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Is coaching a reward or a punishment? Breaking through the myths and creating a coaching culture

Coaching is such a broadly used term it’s hard for people selecting coaching or experiencing coaching to know what to look for - or for some to understand why they are receiving it. Indeed, when we are training coaches, they often report experiencing mixed reactions from the people they are commissioned to work with. Some feel pleased about being coached, others less so.

We think this confusion may deter people from engaging with a process that can be inspirational in its outcome - and that needs to change.

The purpose of coaching is to create a working relationship which will enable the coachee to thrive, overcome the blocks in their way and work on their goals and objectives. It’s a service leading to breakthrough and growth - so why the polarised perspectives?

In this article we look at some of the differences in how coaching is perceived and offer our tips on how to create and embed a successful coaching culture.


Perceptions about coaching

At an extreme, there are two views for coaching, the first regards coaching as a privilege, even a point of status ‘you must be special and have the potential to get a coach’. This is a common perception in the organisations our team works with - where a coaching culture is seen as positive and developmental.  

The second is where people feel they are receiving coaching because they are a ‘problem’ to be fixed, these people are understandably less motivated or enthusiastic.


A question of framing

A lot of the difference comes from how the organisation frames and utilises its coaching resources, internal or external. When coaching is only brought in to solve a problem, people will assume that if they are seeing a coach, they have a problem.

In truth remedial coaching is rarely effective in our experience. Coachees are less motivated, more likely to cancel or not turn up to sessions, and any short term improvements in performance are quickly forgotten. Some organisations use coaching as a replacement for good management, and this is an expensive and ineffective mistake.


How to create a coaching culture - our tips for success

If you are serious about creating a coaching culture in your organisation here are some tips to set it up for success:

Get coaching for your top performers first, if possible, the top leadership team: This sends out a positive message about coaching and also tells everyone that you are serious about using coaching for development.

Get your framing right, be clear to everyone, including managers about what coaching is for: A useful checklist or matrix with the circumstance against a range of interventions (which could include your own HR processes) will give managers a quick guide to refer to.

Make sure you have a coherent story about what coaching means in your organisation: How does it relate to your mission, your values? This helps people to link it up to their day to day work.

If you are bringing in external coaches, select the right people for your organisation: We cannot stress this enough. Some coaches are better than others, that’s true, but more importantly the good ones will have different levels of experience, specialties and skills.

To illustrate this, in our case if you are looking for someone to coach newly promoted managers in embedding their management skills, for example, some of our team are more experienced and skilled in that area than others and we would match the appropriate team member to that work. Additionally, where an organisational need is outside of our experience and skill set, we would refer enquiries onto some of the highly skilled people we know who are great in that area, so you need to be clear about your coaching objectives and ensure the coach you choose is a good fit.

In conclusion

While we see coaching as a wholly positive experience, there’s no doubt that the way it’s positioned can have a big impact on perception - particularly when it’s merely seen as a ‘problem solver’. Coaching is mostly about improvement rather than fixing something that is broken. It’s an opportunity to change, to achieve more, better. Which means that an investment in coaching should be seen as a sure sign of being valued.

For further information

Our free download ‘How to select a Coach - The 'Industry Secrets' you need to know’ looks at the key considerations when selecting a coach and how to ensure you have a great coaching experience.Download it here.

As well as our founders, Karen Meager and John McLachlan, Monkey Puzzle works with an experienced network of inspirational associate coaches, highly qualified in a range of coaching interventions. Find out more about our coaching services.


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