Training is Not Enough to Sustain Change in Organizations

Training is Not Enough to Sustain Change in Organizations

The Prosperity Agenda leverages a person-centered, design led approach to generate new products and services that reflect the values and goals of families experiencing poverty. We listen to community members and staff to find inspiration and surface hidden assumptions. To learn and understand the context maintaining coaching practices and principles in organizations, we began by interviewing participants in community development programs, their coaches and frontline staff, individuals in middle- and senior-management, funder organizations, and other stakeholders. We asked open-ended questions about how they viewed success, what could be improved, and how they describe coaching practices and a coaching culture. Here is what we learned.

Training Alone is Not Enough

Training alone doesn’t enable an organization to engage participants in coaching relationships. Staff members who have experienced coaching training report that they often go back to the same job responsibilities, incentives, report structures, and other organizational structures, that don’t support a coaching culture and may not encourage them to test and try new practices. Training can introduce a coaching mindset, provide a common language, develop and practice new skills, and understand new tools and techniques, but building a coaching culture requires the integration of coaching principles and practices across an organization.

Management Drives Coaching Implementation and Expansion

Some organizations created the flexibility to integrate coaching by blending their funding sources. We observed that managers, particularly mid-level managers, held a unique perspective and advantage that enabled coaching to expand across teams and reporting structures. Within budget constrained environments, where there wasn’t access to formal training, we saw managers encourage team members to explore alternative options to learn, practice, and grow coaching skills. Opportunities to share knowledge, encourage team members to explore coaching resources, and the time and space to practice coaching set the foundation for implementing and practicing coaching. Middle-managers are often in the best position in an organization to encourage this foundation and growth.

Adopting Coaching Practices Requires Organizational Adoption

Driving and sustaining change is complex, but it’s required to build and maintain a coaching culture over time. A culture is defined by the accepted social norms, attitudes, and behaviors – all of these can work in alignment with coaching or prevent it from thriving. An organizational culture defines how people work together and can determine whether coaching practices are integrated or rejected. The promise of a coaching culture is that it enables programs to be more effective, create a larger impact, and support positive outcomes for the families an organization serves.

Expanding a Coaching Culture is Challenging to do Alone

Peer support and a sense of community builds momentum for organizational change. Coaching practitioners who connect with their peers to share their experiences and insight are better prepared to confidently drive change within their own team and organization. In addition to potentially unstructured peer learning that happens organically, a cohort structure creates the social connection, cadence, and safety to learn and practice alongside each other. By connecting with other thought-leaders and partners, managers and staff are able to tackle problems together and share ideas about how to adapt coaching practices and tools in their organization.

What we Designed: 10 Tools to Drive and Sustain a Coaching Culture  

Three key areas of investment emerged to expand a coaching culture:  measure it, fund it, and maintain it. In each of these areas, we created and refined 10 tools, such as Hiring for Coaching Inclined Individuals, Measuring the Strength of a Coaching Relationship, and Person-Centered Program Development.

These tools can be customized for each organizations unique environment, opportunities, and constraints. Stay tuned: We will be releasing this set of 10 tools in the next few months.

Thank you to our partners – This project was generously funded by J.P. Morgan Chase, occurred in collaboration with four community-based organizations: YWCA Seattle King Snohomish, Hacienda CDC, Community Action of Skagit County, and Sound Outreach.


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