Does your organization have the culture needed to drive your vision for high performance? Are you, as a leader, prepared to create and lead your organization into a culture of intent?  

Many executives think that culture is a vague and ambiguous term. When it comes to organizational performance, it is not.  

Worse, they believe culture will right itself. Culture defines the attitudes, behaviors, habits, and disciplines for how things get done in your organization. Ultimately, culture determines you and your organization’s success.  

Creating a culture of success through coaching is relatively simple in theory but hard to implement. This short article pulls from the work of Andrew Neitlich in his book The Way to Coach Executives and defines what a culture of coaching means. It then suggests the high-level action steps required to develop a culture of coaching.  

First, organizations with a culture of coaching have the following eight habits:

  • Employees at all levels are open to receiving feedback, input, and advice. In fact, they regularly request it from others. It is not easy to hear tough advice and feedback from others. Most leaders, managers, and employees don’t do it well. While the guidelines for receiving feedback are straightforward, the skills for effectively delivering feedback are not native to most technical managers. At the same time, many people get defensive and are closed to receiving feedback professionally. A culture of coaching starts with employees at all levels being open to advice and feedback. In other words, they are coachable.


  • Actively strive to get better. Second, a culture of coaching is about mastery. Employees want to do well and want to keep getting better. They keep raising the bar and demanding the best from themselves and each other. This trait requires an organization with attractive career paths and opportunities for growth and development.


  • Be willing to stop digging in your heels with stubborn and already known positions and instead conduct a deep, creative inquiry into root causes and innovative solutions. It is easy to have conversations about what’s known. It is also easy to stubbornly stick to the same position about an issue so that the issue never gets resolved. For example, you can watch the political parties in the USA dig in their heels about crucial challenges for the country. In some organizations, employees roll their eyes before a colleague even speaks because they already know what he or she will say. Coaching is about having conversations about what’s not known. It is about putting one’s position aside and having a dialogue to go beyond rigid thinking and attitudes. It is fostering openness to new ideas and possibilities. Coaching challenges people to leave the past in the past, work together to create new ways of approaching problems, and to balance relationships, results, and ego.


  • Use coaching along with other approaches to develop leaders to grow the organization. A culture of coaching is about developing new capacities in employees. New leaders keep emerging to grow the organization and also to allow current leaders to continue to grow and develop in the most strategic ways possible.  
  • Get important conversations going. The book “Good to Great by Jim Collins uses the metaphor of a flywheel to talk about one role of a leader. The leader’s job is to ask crucial questions about what the organization does best, its values, and its purpose. As the conversations build, so does momentum, the same way a flywheel takes a while to turn but eventually becomes a powerful force. A culture of coaching encourages employees to ask deep questions and work together to answer them while always leaving room for new insights and creative approaches. 

  • Design and create the culture you want to have. A culture of success through coaching is only one aspect of an organization’s culture and coaching is just one of many skills that a manager should possess. Leadership must still define the complete culture they want for the organization.


  • Use coaching as a tool to help people get better and continuously improve the organization. Finally, in a culture of success through coaching, people coach each other to ongoing success. This can happen through formal coaching relationships with internal and external coaches, but most of the time it happens through ongoing dialogue with managers, colleagues, and employees. Everyone plays a coaching role.  

Six action steps to create this kind of culture: 

  1. Train senior leaders and managers to be effective coaches.
  2. Reward people for modeling coaching behaviors, especially when they solve key issues or develop top talent through coaching.
  3. Senior leaders need to model the coaching behavior they expect to see.
  4. Use coaching as a tool to create other aspects of the desired organizational culture.
  5. Use both internal and external coaches as one of many tools to help people develop.
  6. Utilize our Enabling Culture tool to get a sense of your organization’s culture:  ITeffectivity Enabling Culture 

As with any kind of culture change, the obvious but hard truth is that senior leadership needs to make coaching a priority and a focus. Otherwise, none of the above action steps matter.   

The references above are relative to any business unit. I apply them to the IT leadership role as I continue to advocate that IT is an extension of the business.   

What are your thoughts? I am here for you if would like to discuss further.   

Until next time, have an effective week! 



Resources:  From “The Way to Coach Executives” by Andrew Neitlich

Mary Patry
IT Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach  
 480.393.0722 (AZ)
 [email protected]

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