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Go All in to Build a Coaching Culture

Thursday, December 17, 2020

According to Managers as Coaches: Boosting Employee and Organizational Performance, a fall 2020 report from ATD Research, 90 percent of talent development professionals say that their organizations expect at least some managers to practice coaching—a process of helping individuals maximize their performance through reflective learning—with their direct reports. However, coaching is not created equal at all organizations. Many do not cover the most important skills for successful coaching—such as using powerful questions, helping coachees develop their own action plans and solutions, and nurturing a safe environment—in their training for managers. Just as concerning, many lack key policies for reinforcing coaching as a part of organizational culture.

For example, only 59 percent of organizations that expect their managers to coach evaluate managers’ effectiveness as coaches, only 41 percent account for coaching effectiveness during managers’ performance appraisal or review processes, and only 35 percent consider coaching effectiveness when giving promotions or increased responsibilities. What’s more, just 35 percent of organizations that internally promoted new managers and 31 percent of organizations that externally hired new managers required those employees to begin coaching training within six months of managing others.

Based on these policy gaps alone, the top barrier to effective coaching should come as no surprise—managers not being held accountable for coaching. More participants (60 percent) cited this barrier as an obstacle to coaching than any of the other nine barriers identified for the research.


If your organization is trying to build a coaching culture but struggling to hold managers accountable, a good place to start is by implementing some or all of the policies mentioned above. Analysis conducted during the research process showed that all had statistically significant connections to being a high-performing organization (an organization that is doing well across several key business areas and has a talent development function making a strong contribution toward that performance). The relationships being statistically significant is important. It means that it highly unlikely (there’s less than a 5 percent probability) that the differences between organizations that did and did not implement these policies appeared in the study as a result of chance.

No matter which specific policies your organization does choose to implement, it’s important to do so with the end in mind. In qualitative interviews for the research, Sandi Maxey, who is senior vice president and manager of learning and professional development at Sandy Spring Bank and has led the implementation of a successful coaching program, emphasized that the key to building a coaching culture was making coaching “non-negotiable” for all leaders in the organization. “It’s not part of the culture if it’s optional,” she said in her interview. The organization has to send the message that “coaching all of your employees is required to be a successful manager at the company.”

About the Author

Alex Moore is a research analyst for the Association for Talent Development. Alex returned to ATD in 2019 after spending a year living and working in Chile. Prior to moving abroad, Alex was a writer/editor for ATD working on TD magazine, a research coordinator at ATD, and a customer care advocate at ATD. He graduated from Virginia Tech in 2015 with a B.A. in English.

1 Comment
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The coaching element is so many times quickly over looked and/or not supported. It is more than just asking what you see yourself doing in the next 3 years. It is grooming and supporting the growth and change you hope to see in individuals.
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