Building a Foundation-Up Culture of Behavioral Coaching

February 6, 2020

Behavioral coaching

A culture of behavioral coaching is not difficult to define, but it can at first be an elusive thing to create. It is a commitment from leadership to invest in the skills required to drive personal and workplace success for themselves and employees.

Behavioral coaching doesn’t just set goals, it guides and invests in people. It uses validated tools to reveal and understand behaviors. It has measurable outcomes and processes that demonstrate the degree to which the investment in coaching delivers success. But behavioral coaching requires leaders to have clearly defined and agreed-upon objectives and vision, coupled with strategic planning.

Once the vision is outlined, a picture emerges of the kind of talents and behaviors essential to deliver objectives. Who has what talents, and how do we best deploy them so that they thrive, and the team and organization do as well? Armed with vision, revealed talent, and behaviors, managers have a methodology for enhancing the individual’s or team’s current skills and behaviors.

Get to know each other through behavioral coaching

How do you uncover innate behaviors, parse strengths, and identify challenges? One approach to a discovery process is a probing questionnaire, which by design removes all situational, cultural, and educational biases to consistently and reliably reveal natural behavior—the innate behavior someone may not even realize he or she reverts to.

This type of questionnaire can be administered in about 10 minutes. Optimally, it should provide results in real time, though someone with experience may be needed to help interpret and apply the insights gained. It is crucial that the person being evaluated and others in the process—like the coach—have access to and understand the insights.

Behavioral coaching is based on a mutual understanding of what makes people tick, what motivates them, and what environments bring out the best in them. It can only begin when built on a platform of “knowing me knowing you.” Personal behavioral insight produces a coaching culture. There is no place for dictatorial command and control in the new behavioral economy. Leaders are increasingly realizing that they must engage more closely with those tasked to deliver business outcomes if they are to find success in the workplace.

A good starting point when introducing a culture of coaching is for key leaders to experience the benefits of coaching firsthand. Executives who go through the behavioral discovery process and are coached get to understand and appreciate the power of this support and are more likely to champion its introduction into their organizations. Leaders who fail to mutually connect in the coaching process will not be able to build a coaching culture, which must be driven from the top.

Drilling down in your coaching program

Coaching should always be about developing and empowering individual employees to use their talent, discretion, and judgment to act in ways that are congruent with organizational objectives and goals. Leaders must be committed to getting to know their people at a deeper level by asking questions such as the following:

  • Why do people want to work for me?
  • Why should they want to?
  • What are their other motivations?
  • What impediments may be keeping them from going “all in” with a commitment to our organization?

Once leaders from the C-suite on down begin to understand the people who work for and with them, stories and patterns emerge that affect the emotional intelligence of leadership itself. Real conversations that are the basis of coaching cannot fail to build relationships and trust.

From this point, coaching becomes meaningful as behaviors are revealed and understood by everyone through and across the process. Though it is human nature, sadly, to make snap judgments about one another based solely on outward surface connections, when we dig deeper, using appropriate and empowering questions delivered with sincerity, the conversations are more effective.

Generalized assumptions have no place in building and sustaining a workforce that feels genuinely committed to the business. Organizational behavioral coaching, based on a platform of understanding individuals’ inherent behavior, must encompass a deeper understanding of how individuals think, make decisions, and respond to pressure and emotion. Revealing these influences is the major key to introducing a successful and meaningful culture of behavioral coaching.

Matching coach and protégé

The pairing of coach and protégé is crucial. Random coach-staff matches are too hit-and-miss. This is where the case for understanding individual behaviors is at its most relevant. The coach and the employee need to be carefully matched based on experience, skills, desired outcomes, and compatible (or complementary) behaviors. It’s important to be fully cognizant of the protégé’s inherent behaviors and how to understand and manage them.

A good guidepost phrase for coaches to keep in mind is “Know, Engage, and Grow.” This phrase focuses coaches on helping people become more self-empowered through greater self-knowledge. They also get to know and engage with others, with an understanding of that person’s innate behavioral strengths and challenges. Then, individuals, teams, and organizations can grow.

Using behavioral insights, we can pinpoint existing culture and strategy misalignments that need to be managed to deliver outstanding people performance and business results. But we must start by aligning coach and protégé.

There is never just one culture that fits all organizations or one strategy that directs every business. But the common denominator for your team or organization could be that you consistently reveal the inherent behaviors of all individuals and help them manage the differences that can otherwise get in the way.

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About The Author

Nikki Evans is chief learning officer and Carol Pocklington is chief insights officer at DNA Behavior International, a behavioral sciences firm that specializes in empowering real-time behavioral management.

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