Building a Coaching Culture in the Workplace by Edel Walsh

Building a Coaching Culture in the Workplace

by Edel Walsh

Coaching embodies the idea that with the support of a coach every individual can achieve their full potential. Not only will coaching benefit the individual personally but it can also benefit their workplace.

A business or workplace can hire coaches who have professional qualifications and accreditations. However, with the right tools and guidance, we can all be coaches. We can support our colleagues, teammates, direct reports and even
our friends through coaching.

This article sets out what is meant by coaching, the benefits of coaching and some core coaching skills. We will also look at a simple and effective coaching model, the “GROW” model. 

What is Coaching?

My definition of coaching is:

“Coaching is connecting and collaborating with a person in a deep and meaningful way that stimulates and encourages them to learn and live their best life both personally and professionally”.

There are many definitions of coaching, and they all fundamentally resolve into the same meaning. Coaching is essentially a journey of deep learning and self-reflection which will ultimately result in change, growth, and fulfilment for the individual being coached.

Benefits of Coaching

Coaching is not only rewarding for the individual being coached but also for their teams and their workplace. 

For individuals, coaching can lead to personal growth, better leadership skills, higher motivation, better communication skills and self-awareness. 

For the team, coaching can result in improved efficiency, morale, trust, accountability, and a clearer team vision. 

For the workplace, coaching can lend itself to improved capability for change, more effective communication and sustainable learning and development.

Perfecting your Coaching Skills

Before you help others to learn and grow through coaching, you will need to hone your own coaching skills. 

Coaching requires you to ask questions and listen intently to the person you are supporting. Rather than telling the person what they need, ask them. 

Coaching questions should be open ended. For example, an open-ended question starts with “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, “how much”, “how many”. 

It’s better to avoid “why” questions as sometimes they can come across as confrontational. 

Closed questions lend themselves to Yes/No answers where there is little room to delve deeper with the person you are coaching.

Some practical coaching questions to start the coaching conversation might include:

  • What would you like to discuss?
  • What would you like to achieve from this conversation?
  • What else is important to this discussion?
  • How do you feel about this?
  • Who can support you with this?
  • What do you gain from this?
  • What excites you about this?
  • What is your heart saying?
  • What can you learn from this?
  • What changes can you make?

Once you have listened intently and the person has answered, it is good to ask, “and what else”. This question probes a little deeper. Some people tend to stay on the surface when you ask them a question but by following it with “and what else”, it allows them to dig deeper and unravel the situation or issue further.

As a coach it is crucial to actively listen. To really hear what the person is saying, ignore all other interruptions such as notifications and emails and avoid interrupting them.

To feel useful, you can feel you should be saying something. Sometimes a person just needs to be heard and this can provide them with a great deal of clarity.

Some active listening tips include:

  • Build rapport – Make the person feel comfortable and try to build a connection between you.

  • Paying attention – Maintain eye contact and avoid distractions.
  • Body language – Not only should you listen intently to what the person is saying, look out for their body language cues. What is the tone of their voice saying to you? What is their facial expression saying? For example, a person might use their hands a lot if they are getting excited about something. They might slump their shoulders if they are upset about something. Be mindful of what your body language is telling them, don’t move around too much, maintain focus.
  • Paraphrase what you hear – “If I understand correctly, what you are concerned about is…..” This also helps you as a coach ensure your own understanding of the situation is correct.

GROW Model

When coaching our colleagues or direct reports, it is useful to have a model in our coaching toolbox.

One of the most common coaching models or tools is the GROW model developed in the 90’s by Sir John Whitmore. It is known for its user-friendly simplicity. Whitmore’s book Coaching for Performance is one of the founding texts of the coaching profession.

The GROW model is a simple yet effective way of structuring a coaching conversation. The acronym GROW stands for

  • Goal
  • Reality
  • Options
  • Will

Firstly, allow the person to reflect on a Goal they may have. It is helpful to ensure that the goal is specific, feels achievable in the time frame available and is realistic. In other words, the goal is a SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely). 

Some useful coaching questions to
ask may be:

  • Tell me about your goal?
  • What does success look like to you?
  • How could you rephrase this goal, so it only depends on what you do and not on others?

If this seems like a stretch, give me some stepping stones along the way.

The second stage is the Reality stage. In other words, how realistic is this goal they are setting for themselves? If a goal is not realistic, its likely it won’t be achieved which can be de-motivating.

Some useful questions to ask are:

  • What is the current reality of the situation?
  • What have you tried already?
  • What is standing in your way? 

In the third stage of this model, the conversation looks forward to exploring the various routes (the Options) available to the person. The coach could ask:

  • What could you do as a first step?
  • What options do you have to resolve this issue?
  • And what else? 

The final stage is supporting the person to reach their destination or goal (their Will to succeed). The objective here is
to help the person identify specific steps to help them achieving their goal. 

  • Some helpful questions here are:On a scale of 1-10 how motivated do you feel about putting this into action?
  • How can we move that say 7 to an 8?
  • What support do you need and from whom?

The GROW model is a simple tool to help people refine their goals and break them into more manageable bitesize goals.

At the end of the conversation, it is always a good idea to ask the person what actions they are taking away with them. Actioning their goals encourages accountability and provides a reference point as the coaching relationship continues.

Following up after the coaching session

The real work of coaching happens after the coaching conversation. This is where the person’s suggested actions are put into practice. 

After the coaching session you can support the person in several ways. For example, you can check in with them regularly to check their progress, and where possible provide them with constructive feedback. 

Final Thought

The formula for coaching success is understanding the person’s goals, asking open ended questions, listening carefully, and ensuring they leave the coaching conversation with some actions so they can progress with
their goal.

Headshot of Aine Collins

Edel Walsh

Personal Leadership Coach

Edel specialises in helping her clients get clear about their purpose, career aspirations and work-life balance. Her website is