How to Build a Culture of Coaching

Some background on “culture”

One of the most important aspects of any organization is the culture. A good culture can transform a workplace, while a bad culture can bring its demise.  

What exactly is culture? 

No matter what you aspire or espouse you company culture to be, culture is defined by the patterns of shared assumptions learned by a group. If patterns are effective over time, they are considered valid and, therefore, reinforced and taught to new members.   

Consider how are new employees oriented and trained; what behaviors are rewarded, recognized, promoted, or disciplined; what drives resource allocation, information sharing, and decision-making. These behaviors and decisions define your culture more than values displayed on the wall or your website.  

Simply put, culture is the perceived acceptable way to think, feel, and react in situations at the company.  

What is a culture of coaching? 

A culture of coaching is one that values employee development and actively invests in the growth of its team members. These organizations are willing to integrate open and honest communication, real- and near-time feedback, and accountability into their day-to-day.  

Yet, fear, discomfort, and avoidance limit many companies from achieving a culture of coaching. Companies and leaders should be asking questions like, ‘Did you tell an employee why their performance was below expectations as soon as you observed it, or did you wait until the next performance management cycle?’ ‘Did you reinforce behaviors when you saw an employee performing well, or just hope that they would know to do the same thing again?’ 

Strong coaching cultures create the expectation of coaching through trust and support. Feedback is expected, appreciated, and handled with respect. Results are objective, not personal. Employees are encouraged to ask questions, share ideas, and voice concerns. Recognition and celebration of success is equally important and essential.  When employees are learning and growing, this empowers them to deliver their best results each day.  

Why is it important?  

A culture of coaching makes leadership development a core responsibility of every leader at every level of management. Everybody is actively invested in raising the game of those on the team – those who will one day replace them. Ultimately, coaching contributes to improved job performance, productivity, and employee engagement, resulting in higher employee satisfaction and positive ROIs for the company. 

Whether you’re a private equity executive hoping to elevate the performance of portfolio companies or an operating company executive developing future leaders, coaching can be an imperative aspect of your organizational culture.  

Here are four ways you can look to build one in your organization.  

1. Establish Clear Expectations 

A cornerstone of coaching is having a clear definition of what success looks like. Clear expectations provide a sense of purpose and direction and allow employees to focus. They also help managers provide constructive feedback, resources, and accountability.  

In a complimentary way, having clear expectations allows for more flexibility. If circumstances change or new priorities emerge, coach and coachee can adjust their expectations collaboratively because they both understand how the new landscape impacts the original goal. 

When you set expectations, it’s imperative to check for shared understanding: 

  • State outcomes as nouns, not verbs – emphasize the end result or the final product of an action, rather than the tasks it takes to get there.  

  • Ask open-ended questions such as “What are the primary objectives we’re aiming for?” “By when?” “What does success look like?” – avoid questions that can be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” 

  • Document expectations in writing to serve as a reference point for both parties and reduce the risk of misunderstandings 

2. Don’t Touch The Task 

Tempting as it might be to rescue a mentee every time they run into roadblocks, resist the urge. This is a common challenge of managers on their leadership development journey! 

Will there be times when your expert advice is required? Yes. Might you occasionally need to step in and steer? Most certainly. But the more you allow a person to learn from their own mistakes, the more dividends they—and you—will reap from the learned experience in the end. 

Instead, provide real- and near-time feedback. Empowering employees to make prompt adjustments and corrections to their actions, behaviors, or work processes early on means you are less likely to need to jump in. Real-time feedback also promotes effective learning by leveraging an experience still fresh in the employees’ mind! This means not shying away from difficult conversations, which all by itself is one of the most important qualities any leader can model. 

3. Model the Role 

This might sound like the most obvious advice, but it’s worth emphasizing: if you’re looking to encourage subordinates to become good coaches, it’s important to model what good coaching looks like. If you want subordinates to own their mistakes (and successes), make a public point of admitting (and celebrating) your own. Honesty and transparency build trust, and trusted coaches are the coaches who are respected and followed. 

Regardless of the other resources your organization might use—e.g., Roster 360, outside executive coaches, continuing education, seminars—every leader must also be an active mentor. Who better to show the way than someone who’s encouraging, communicating, offering feedback, celebrating successes, and leading by example. Challenge assumptions and other young leaders within an organization will follow. 

4. Identify Your Top Players & Invest In Them Early 

It’s never too early to identify successors.  

Former McDonald’s CEO, Jim Skinner, used to ask his managers to provide the names of two employees that had the potential to eventually replace them. Whether you use Skinner’s method or some other, identifying succession candidates early, and making the investment in them—no matter the level—is crucial. Besides improving retention and creating depth in your organization, it gives your future leaders maximum time to develop. 

According to a study by the Human Resources Professionals Association, the majority of millennials (63%) feel their employers aren’t developing their leadership skills. Key takeaway? Employees want to be challenged. They also want to know where they’re headed. Having a transparent plan detailing the path that lies ahead—think of it as a career road map—goes a long way toward getting buy-in and engagement from employees. 


In business, the acronym ABC has become shorthand for “Always Be Closing.” But there’s no reason that “C” can’t stand for Coaching, too.  

Infusing a development mindset into the fabric of your organization by encouraging team members to feel empowered by input from colleagues rather than threatened by it will encourage growth, both individually and organizationally. 


Interested in understanding exactly how to develop your leaders? Roster is an end-to-end 360 partner that helps leaders turn feedback into action. Contact us at to learn more.