• Thomas E. Anderson, II

Building an Organizational Coaching Capability for Strategic Advantage

Strategic change programs align an organization with the external environment to maximize its competitive and strategic advantage in the marketplace. Organizational leaders are building company-wide coaching capabilities as a strategy to support the “people-side” of change. By unfreezing the traditional top-down communication model and integrating coaching into change leadership practices, executive leaders can improve the adaptability of their companies to ever-fluctuating conditions in the external environment. 


The organizational coaching landscape is shifting toward building internal coaching capabilities or coaching cultures and shifting away from an over-reliance on an external coach. Fortunately, leaders can mobilize coaching skills and competencies throughout the company culture for more effective change leadership. 


Most importantly, this change leadership does not depend on the executive’s physical presence or the time they have available for appointments. In fact, organizations with coaching organizations have internal coaches, managers and coaches and also empower workers to coach each other on the peer level.


Leaders who build coaching capabilities within their firms do so for at least four major reasons:


1. To Facilitate Organizational Change

Astute leaders build organization-wide coaching capabilities in order to meet the challenges associated with leading change initiatives. Organizations, such as Starbucks and British Airways, have leveraged coaching competencies to engage workers and generate buy-in during large-scale transformation. Managers sustain engagement using coaching-based skills, such as appreciative inquiry and shared decision making, to reinforce positive messages and focus on learning from successes. A coaching capacity facilitates such skills as strategic thinking, corporate visioning, collective intelligence, appreciative inquiry, and shared decision making - disciplines that are required to meet the incessantly shifting conditions that inspire change.


2. To Improve the Communication Culture


Organizations are built on people’s relationships with each other, and relationships are built one conversation at a time. Business author Susan Scott goes as far as to say that “the conversation is the relationship.” Coaching conversations, when done right, serve as relationship builders. 


Leaders and followers alike can develop coaching skills to:

  • Build trust throughout the organization

  • Provide direct communication in a respectful way

  • Give and receive actionable feedback 

  • Engage workers in strategic planning and goal setting.

High-performing businesses build organization-wide coaching capabilities to mobilize these coaching competencies throughout their workforce.


3. To Make Conflict More Productive

Disruptive and ongoing change causes conflict between individuals, groups and organizations. Unresolved conflict in the workplace contributes to employee stress levels and has a negative impact on well-being. So, it is important for organizations to increase employees’ capacity for conflict resolution. While most employees think it is up to organizational leaders to make conflict productive, workers have a role as well. Coaching generates mutual understanding between leaders and followers and reduces resistance to change through the preservation of personal freedom.


4. To Improve Follower Engagement

An employee's relationship with their manager is an important factor in their levels of well-being, engagement and work-life balance. And as organizations establish coaching cultures, an increasing number of managers find themselves coaching their employees. For managers to operate effectively in this role, Eleanor Leonard-Cross calls for an increased focus on coach training to produce internal coaches that are both credible and effective. Even in peer coaching situations, short-term training programs on key coaching competencies (e.g. active listening, direct communication, etc.) have provided support to workers on all levels who want to engage colleagues in coaching conversations. 


By unfreezing the traditional top-down communication model and integrating coaching into change leadership practices, leaders can improve the adaptability of their companies to ever-fluctuating conditions in the external environment.


Photos provided courtesy of Pexels

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