people will rise to the challenge if given a safe and supportive environment.
Coaching ensures that the peers / team members have a safe-space ensuring emotional and psychological safety from judgement and bias.
To build self-assurance in people to suggest new ideas, they need encouragement. To build faith and courage in their abilities to carry them out, they need to be allowed to learn through trial and error. The same way that a parent instinctively allows a child to fall several times while learning to walk. At the workplace, the supervisor tends to behave differently. To encourage and motivate new thinking and new ideas is critical.
If an organization is ever to become a coaching culture. Nurturing an environment where mistakes are treated as a learning process rather than a case for punishment is warranted.
To build a coaching culture, it is critical to maintain an environment where mistakes are treated as a learning process rather than being punished. People who are punished for failure will do what they have succeeded in doing before. They will avoid doing anything new, which would make it impossible to keep pace with a fast-changing environment.
COACHING: The most powerful intervention for the future!!!
If your organization is not run on these three principles, you need to change the way leaders think and act. Do educate your leaders on the mindset necessary for coaching.
If your organization has these principles in mind but does not always succeed, you need to keep working at it to get better, as the more people are respected, the higher the level of trust, the better the level of performance. Start getting your leaders focused on learning how to coach. Regal Unlimited provides coach training and coaching to executives, organizational leaders of repute in upskilling their performance.
If your organization is already doing well in practicing all three, you have the three pillars of coaching in place and are probably informally doing coaching already. You can accelerate the process with a company-wide formal coaching initiative. Regal Unlimited has had success stories of launching and running enterprise-wide Coaching Programs, where in Tier 1 and Tier 2 Leaders of the organizations have successfully undergone coaching interventions.