Creating a “culture of leadership” has emerged as a powerful tool for employee engagement, development and retention, as well as overall organizational success. However, when CEOs and C-suite executives perceive themselves as “self-made” and have not personally experienced the benefits of coaching, trying to instill such a culture can present unique challenges, but not insurmountable ones.
Below, 15 Forbes Coaches Council Members share tips for fostering a mentoring culture that benefits employees at all levels, even when senior leadership has no direct experience with mentoring. Using these strategies can help leaders bridge the gap between their own experience and the culture they want to build to create a workplace environment where mentoring becomes a transformative force for professional growth and organizational excellence for all. sectors.
1. Show ROI to get buy-in in the C-Suite
Coaching culture is not just about individual success. it’s about uplifting the whole team. If the C-suite lacks coaching experience, the first step is to get them to buy into the value it brings to the organization as a whole. Show them the return on investment: increased productivity, employee retention and even increased revenue. Once they see the numbers, their tune may change. – Doug Holt, The Strong Man
2. Share the business benefits
Start by sharing the business benefits of instilling a mentoring culture. The C-suite team will be more open to establishing this culture if they know they will get a return on their coaching investment. Testing a coaching pilot with the most interested members of the executive team can also give them the experiential benefit of something new that they can share with their colleagues. – Evan Roth, Roth Consultancy International, LLC.
3. Define Coaching as a performance measure
Instilling any cultural change requires top-down accountability. It should be a performance metric for leaders to coach employees and for employees to actively seek guidance for growth opportunities. – Luke Feldmeier, Online Leadership Training – Career and Leadership Accelerator for Engineers
4. Encourage mentoring
If leaders are honest with themselves, even without a formal coaching relationship, chances are they’ve been mentored by someone along the way. Fostering a strong mentoring culture, inside and outside the organization, by choosing mentoring engagement can be a more multidimensional approach that also enhances leadership succession when both coaching and mentoring are integrated. – Sherry DeMao, BizGrowth Inc
5. Remind leaders of their “coaches.”
While it’s possible that an executive may never have had a formal coach, I’m sure they’ve had people in their careers and lives who have coached them from time to time. Capitalize on these moments and executives will remember how powerful those moments were and be open to creating a coaching culture in their organization. – Michelle Cohen, Drive to Growth Coaching
6. Seek support from a trusted coaching advocate
I would start with someone the CEO trusts and believes in the positive impact of coaching. I would seek their support in influencing the CEO to start a training program for his second line. If all went well, this would be a good start for the coaching culture. – Abdulaziz Al-Roomi, Global Legacy Management Consulting & Training
7. Dispel the “self-made” myth
It’s increasingly rare to find a C-suite made up of executives who haven’t benefited from coaching. That said, there are still organizations where the myth of the self-made leader reigns supreme, and that’s the real challenge – dispelling the myth that some people rise to the top all by themselves. Even if they didn’t benefit from the coaching, chances are they had a lot of support along the way. – Carol Geffner, CB Vision LLC.
8. Apply these three practices
Although they may not have been formally coached, most “self-made” leaders are still committed to developing leaders in their companies. To do this, they can incorporate three practices into their organization’s values and daily operations: 1. They model effective leadership behaviors (they know what those behaviors are). 2. Support the development of leadership skills at all levels. and 3. value continuous improvement as needs evolve. – Sandy Schwan, Evolving Strategies LLC
9. Give executives a dose of humility
Culture is the mirror of leadership. So if executives think they are too good to be coached, then that will become the norm for the rest of the organization. To build coachability in everything, you need a dose of humility. Put executives through an experience that skillfully exposes their blind spots, reminds them that they are human and imperfect, and activates a growth mindset. – Alex Draper, DX Learning Solutions
10. Recognize the skepticism of self-made executives
To foster a coaching culture, recognize the skepticism of self-made executives. Emphasize the value of personal development, enhanced leadership and team performance. Encourage leaders to lead by example, engage in coaching and provide coaching. Show the impact of coaching for the benefit of all employees. – Jonathan H. Westover, Ph.D, Human Capital Innovations
11. Demystify what Coaching really is
First, it is important to demystify what coaching really is. Coaching has often been perceived as a therapeutic tool for underperformers. However, it is just as important for top performers, including executives. Changing this false narrative is an important step in creating a coaching culture. Next is to integrate coaching as part of the learning and development strategy, which requires joint participation. – Fred Gatti, Gatts Consulting
12. Elimination of unconscious incompetence
Eliminate unconscious helplessness (“I don’t know what I don’t know”) through knowledge sessions about the purpose, benefits and opportunities that coaching presents. It is difficult to create buy-in if the native culture does not recognize the value of coaching. Skillful, informal coaching of executives to get them to the point of buy-in will enable a coaching culture to take shape. – Arthi Rabikrison, Prerna Consulting
13. Ask executives how they trained themselves
Even “self-made” leaders may have been quietly trained through trials. To create a coaching culture, turn this introspection outward. Ask executives: “How did you self-coach?” Their insights can become the cornerstone of company-wide change. If they’ve coached themselves to success, imagine the boost when the approach is integrated and scaled! Drive in, expand out. – Svetlana Dimovski, PhD, ICF-PCC, NBC-HWC, Dharma Growth, LLC
14. Consider virtual coaching options
Even if C-suite executives are self-made, instilling enthusiasm for growth and learning in teams helps create a culture where teams feel more engaged and self-motivated. These days, there are even virtual coaching options—from gamification to five-day online team challenges—that also foster a spirit of collaboration and fun. – Meredith Alexander, GRIT Mindset Academy
15. Train Management On Coaching Leadership Styles
See 2014 Ridler & Co case study to develop guidance within the Big Four accounting firms. Train your management levels to expand into a coaching leadership style. Train them in the basic coaching skills of listening, asking powerful questions, and articulating what’s going on. Support peer networking and mentoring at these middle levels. Rewards executives with external coaching support. – Duncan Skelton, Duncan Skelton Coaching Ltd