“What do you think about building a coaching culture?” a client recently asked. “I’ve been reading a lot about them.”
I knew what she meant. My client, a top executive with a cosmetics company, was always eager to work on her business and to invest in her team. Like me, she took part in conferences, talks, and think tanks aimed at business leaders, and recently we’d both heard many exciting talks about the benefits of launching a coaching culture.
“It can be a good thing…” I spoke cautiously. “Why do you ask?”
I could hear her frustration when she replied. “We’re exceeding all the expectations I set up for myself five years ago. But I still want to improve. A coaching culture seems like it might be it — a constant focus on learning across the whole organization has to be good, right? But everything I’ve read about it is aimed at the new business.”
I laughed. “So what’s a top dog like your company supposed to do, right? Well, maybe you can build on coaching culture, adapt it. Go beyond it.”
There was a pause. “What is beyond coaching culture?”
Coaching culture is a way of supporting every level of an organization with ongoing learning and training, allowing all teams to build skills and master talent so they can become efficient, both individually and together. For a new organization and one that’s rapidly growing, this can be a powerful shift. For a top company like the one my client led, something more may be needed.
For an organization that is achieving both rapid growth and high-level performance, building a coaching culture may not be enough. After all, the skill, talent and training are likely already there. It’s what has allowed the organization to succeed at the level it has.
“What do you think about building a coaching culture?”
The high-octane company is more like a high-performance sports car or an Olympic athlete. Just as the elite athlete does not need a basic coach, the organization needs something beyond basic training.
At the highest levels of performance, success is about incremental shifts and advantages. The elite athlete excels at a level a fraction of a degree better than the competition. The team behind the high-performance sports car works on reducing the time spent in the pit by microseconds and focuses on giving the machine advantages of millimeters on the track. The second-best car may lose a race by a half of a second (or less).
At the highest levels, tiny variances in performance make all the difference, and that is true for high-octane businesses, too. Businesses succeeding at the top of their game and growing fast may need to go beyond coaching to develop a system-wide approach to improve even beyond the highest level.
Just as Olympians develop muscle memory so they can step fully into a state of flow, executives performing at the highest level can learn to work together more seamlessly, so exceptional business performance is maintained even in times of rapid growth. For this type of organization, it becomes important to develop a culture where extraordinary performance is the basic standard that automatically shows up day after day.
One way to do that is with deep listening. All team members need to stay aware of the subtle shifts taking place all around them at all times, staying focused on the ways those changes can be used to shave microseconds off of performance time or to reduce time spent outside of the flow. For example, when customers give feedback to IT about waiting times, a company with deep listening abilities can use this to examine how customer communication happens as a whole.
At the highest levels of performance, success is about incremental shifts and advantages.
Is there something happening outside of the IT department that affects response times there? Are response times (gulp) slow across the organization? Is there a disconnect between members of a team? Deep listening can help you find the tiny rattles in the company engine, to give you a clue where tune-ups may be needed.
Another way organizations can move beyond coaching culture is through alignment and hyper-communication. The goal is to develop a future-focused, learning-committed organization where every team member is fully engaged in maximizing impact and creating authentic shifts that allow for high-octane performance. That may seem like a lofty goal, but it can be achieved by focusing not just on current performance, but also on a full commitment to future results. It means stepping in a fully embodied way into a future reality and committing to that reality fully today.
Creating a high-octane organization, which is shifting beyond coaching culture, also means creating hyper-communication to allow each member of your organization to understand their impact on the company and on others. Rather than a shuddering sum of disparate parts lurching into the future, a hyper-communication company moves forward as a whole, like an aerodynamic sports car.
When departments, contractors, staff, and other members of the team communicate fully, they can start moving forward into an unknown future. For example, what if your marketing department communicated with your frontline personnel about the most common questions and complaints, so future marketing could address some of these questions? What if marketing shared some of the feedback from focus groups with the IT department, so future products could address some of the concerns potential customers expressed?
Each of your team members holds pieces of the puzzle that could help you make tiny adjustments that could set you on a whole new path. The trick is to get everyone sharing across the entire organization so you can make knowledge actionable. By teaming up seemingly disparate teams, such as your creatives and IT teams, your frontline workers and executives, you can start inter-community communication, which could very well change the face of your business.
Your organization may already feel like a Maserati, but are you focusing on the gleam of the paint job, or are you looking under the hood to make it across the finish line ahead of the competition? By understanding and aligning the engine that makes your organization work, you can make the minor adjustments needed to shave time off the race.