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Coaching as a Transformational Practice

By DeAnn Malone 

Tired of searching Google for something like "creating an organizational culture of coaching" and getting pages and pages of certification programs?  There is no shortage of programs and services to help you become a coach, but just try to find help with upsizing a concept that works extremely well one-on-one and incorporating into an organization's culture. It can be frustrating to even the most passionate supporter of coaching.  

With its PRISM award, the International Coach Federation rewards the efforts of those individuals working to create an organizational coaching culture. The most recent winner for the Washington, D.C. area is The Defense Acquisition University (DAU), which was honored in June of 2013.  Individuals like Richard Hansen, ACC, have unlocked the code to increasing the impact of their individual capabilities by changing the culture. Please note, this tactic is not for the faint of heart; the DAU initiative was launched in FY2008 and has spent five years training and certifying more than 40 internal coaches, as well as training more than 2,800 leaders and supervisors in their Leader as Coach program. A commitment like this requires top-down support, but it’s proving to be worth it for DAU!  The DAU has shown improvements in strategic communication, change implementation, stakeholder relationships and leadership/people interactions. In addition, it has seen increased personal and workgroup productivity, customer satisfaction, and organizational efficiency.  The DAU estimates its Return on Investment at 330% Non-Financial and 754% Financial.

And DAU is not alone.  At a recent ICF Metro DC Chapter joint event with Georgetown's Institute for Transformational Leadership (ITL), panelists from Georgetown, ITL, ICF Metro DC, LYA Associates, Arlington County Government, Booz Allen Hamilton, the UN Secretariat, DAU, Hillel, and DHS's Customs and Border Protection Agency discussed their current programs and future innovations in the area of organizational coaching.

Managing Coaching at Work: Developing, Evaluating, and Sustaining Coaches in Organizations, by Jackie Keddy and Clive Johnson, cites many reasons coaching culture changes can go off the rails, including when "everyday management and responses to changing priorities 'get in the way' of coaching."  They find the critical elements to continued growth and success of a program to include active senior leader commitment and support, and continued promotion of the practice, benefits and success stories of coaching within the organization.

If you think about it, these are the exact types of things coaches do best. Coaching isn't about the initial accomplishment, it’s about the transformational practice that allows the individual (or in this case, the organization) to reach the new "normal" and then reach for more.

So then when looking at helping an organization change to a coaching culture, we should start where we would start with an individual client. 

  • Assess the organization's needs and the current climate
  • Engage the client in a line of questioning that helps them define the expected outcome of the new culture
  • Explore the barriers in between the current state and the desired state
  • Inquire about potential partnerships that may be utilized in the change process
  • Support the client to clearly define the resources needed and develop a plan to secure them
  • Help the client set goals, timelines, and accountability for reaching them
  • Continue to help the client reflect on the process, lessons learned, and next steps

Treating the process as a coaching engagement instead of a consulting engagement helps begin the process of changing the culture and allows the leaders to take ownership of the process and the change. The message going down is not, “we need to do this by X date.”  Instead, the message becomes a question: “what needs to be accomplished and when can we get it done?”

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Have you worked in or with an organization trying to adopt a coaching culture? What worked really well?  What could have been done better?



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  1. Sustainable Fundraising

    Apr. 25, 2014

    There's much that could have been done but what needs to be accomplished and when can we get it done is much more important. Thanks for the tips here. Looking forward to the next coaching article here.


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