Using Coaching to Impact Organizational Culture
CEOs and leadership teams are charged with the
management of people in complex organizations. Great leaders create a culture in
their companies that drives the results they want to achieve. It is the leader
of an organization who is in the best position to influence culture change.
No one person, however, can change an entire culture. Influencing culture
requires obtaining the trust and enhancing the motivation and capabilities of
those who follow. The leader has the potential to create the setting that
becomes a powerful source of identification and commitment for employees (Schein,
1992). Coaching can help leaders achieve this.
The attitudes, assumptions and beliefs that guide a
companys characteristic way of doing business define a companys culture.
Organizational culture can be a major factor in a companys success or failure
over time. Cultural characteristics and principles may be obvious or not so
obvious. Sometimes they are the least obvious to those who are embedded
within the companys way of doing and perceiving things. Also, culture
in large institutions is complex because there may be sub-cultures that operate
in different parts of the company. On an individual level, it is not
always apparent to leaders how their own behavior (or that of their managers)
models, teaches, and reinforces the company culture.
In coaching, it is often necessary to assess and change the
companys culture over time so that business goals can be achieved and high
performance reinforced at every level. The CEO may request a coach to help
design a plan for culture change, define key characteristics of the desired
future culture, and solve problems related to the barriers and resistance to
change. Cultural change is also facilitated by coaching key managers in other
areas of the organization, particularly in large and complex corporations.
Coaching for culture change at multiple levels should be coordinated at the
level of top leadership and very tightly linked to strategy. In other
situations, coaching may occur at a department or sub-unit level to bring its
culture into alignment with the overall culture of the company. An
important benefit of coaching is the increased effectiveness of leaders to coach
those who look to them for mentoring.
A companys culture impacts bottom line financial
outcomes and in some cases is cited as the key factor determining the failure of
a merger. In a large-scale survey (Galpin & Herndon, 2000, p. 236):
57% of companies cited resistance to change as
a risk to their mergers success.
Seventy-three percent (73%) cited leadership as
being the reason for the success of their merger and acquisition and
35% cited cultural compatibility as being the
reason for the success of their merger and acquisition.
Other data (Denison, 1990) suggests that certain cultural
indices, such as mission (a meaningful long-term direction), involvement (strong
capability/ownership), consistency (values and systems) and adaptability
(responsiveness to the business environment) are significantly related to a
companys return on investments, return on assets, sales growth, customer
satisfaction, and other outcomes.
A few examples of coaching leaders to promote culture
change include: (1) enhancing employee commitment and involvement in a company
with an increasingly challenging marketplace; (2) anticipating problems
from integrating two companies with differing cultures, and planning strategies
to address conflict and competition for control; (3) assisting a new CEO
to define his or her vision for the company when the former CEO and founder
departs; and (4) increasing employee focus throughout on profitability,
efficiency, and collaboration.
In other words, executive coaching can play a powerful role
in changing organizational culture. Finding executive coaches, like
Industrial and Organizational Psychologists, who are both interpersonally
effective and also are trained and experienced in group dynamics, leadership
development, and program design for assessing and measuring both individuals
(e.g., attitudes, motivation) and business organizations (e.g., results,
culture, climate) is particularly important to ensure there is a link between
coaching activities and organizational outcomes.
Galpin, T. J. & Herndon M. (2000). The complete
guide to mergers and acquisitions: Process tools to support M & A
integration at every level. Jossey-Bass.
Denison, D. R. (1990). Corporate culture and
organizational effectiveness. Wiley.
Schein, E. (1992). Organizational culture and