Coaches are the earthworms of Culture Change

Ask any gardener and they will tell you that earthworms are valuable. Their digestive system breaks down organic matter, like leaves and grass, and the castings they leave behind are rich in nutrients that plants can use. Their tunnels help with irrigation and drainage but also provide favourable conditions for root development.

In short, earthworms enrich the growing environment so that plants can thrive. Coaches are the earthworms of culture change.

Once the preserve of executives and senior managers, coaching is fast becoming a standard feature of corporate life. Many organisations aspire to have a ‘coaching culture’ and increasingly, the ability to coach is being seen as an essential skill.

Many people characterise themselves as coaches and what they do as coaching. A growing number have ‘Coach’ in their title, but what is coaching and why are coaching skills so necessary in the modern workplace?

What is Coaching?

We think of it like this … where do your ideas and insights come from?

Very occasionally, they arrive in a eureka-type moment seemingly from nowhere. You might not even be thinking about the problem that’s been on your mind recently but suddenly, the idea comes to you … what it is you need to do to move forward.

We’ve all experienced talking a problem through with a friend or colleague. The truth is, your colleague probably isn’t listening but there’s just something about talking through what’s been on your mind that allows the answer to come … what you need to do.

Now imagine discussing the problem with someone who is not only trained to listen very well, but who is also trained to ask really important questions that drive your exploration of what’s going on and what’s possible for you.

This is a very different experience. This is an active pursuit for an answer rather than something passive and left to chance.

This is coaching and that person is a coach.

Why is coaching so important?

In functions where specialists support operational teams e.g. Quality, Engineering, Health & Safety etc, the success of the service delivered often depends on the ability of individuals to collaborate with their frontline colleagues.

Take Health & Safety for example. Safety Professionals know about the law and the standards that need to be achieved and they may have experience of how other organisations have solved problems. This is the greater knowledge and understanding they bring to a conversation, and they are prized for it. In many organisations, only the Safety Professional knows these things.

But providing high-quality, professional support to operational colleagues requires more than technical knowledge alone.

Working with operational teams to find the best solution to a problem requires an ability to collaborate.

Tapping into what colleagues know and understand about what’s going on and what’s possible operationally, finding solutions that the team can buy-in to and own and manage going forward, whilst still ensuring that legal and other minimum standards are met, requires the highly-developed skills of a coach.

Coaching skills underpin the ability to collaborate.

Making the transition

If you’d like to develop the ability of your team to collaborate more effectively, you’ll need to find a coaching course. These are new skills that need to be developed and practised so it’s unlikely you’ll achieve what you want by simply providing a reading list.

Coaching courses are easily found. Many local colleges run ILM (Institute of Leadership and Management) coaching courses targeted at various job roles e.g. supervisors, managers etc.

We feel it’s important that you find a provider who is familiar with the role you’re training for. For example, we are practicing Safety Professionals and qualified coaches, so we are able to articulate how other safety practitioners can integrate coaching skills into their daily practice. Our Coaching for safety programme, which has been approved by IOSH (Institution of Occupational Safety and Health), is highly participative and because it isn’t a technical course requiring a high degree of safety knowledge, it works perfectly for seasoned professionals, novices new to the profession and even non-safety people.

High-performing cultures are collaborative. Teams work together to solve problems and find new ways of improving performance.

Many organisations say that their people are their most valuable resource but for many, saying it is so, is where it ends. Few organisations invest in the skills that are required to tap into that resource.

Coaches exist to be collaborative and supportive and to help their colleagues perform better. Coaches are vital for the development of any culture.

You may also like...