The agony and ecstasy of a coaching culture

“I used to believe that culture was ‘soft,’ and had little bearing on our bottom line. What I believe today is that our culture has everything to do with our bottom line, now and into the future.” – Vern Dosch, author, Wired Differently

Coaching culture has been considered a defining component in the success of the progressive organizations of the 21st century. From Google’s Project OXYGEN to the cultural turnaround of Microsoft after Satya Nadella took reins signal the importance of Coaching culture in an organization.

In this blog by Shekar Rangarajan, he explores the nuances of coaching culture at the workplace. A Performance – Pivotal coach & former consultant himself, he shares his personal journey of experiencing different cultures at the workplace and how Coaching Culture benefitted him, the teams he led, and the organizational outcomes. Read on to know more about his F2F with Coaching Culture!

What is Coaching Culture? 

The glue and the grease that bonds people and institutions together in times of war and peace!

Uneasiness and Unverbalized Fear

It is easy to appreciate the value of a coaching culture when it is absent. Until I stepped out of my home, I did not know how inhospitable the World could be! Stepping into my career, feeling awkward, alienated, and out of place, I understood what it meant to be homesick. I felt unsure, no matter how sociable people tried to be.

Nursing an unverbalized fear, I learned to negotiate the white spaces. Fell in line with unwritten rules, implicit power lines, and shifting loyalties. Hoping to be wanted and accepted, I negotiated the organizational undercurrents.

Subscribing to holy cows, dogmas, and group norms, I ceased to be true to myself.

In stark contrast, organizations that prided themselves on the ‘HP way’, ‘Toyota way’ or ‘Cannon way’ encouraged everyone to be true to themselves. I understood coaching culture to be the way the organization expected its people to be!

Something Amiss

Working alongside several experts from across the World, I noted a distinctive difference. Supremely confident of themselves, they were decisive and conclusive at work. They left no loose ends and demonstrated absolute mastery in their chosen vocation.

By contrast, I was unsure about what was right and wrong. Organizational life appeared to be a bundle of contradictions. There were pros and cons, implicit do’s and don’ts. Invariably, there were two sides to every story, and the jury had been always out. Unable to deal with duality, dilemma, dichotomy, and duplicity, I sidestepped them. I wondered if ever there was a method behind the madness and suspected something amiss.

Me vs. Them

The team of experts left an indelible impression on me. I wanted to cultivate their styles to feel formidable and be infallible. Can I be incontestable, impregnable, indomitable, and invincible, I wondered. I figured these out to be core values or character traits much later on when I studied organizational psychology. Encouraged by their employers, these experts had internalized these values to feel comfortable acting the way they did.

By contrast, I suffered the ‘Me Vs the World’ divide in my mind. Habituated to a culture of buck-passing and social loafing, one had to be on guard or become a scapegoat. That left me wondering if I belonged here and was in safe company.

You ask me what are the benefits of a Coaching culture, let me spell out what happens when a Coaching culture is absent in an organization? How do employees feel in a culture where Coaching is not an integral part?

Poverty Amidst Plenty

Having all the time, power, knowledge, and resources at their command, the experts made things happen.

By contrast, I waited for things to happen and often wondered how and why they happened. I perceived a distinct lack of autonomy, authority, audacity, and authenticity. Feeling tired, anxious, blocked, choked, and bored, I found it difficult to breathe and longed to get away.

Out of Nowhere

My peers at work looked surprised when I aired my discomfort. They felt that employers could not offer anything beyond pay and perks, money, work, and training. I could not spell it out then. I know it to be the absence of a coaching culture today.

No Rhyme or Reason

People acted out for no rhyme or reason. Living with unresolved internal contradictions, they justified their illegitimate acts by being capricious. No matter how inscrutable they professed to be, I felt a gradual erosion of trust and empathy towards them. Overcome by serious self-doubt, I dithered: Am I slow-minded, or is it a tricky world out there?

Power of Acculturation: Coaching Culture in Japan

My ordeal ended after eighteen years of prayers when I went to Fuji Xerox, Japan. To my utter surprise, men and women drawn from diverse Nationalities upheld their uniqueness. The company respected people, valued diversity, and functioned as one seamless integral unit.

I understood the coaching culture to be the glue and the grease that held everyone and everything together. Surprisingly, I witnessed a self-managed work ethic that had no bosses!

I understood the benefits of Coaching culture transcends beyond pay, package & perks.

Benefits of Coaching Culture: A Code of Conduct

I took to the self-managed work ethic like the duck takes to water. Despite living on a daily stipend, not being fluent in Japanese, and being a vegetarian, I felt at home (in Japan). Feeling welcome and wholesome, I suffered no deficit of trust or empathy. I enjoyed being myself.

Cornerstones of Coaching Culture

Believe it or not, the coaching culture is inherently simple but incredibly hard to practice. There is a lot more to it than what meets the eye. They are founded on a timeless ideology and honed into a virtuous work ethic. Through a process of slow and deliberate acculturation, people acquire the proficiency for effortless self-expression. Exemplify the ideology by living up to a brand promise. Convery their courage of conviction and declare their iconic presence. Invoke trust and inspire the confidence of the stakeholders, radiating goodness all around.

Why Coaching Culture Is Important for Organisation

I never knew the coaching culture could be a source of competitive advantage too. Companies without a coaching culture fell by the wayside! Companies with a coaching culture went on to be industry leaders and torchbearers. They were solvent and self-reliant as a company. Value-driven and self-made, their employees erected a springboard to greatness!

It made so much sense to celebrate the coaching culture when it offered so much in exchange for so little. Coaching cultures are prevalent in India too. Watch out for a follow-on blog post on this topic where we will discuss at length how coaching culture is turbocharging Indian companies towards sustainable competitive advantage.

Let Us Help in Creating a Coaching Culture in Your Organization!

Regal unlimited  –  a boutique firm in Leadership Coaching and Coach Training in India has been instrumental in creating and nurturing a coaching culture in 50+ organizations (India and overseas) Want your senior leaders to take up Coaching and create a safe space for the employees, reach out to us for our coaching culture programs:
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