6 Reasons Why Most Attempts To Create A Coaching Culture Fail

Emma Weber

Creating a coaching culture seems to be one of the hot topics of 2018 – and with good reason. Forbes suggest that a coaching culture can increase engagement, retention and overall morale, and on top of that create greater self-awareness and more effective communication.

I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t want that for their organisation.

So why have many companies tried and failed to create a coaching culture?

There are a number of reasons why most attempts to create a coaching culture fail. The overarching issue for many is that quite simply many organisations do not have a high enough maturity level to create a successful coaching culture. I am going to be exploring this idea further in a webinar – considering how you can benchmark your organisation’s learning maturity to make smarter, more informed decisions about your learning and transfer strategy.

Aside from maturity levels, here are the common reasons why most attempts to create a coaching culture fail:

 1. No learning transfer strategy to support the initial training. Many organisations have invested in training leaders and managers in coaching skills but failed to see any change. This is often because there was no transfer strategy to support the training. Coaching vs. telling is a difficult skill to change, and despite knowing what to do without supporting people in transfer, the benefits will be low. Giving people training in a simple coaching tool or framework is not enough.

2. Coaching is one of those skills that is simple but not easy. In fact, the simplicity of many coaching tools can provide a false sense of security. Many organisations roll out using the GROW framework or a similar one. A basic coaching framework in its simplest form will only work 20-30% of the time when a manager is working with one of their team who is keen, engaged and easily coachable. And to some extent these are the people who need coaching the least! Unfortunately, a good 70% of your workforce probably don’t fall into this bracket and they are the group who need coaching the most. Most coaching programs fail to teach people how to coach the difficult people and what to do when the coaching model doesn’t go to plan… get this right and you will start to create traction.

3. The power of coaching isn’t a single conversation. The power is in the follow up conversations checking in on progress of actions agreed. This is where the real value is realised, yet most frameworks fail to recognise how essential capturing commitments and following up is.

4. When it comes to implementation, the temptation to ‘Tick the Box’ devalues the process and makes it a waste of time for everyone. Some organisations in an attempt to evaluate the effectiveness of coaching have made the measure ‘if the session happened or not’, not how effective the conversation was. Through needing a form to be checked when a conversation happens some can game the system and be applauded for having a high number of coaching conversations irrespective or quality or impact. To create real outcomes, organisations need to steer away from any temptation to make it a tick the box session.

5. People don’t really know what good coaching looks like – Many, many managers think they are coaching and quite frankly they aren’t. You probably see some of them in your organisations. They confuse coaching with giving advice and don’t even realise when they are doing it. Just because they sit down to have a conversation it doesn’t mean they are coaching. Many managers seem to have mastered the art of the “queggestion” – a question disguised as a suggestion! While it might feel useful, it does not encourage internal dialogue and reflection. (Thanks to Michael Stratford who coined this excellent phrase)

6. Coaches peak too soon. Managers who are coaching often stop at the “Ah ha” moment and bask in the glory of a powerful moment of reflection! Sometimes at the “Ah ha” moment the penny drops and Managers think their job is done… however in reality it’s only just started. The next step is crucial which is helping the individual really create clarity for how they will change – what can they put in place that will reinforce the insight in the moment when it matters. Tightening up on this phase and getting really specific improves outcomes… and after all that’s what you are all looking to achieve.

I really encourage anyone who is trying to create a coaching culture, not to give up, but to re-think how you might implement it.

Give managers enough structure for implementation, and give them more than a model. Really equip them to excel and support them to deal with difficult coaching conversations. If you’d like to know more about how we could help you build a culture of coaching within your organisation, please feel free to book a call with Emma here


Every organisation has a different level of learning maturity, which will affect the practicalities of various learning strategies. Join me in my upcoming webinar where I will share how to easily identify your organisation’s level of learning maturity and how this can enable you to make smarter, more informed decisions about your learning strategy.

Emma Weber

Emma Weber is a recognised authority on the transfer of learning. As CEO of Lever – Transfer of Learning, she has helped companies such as Telstra, Oracle and BMW deliver and measure tangible business results from learning. Emma has also been a guest speaker at learning effectiveness conferences worldwide and authored the hugely successful book Turning Learning into Action. Much more detail around the issues and solutions examined in this article are available in the book – please feel free to download a free chapter.