Three Cheers for the Champions of Coaching
This week is ‘Coaching Week’ in Australia!
Coach Week is a celebration of ‘all things coaching’ and for me it holds an extra special piece of significance this year as this month we celebrate our 15th year in business at Open Door Coaching. Back in 2003, coaching in Australia was in its infancy and a small group of coaches got together to champion coaching in Australia. Coaching was particularly focussed on life coaching and it was a common thing to say back then that ‘anyone can do coaching, they just have to put out a shingle or call themselves a coach’.
Today we have coaching accreditations, coaching certifications, diplomas and master degrees; we have coaching included as requisite requirements in government panel tenders; internal qualified and accredited coaches within organisations who are championing the culture of coaching in their organisation. These internal champions come from within HR or L&D teams and also from a variety of positions across the business, department or organisation including CEO’s who are mandating for a culture of coaching.
This week I have been reflecting on ‘what does it take to champion a culture of coaching in an organisation?’ and we can take our clues to answer this question from the early coaches in our industry in Australia and from the champions we work with in our organisations, many of whom we interviewed for our book.
Champions of coaching give those around them permission to succeed, to be aware of their areas of strengths and opportunities and help them to reach their potential. They believe that for coaching to work, it needs to start with honesty and a genuine care and belief in people.
Champions encourage employees to learn from their experience by exploring the right questions rather than telling them what to do and how to do it. It is a positive culture that empowers people to let go of the old-fashioned ‘command and control’ and encourages us ‘listen between the lines’, asking how people feel about the impact of important decisions or change.
Champions encourage and role model better conversations, which in turn triggers healthier conflict resolution, higher quality decisions, more accountability, engagement and collaboration across the organisation. Coaching may not be the only technique or methodology used in the organisation and may not be appropriate in all situations. However, the champion uses coaching as an enabler.
The champions often start out as sounding boards for people, assisting them with their challenges through simple listening and holding the space; allowing people to see blind spots through subtle observations or provide assistance with relationships between peers and their teams.
Champions are special people particularly when the organisation hasn’t really heard about coaching, hasn’t moved towards implementation or is doing it badly.
It’s common for the champion to be the first person to train as a coach and to hold a coaching qualification and for them to have a coach or to have been coached somewhere along the time. They are often the ones that had to fight to go on their coach training or pay for it themselves, just to bring the skills back to the organisation and make a difference.
Champions often have to be the defenders of ‘pure coaching’ because in their organisations a lot of coaching might be going on and a lot of people might be saying they are doing coaching, but once our champions discover what it really means to be coaching (and not the various other forms), they tend to ‘hold the torch’ for coaching to be introduced in its truest sense and to bring ‘real coaching’ to their organisations.
Champions often have to fight for the first roll out of coaching programs. Once the first pilot program is completed, and the evidence captured and the success stories shared, it’s often easier to get budget the next time around.
Champions have patience and often focus on one cohort at a time. Patience is important, especially when the organisation is not really in the coaching culture zone. In the meantime these internal champions of coaching are implementing coaching at every opportunity and they are role modelling coaching with everyone they can influence around them.
Leaders that champion the coaching culture are leaders who know how to unlock potential and motivate people to maximize their performance. After all, great leadership isn’t about what you accomplish yourself; it’s about what you inspire others to do.
So this week, it’s worthwhile to stop and acknowledge those people who have spear-headed coaching in our industry and in our organisations – the coaching champions. And if that person is you, reading this article, then know that we all owe you our gratitude for your vision and courage and on-going passion to make a difference.
Natalie Ashdown, is an ICF Master Certified Coach (MCC) and one of Australia’s most senior and experienced coaches. In her role as CEO of The Open Door Coaching Group, Natalie designs and delivers leadership, executive coaching and workplace coach training programs.