During any coaching workshop I facilitate, the managers who care the most and who are truly coachable—the ones who take responsibility for creating coaching cultures in their organizations so they can most effectively develop future leaders—are the managers who inevitably ask this critical question.
“Okay, Keith, now that you have taught us how to coach like a world-class leader, how do we ensure we all follow through with the coaching and do so consistently after the workshop is over? You know how busy we all are. And here in this room, with no laptops or phones, you said it yourself—it’s a lot easier to coach in this safe environment; away from the office and from our team. But what happens when we leave and are hit with reality; the barrage of responsibilities, fires, and timely demands when we get back to the office and start checking our email? I’m worried I’ll revert back to being the Chief Problem Solver and start fixing all of my people’s problems for them again.
How do we sustain these critical changes and stay in this coaching zone, especially when the pressure is on?”
An essential question. One that practically every company who attempts to develop some coaching culture continually struggles with. “How do you successfully embed and sustain the desired behavioral changes to positively and measurably impact those around you, after any training event is over?”
As companies continue to search for the holy grail of reinforcement, sustainment, and adoption of leadership best practices, they continually step over the one thing that will actually achieve what matters most. And they’re missing it because of this seduction of technology. Meaning that, with the right technology and systems in place, you can fix anything. Except this. You see, this will not be resolved with another app, reporting structure, or piece of technology. This solution resides in our humanity.
Of course there are ways to leverage technology to support the manager’s coaching and development efforts. But that’s the point. Technology is there to streamline, support, even track and recognize changes, trends, activity, and results. However, it’s not the ultimate panacea that answers this overarching question about coaching adoption and sustainment because most of the time, leaders are looking for the answer to this question in all the wrong places.
Just for a moment, let’s avoid the checkbox mentality that permeates companies today. Park the idea of tracking and making coaching another line item in your commitments, goals, or KPI’s.
Instead, here’s my response to that manager’s burning question. “The solution to building and sustaining a coaching culture is literally right in front of you.”
After giving these managers a minute or so to struggle with the answer, I continue.
“Look at the person to your left who is sitting next to you. Now, look at the person to your right. These are your peers. These are the people who, during our time together, shared the same challenges and goals they have for their team that you do. The same people who also want to build a successful career and figure out the best way to navigate within the organization to get things done. These are also the people who are going to support you and ultimately, determine whether or not world-class coaching takes root, flourishes and grows organically within your culture. In other words, if you really want to create a thriving culture, then this change starts with you, the leaders of the organization. And that will require each of you to make an unconditional commitment to consistently and effectively coach each other.
This is your coaching moment. The solution to your question is peer-to-peer coaching.
Leaders conceptually understand that it’s up to them to ensure the coaching is well received and sustained amongst their team. But they rarely stop and think to put themselves in the shoes of the coachee, let alone be coached by their peers.
Every manager needs to create alignment and set expectations around coaching, then coach their team to the best of their ability. But to do so effectively, how are you going to continually build your coaching acumen as a manager, the one dominant and influential skill that will determine your success and impact as a leader? Sure, you can continually go to more training. You can get coaching from your boss or even hire an external coach. But the most powerful resource you can leverage is one that’s right in front of you—your peers.
Imagine the impact this could make. Not only would you be reinforcing best practices and building a deeper level of trust with your peers, but think about what would be possible if each manager finished training with an unconditional commitment to proactively coach each other? Now, think of the message you’re sending to your team and throughout your organization?”
When managers develop the type of trusting relationship amongst their peers that allows for authentic coaching to happen, think about what you’re modeling now? Those you interact with and can influence will take notice, especially your direct reports. I’ve observed this time and time again. “Wow! My boss is reaching out to another manager for help and for coaching? That’s pretty cool! If they see value in doing this on their own time and terms, then maybe it’s time for me to take advantage and embrace coaching as well.”
What else may happen? Your direct reports start coaching and supporting each other at a deeper, more authentic level. Consider how this might affect your daily workload, let alone the results you’re trying to achieve? I’ve always said, avalanches roll downhill. This is how you change a culture—with human-to-human interaction.
Without peer-to-peer coaching, companies incur a great cost. As the leader, if you don’t make an authentic, trusting connection with your peers, what behavior are you exemplifying for your team? What kind of relationships do you think they will now foster with their peers and customers?
I know many managers who have experienced pushback from their direct reports when attempting to coach them. Well, if you’re struggling to trust your peers to coach you, then just imagine the reaction your direct reports may have when you attempt to coach them!
Your team is a reflection of you. As Gandhi said, be the change you want to see in others. Model what you want to create. Look in the mirror and ask yourself. “Are you authentically modeling the behaviors you want to see in your team?”
Keith Rosen is the CEO of Profit Builders and the award winning author of Coaching Salespeople Into Sales Champions, the #1 book on coaching used by the world’s top sales organizations.