Cultural considerations in coaching

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

Cultural considerations in coaching

Cultural considerations in coaching

I was once running some training in Kenya for Kenyans. I became exasperated that getting the delegates to come back to the training room after coffee breaks and lunch was like an exercise in herding cats! Some would wander back into the room and then wander out again to speak to someone else, others would be on their mobiles and seemingly quite reluctant to finish those conversations. When I stopped to think about it I realized that I was experiencing a cultural difference. My Anglo Saxon culture had taught me to operate through time. In other words to be always conscious of ‘what has happened before’ and ‘what will happen next’ as well as dealing with the here and now. My Kenyan participants on the other hand had a culture that operates in time. This means that their consciousness was purely in the here and now. They weren’t being rude by not being prompt back to training; they were just fully focused on the current moment. To them it would have been the height of bad manners to rush a conversation with a client in order to get back to training. Now you and I could argue forever about who was right and who was wrong, that’s not the point. Different cultures have different values and we need to work with them rather than get tied up in thoughts of right/wrong, good/bad, better/worse.

Of course when we talk about culture and how if effects the coaching relationship we need to realise that it is not just a matter of considering nationality, race or religion. We need also take into account the cultures people may have become used to in previous employment, in education or in the home. More importantly perhaps, we need to think about the prevailing culture in our own organisations if coaching has not been the norm.

There are many dimensions to culture and we need to consider, amongst others


Do people rise through the organization on merit or is status gained through age, length of service or qualifications?


Some cultures value flat hierarchies with everyone free to express their views, others are used to bosses telling everybody what to do.


What have people been used to and how much scope is there to move up and down the communication spectrum?


Do we apply coaching at the level of the team or the individual?


Are the people that we coach comfortable with emotional language and very open in their discussions or more reserved; wanting the coach to always take the lead?

Of course, there are no right or wrong answers to these questions. They are simply views that we need to think about in order to give coaching its most solid platform.

Finally, if you find yourself coaching people who will be experiencing cultural change, raise awareness by having them identify the similarities and differences with their current culture, and help them to take responsibility for making any necessary adaptations.


Overcoming the barriers to coaching

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching principles

Overcoming the barriers to coaching

Overcoming the barriers to coaching

I am sad to say that I had no trouble in finding barriers to coaching when I researched this topic. Here’s my top 10:

  1. The organisation’s culture is in conflict with coaching principles
  2. There are always other priorities
  3. Managers are uncomfortable in the coaching role
  4. Management resist being coached themselves
  5. There are too few role models
  6. Increased workloads make finding time for coaching difficult
  7. Short term focus
  8. Performance related rewards promote performance but not learning or enjoyment
  9. People selected as coaches are unsuitable
  10. perception that coaching was being used to rectify poor performance (in a punitive way)

Rather than tackle these one by one let’s look at some general principles that you might use to overcome these barriers

Coaches need time. There is no doubt that coaching requires an investment of time, but hopefully we can now make a convincing case that the return on investment is there. If we need to build in a little slack to accommodate coaching, it’s well worth the effort and expense.

Coaches need good role models. Many mangers are expected to be good coaches simply because they are managers, but this is unfair. Few managers have had any meaningful training in coaching skills and fewer still have ever been properly coached so they may simply not understand what is expected of them.

Coaches need positive rewards. Put simply what gets rewarded usually gets done. If we want managers to coach we must reward them for doing so with praise and recognition and even bonuses if appropriate. Similarly, behaviour which is ‘anti-coaching’ needs to be publicly frowned upon.

Coaches need coaching. Which includes feedback and guidance from their own bosses and wherever possible feedback from the people whom they coach too. It is also useful for those that have been trained as coaches to ‘buddy up’ and support each other.

Coaches need to be promoted. Those who are good at coaching should be promoted where it’s warranted and other candidates turned away if they have not properly developed and coached their staff.

Coaches need to be carefully selected. High flyers do not always have an interest in developing other people and often view weakness in others as a fault rather than a development opportunity. They do not always make good coaches even when given the right training and encouragement. We need to carefully define the attributes of high performing coaches and select coaches on that basis.

Coaches need not be managers. I have often found that sometimes it is staff found relatively low down on the structure chart that make the best coaches. There is no logical reason for coaching to be undertaken only by line managers.

Coaching needs to be integrated. For coaching really to become the norm rather than the exception, the entire organisational culture must reflect its importance and value. This means that job descriptions should be revised to include coaching, competency frameworks updated to include coaching and appraisal forms amended to review and evaluate coaching activity.

Coaching at Work : Open programme

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

Coaching at Work : Open programmeIt has been a few year’s since we’ve run our coaching programme on an open
basis, but we have a client with three people who need the training. This
is too few for an in-house course and so I’m contacting other clients to
see if they have one or two people with a training need in coaching skills.

I am looking at late October, probably in the Darlington (North East England) area.

I am happy to charge our old price of £750 + VAT per person which covers
the 2 days of training and 1 night’s dinner, bed and breakfast at the venue.

I’m only looking foe expressions of interest at this stage and so would be
grateful if you could leave a comment if you’re interested.