Developing a coaching culture

Coaching culture: a definition

As an experienced coach or mentor, you may be called upon, beyond your work with individuals or groups, to work with organisations to build and embed a coaching culture. What does this mean?

Clutterbuck and Megginson, in 'Making coaching work: creating a coaching culture', define a coaching culture as one where:

Coaching is a predominant style of managing and working together, and where a commitment to grow the organisation is embedded in a parallel commitment to grow the people in the organisation.

'Making coaching work', 2012, p19

The words 'improve', 'help', 'training' and 'coaching' interlock on cubes like dice

Peter Hawkins, in 'Creating a coaching culture' (2012, p22), describes five different levels of a coaching culture within an organisation:

  • Artefacts: The organisation champions the value of coaching in its strategy and mission. It is seen as a key leadership and management competency.
  • Behaviours: A coaching style is used one to one and in teams to encourage engagement, problem-solving and development.
  • Mindsets: There is a prevalent belief that people perform best when they are engaged with issues and challenges and helped to see options – rather than being told how to act.
  • Emotional ground: There is energy within the organisation and a high level of personal engagement. Challenges are seen as an opportunity to learn and grow. There is high support and high challenge with a focus on helping people realise their potential.
  • Motivational roots: The culture supports people who are committed to lifelong learning and development. There is a belief in people's ability and their potential to learn continuously, and that collective performance will grow as a result.

Hawkins goes on to describe the three key pillars of a coaching culture:

  • Coaching strategy: firmly grounded in the organisation's mission strategy and development plan, and linked to other people's development activities.
  • Alignment with broader organisation culture change: "a coaching culture is key part of creating a more general culture of continual learning and development" (2012, p26).
  • Coaching infrastructure: with governance and management in place to ensure coaching is integrated into the way the organisation operates, for example a sponsor or steering group to ensure that the coaching processes are given direction and there is accountability for impact; a management group to drive and co-ordinate coaching activities; and a community of practice committed to the development and success of coaching throughout the organisation.

In practice, Clutterbuck and Megginson believe this means:

  • ensuring that people are rewarded for knowledge-sharing
  • valuing and promoting coaching as an investment in excellence
  • the top team are coaching role models (who seek and use feedback)
  • there are dedicated coaching leaders who champion the coaching culture

Now read the account of how KPMG developed a coaching culture.

Read also the sample of the report by CfBT on conducting a coaching review.

If you can, read Chapters 2 and 6 of 'Making coaching work: creating a coaching culture' (Clutterbuck, D & Megginson, D, 2012).

questions & activities

Personal reflection

Consider how you might go about supporting a school to develop a coaching culture, using the questions below as prompts.

Share your reflections with your colleagues. What have you learnt that you will take into your coaching or mentoring practice?

Record your reflections for future reference.


  • 01.
    How would you assess the school's readiness to use a coaching culture?
  • 02.
    What would be the first critical steps in the process? How would you begin to build a culture of coaching, learning and development?
  • 03.
    What steps would you take to develop a coaching strategy, and to design the coaching infrastructure?
  • 04.
    What would your role be as a mentor or coach?