In the first article in this content series, I introduced the Culture Partners’ model, the Results Pyramid, which defined culture as ‘experiences shaping beliefs which drive actions and results’. We then looked at how people’s daily experiences are ultimately what will determine whether we can create a coaching culture or not.
Those experiences are, it seems, created in one of three ways:
- Our direct, personal encounters with other people and events
- The systems and processes in which we participate
- The stories we hear (experience by proxy)
In this article, we’ll begin looking at how organisations can reshape their systems and processes to create and sustain the changes in culture that they want to see.
The cultural web we weave
In their book Exploring Corporate Strategy, Gerry Johnson and Kevan Scholes present a model called the Cultural Web as a means of characterising and analysing organisation culture.
The stories told in organisations tend to reflect the beliefs of those that work there.
The web consists of the following systems and processes:
- Routines and Rituals
- Organisational Structure
- Control Systems
- Power structures
Stories, as we’ve seen, are a category of experience worthy of separate attention, and we’ll look at them specifically now.
We’ll pick up on the others in the remaining articles in the series.
The meaning behind the stories we tell
Think back to your early days at work. Remember your first few days or weeks getting accustomed to your new surroundings and being introduced to the people with whom you would now interact on a day-to-day basis.
If your experience was typical, you would have been exposed to countless stories during this time. By stories, I mean the conversations you have with people who tell you what it’s like to work there.
How about more stories of high performers – already very good at what they do – seeking out coaching and highlighting its worth to others?
The conversations you hear in the bathroom about the problems the finance department is having with sales or the fact that the latest change initiative is doomed to failure because some have worked there long enough to remember the last time it was attempted.
The stories told in organisations tend to reflect the beliefs of those that work there and these beliefs may be quite different from the ones the senior leadership wish were the case.
Stories of success
In the case of a coaching culture the stories should be of success and, just as importantly, learning. They should reflect a belief that people’s potential will come through if they are given opportunities and choose to take advantage of them.
Wouldn’t it be great if new recruits were told about the time that a training programme that was due to be shelved to save money was retained because employees felt so strongly about it?
Flipping the script
Let’s have people talking about how great managers are at getting results from people instead of moaning about the fearsome taskmasters they have to work for. How about more stories of high performers – already very good at what they do – seeking out coaching and highlighting its worth to others?
There will be stories in circulation already, but if they’re negative or killing the culture you’re trying to create, they need to be replaced with ones that are more resonant.
In the mid 2000s we did a large coaching skills training programme for a group of advisers from an organisation called Back Up North. The advisers worked with disadvantaged groups including ex-offenders and substance abusers in an effort to help them return to employment. No easy task and a challenging environment in which to apply coaching.
Developing meaningful life skills
We had originally trained the senior management team in coaching as a management skill but were then asked to roll the training out to the advisers as it was seen to have huge potential benefits.
We followed up with the adviser participants some months after the training and were delighted with the stories they were now telling.
One adviser, for example, told us of a client who suffered from severe dyslexia for many years. The adviser began coaching the client following the training and the client was now visiting a centre once a week for help.
A lasting impact
Whilst this may not seem like a huge achievement by some standards, it represented the first ever meaningful action for this particular client.
Try encouraging senior leaders (for it is they who set the tone for these things) to add stories to the communications they handle anyway.
There was also the adviser who had found many coaching applications outside of work, helping her husband with problems at work, supporting her bereaved mother and helping her daughter move house.
We understand that these stories are still told and the usefulness of coaching still highlighted despite the time that has elapsed since the training.
Crafting your culture
As we’ve seen, there will be stories in circulation already, but if they’re negative or killing the culture you’re trying to create, they need to be replaced with ones that are more resonant.
Try encouraging senior leaders (for it is they who set the tone for these things) to add stories to the communications they handle anyway, e.g:
- Team meetings
- Town halls
- Video messages
- Performance reviews
- Quarterly updates
Putting it into practice
Here’s a framework that works well:
- Introduce the cultural value you want to highlight
- Tell the story briefly (keep it to less than a minute)
- Reinforce the value it supports
Something like this…
“Here’s what taking advantage of learning opportunities looks like to me. Sally, in sales, has exceeded her numbers for five months in a row but still came to the lunch and learn we had with that well-known sales guru. She said that she’d learnt a couple of great tips that would help her identify more people involved in the client’s decision-making process and stop deals getting stuck. That’s what taking advantage of learning opportunities looks like to me.”
If you enjoyed this, read: Three tips to building a kick-ass culture.