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How Do You Build a Coaching Based Organization?

Transformative Leadership Group
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As a business coach, I am always open & excited to discuss building of a coaching based organization.  I truly believe that companies who empower people will advance and flourish in this VUCCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Chaotic, Complex & Ambiguous) world we live in today?

As a leader, you must really be committed to providing a vibrant and engaged environment for your employees and customers to make coaching work. While there are still certain types of organizations that may require the old authoritarian structure, I believe most can benefit from a more flexible, flatter organization, especially in the long-term.

So, what is holding Coach back?

  • If you are fearful of losing your grip on the organization, I would question whether you ever had that grip. I would suggest you may be managing by generating fear.
  • If you are fearful of losing your power, maybe you can benefit from spreading that power out within the organization.
  • If you believe the organization only exists because of your control, I would challenge you to ask whether your control is expanding the organization or limiting it. What would happen if you were to disappear for 3 weeks and not have access to your enterprise? Would it survive?

Now, if you are open to creating a coaching based organization, I would highly suggest you get ready to change a bunch of things you may have been doing for years.  To build an open and transparent coaching environment you need to think about how your current structure may have created roadblocks to moving ahead.

Here are some areas, where not doing them, may create possible roadblocks:

  • You maintain a true open door policy with your existing employees?
  • Your people feel they are heard when they bring up a tough issue?
  • How well do your people treat your customers or clients on a regular basis?
  • You encourage and live “management by wandering around” (MBWA) in your business?
  • You listen to your customers or client’s suggestions for improvements?
  • More importantly, you always execute changes recommended by customers or employees?
  • You make a habit of keeping your commitments with everyone, not just VIP’s?
  • You communicate clear expectations to employees, customers and suppliers?
  • You listen & acknowledge expectations you receive from your employees, customers or suppliers?
  • Your organization regularly celebrates victories and dissects failures to learn and grow?
  • You always give credit where credit is due every time?
  • You accept responsibility for the failure of your teams, or blame them all the time?

If you can honestly answer each of the above questions in the affirmative, then you have a strong basis to expand into a coaching based organization.

If you can only answer “yes” to 4 or 5 of them then you will have an uphill battle but you can prevail.

If you can’t answer “yes” to any of them then I suggest you start with the list and not try to make these changes first.

Now, once you have established some of the communication and EQ based soft skills required for the list above here three points that are necessary to move your teams to a true coaching format.

  1. Questions: At the heart of being a coach is the ability to ask questions that inspire, motivate and matter to the coachee. Questions are also critical in being transparent and authentic with your people. Do your prospective coaches feel comfortable asking questions? Can they be non-judgmental and compassionate when exchanging with their assigned coachees?
  1. Time: Are your Coaches (Managers) willing to take the time necessary to make this happen to start with, because it is not easy nor is it formulaic. It requires real compassion, caring and communication to be effective.  I highly suggest you do this with your direct reports before you ever ask them to do it with their departments or teams. If you don’t provide the example don’t expect the desired results to come about.
  1. Access: Does your current structure allow the manager or coaches to physically deal with the coachees enough that they can see how they work, interact and communicate? If they don’t have daily access with the people, it is going to be tough to really ask the tough questions or effectively listen.  I would make sure there is some level of regular communication between the coaches and coachees before you ever implement a coaching program. If the interaction is remote it takes extra effort for the coach and coachee to build a strong relationship that will result in a positive impact.

What should an average coaching session look like and what should be the expected results?

This example is based on one that Dan Rockwell created in a recent post on

The assumption in my example is that the coach (a Manager) is present in a face-to-face session with the coachee (a Team Leader) but the same could be done via a Skype or Zoom video call.  My preference is always a video call although I do know some coaches that do well with just audio.

Below is a sample session with questions the coach should ask the coachee and example responses:

Coach: “What hard and soft skills are essential for success in your role as a team leader?”

Coach Note: You should write down every skill your coachee comes up with. Listen and prompt only to expand the list. Don’t try to qualify or prejudge the items.

Coachee: “Communications” is the first response

Coach: respond, “Great. And what else?”

Coach Note: You, as the coach, need to keep probing until you can identify the 10 most important soft & hard skills on their list. Don’t worry about ranking them precisely at this point. Try to generate spontaneous & comfortable dialog between yourself and the coachee.

Coach: “How would you rate your proficiency on each of these 10 skills? Use a scale of 1 to 10.”

Coach Note: Don’t challenge their self-assessment unless it’s wildly inaccurate. The point of the exercise is to focus on continuous improvement. Listen and note their rating for each item.

Coach: “Now can you narrow the list down to the top 3 skills?”

Coach Note: They should be able to easily respond with their own rating to provide these.  For example, suppose they said they were an ‘8’ in communication.

Coach Note: You, as the coach, should now begin to explore their short list.

Coach: “What’s important about communication in your role as a team leader?

Coachee: Should articulate an answer, listen and note their response carefully.

Coach: “What are you attempting to do when you’re communicating as a team leader?”

Coachee: Should articulate a response, listen and note their response.  Don’t try to steer the conversation.

Coach: “How do you want people to feel about themselves when you’re communicating with them?”

Coachee: Should articulate a response, listen and note their response.  Are there stories behind the response?

Coach: “How do you want people to feel about you when you’re communicating with them?”

Coachee: Should articulate a response, listen and note their response.  Are there stories behind the response?

Coach: “When are you most effective as a communicator? Are there better times or places?”

Coachee: Should articulate a response, listen and note their response.  Don’t try to steer the conversation.

Coach: “When communication doesn’t work well, what are you missing or neglecting?”

Coachee: Should articulate a response, listen and note their response.  Don’t try to steer the conversation.

Coach: “Our goal is to continuously improve so how might you move from an ‘8’ to a ‘9’ in communication? Please try to provide some example behavior items that could be actionable.”

Coachee: Should articulate a response, so listen and note their response.  (Don’t worry that you think they’re a ‘7’ and they think they’re an ‘8’. Don’t try to steer the conversation.)

Coach Note: Listen carefully and list specific observable, measurable, and actionable behaviors.

Coach Activity: Role-play or discuss items behavior items they have provides.

Coachee: (example) “They would be a better communicator if some specific distractions were removed.”

Coach: “What distractions should be removed?” Ask questions to clarify.

Coach Note:  Make commitments in areas where you have responsibility. For example, what will you do over the next two weeks to remove distractions? If it needs other’s input, then your commitment should be to follow-up with the necessary group or leader to get clarification then respond back to the coachee.

Where the coachee has responsibility to make a change, ask them to commit to steps they will take and confirm this with them.

Coach: “I will commit to eliminate this distraction by this date.” Or “I will check with the other group and get back to Coach by this date.”

Coachee: “I will commit to do this task by this date.”

Coach Note: Set an agreed to follow up meeting to evaluate improvement and select another item from the short list.

Coach Note: Always follow the session or video call with a recap of the discussion, including commitments, timeframes and expectations from both sides.


It is vital to remember that the conversation between a coach and a coachee should be kept private and confidential unless there are things shared that are illegal, unethical or unusually derogatory of the organization.

Your notes should be kept for reference only and destroyed after the session commitments have been completed. Under no circumstances should they ever be used to manipulate, manage or judge a coachee after the fact.  If this should happen, your entire program will be destroyed.  You will never get solid answers or legitimate change suggestions again.

The key to success is that both sides are making commitments or promises so it is extremely important for these to be kept and celebrated when there are successes.

If you would like help in building this type of framework, please give me a call at 630-454-4821 or check out my website at