Coaching – cult, cure or culture?

By Stuart Haden, Programme Manager, CIPD

Cultures evolve and develop over time; values emerge, sometimes forgotten, sometimes sustained. Culture transports value, as do coaching conversations. We all engage in culture whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not. Which is why it is important to define the subtleties of what’s around us.

If it’s true that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’ then it will devour coaching in an instant. Therefore, it is misleading to refer to coaching and culture in the same breath. Perhaps these words have only gained traction thanks to alliteration. Instead developing coaching within organisations, whilst being aware of organisational culture, might be a more accurate target.

Start looking for the energy of coaching in order to see it. When it is made visible our job of seeing it is made easier. If there is a coaching cult out there we need to know out about it. Coaching development relies on intuition; this is more of an art form and often where the cults are to be found. Equally one must include logical initiatives, the science.

If you adopt these two approaches you can also begin to pinpoint your current location and choose where to go next. Appreciating which aspects of the business need your attention at an individual, team or organisation level. As well as recognising different levels of coaching maturity. Remember that change is not exclusively top (organisation) down or bottom (individual) up. It is both, top down, bottom up.

In closing coaching can only be an effective cure if people are ready and raring to go. It’s not about the coach; it’s about the coachee. Are they coachable? Organisations can invest heavily in coaching, but, if the coachee isn't ready - the coach will not appear. Just as it makes absolute sense to develop our coaches it makes absolute sense to prepare the coachee so that they can make the most of coaching.

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  • I have been coaching for two years (qualified) and completely agree that you cannot coach those unwilling to engage. I have seen a direct link between the level of engagement with the process and the level of success I see in the coachee. I now ensure that this point is established and understood when engaging the sponsor and coachee as part of the intake process.


  • Very true and inspiring. What you have said is another wake up call for every leadership that would like coaching to be successful.