Course Guide

Coaching and coaching culture: A research overview

Coaching and Coaching Culture: A Research Overview 


The concept of coaching has been derived from psychological and educational foundations as a developmental process [1]. At the individual level, coaching is a relational process that unleashes potential by establishing a trusting one-on-one relationship between coach and coachee that promotes the wellbeing of the individual. The process encourages introspection which stimulates self-awareness leading to insight, performance improvement and behavioural change. The focus is on the present and future goals of the individual and ways to achieve them. The coach uses coaching skills such as listening and questioning to support the coachee finding their own solutions to problems or concerns. The coach’s role is to facilitate learning and development by assisting the coachee to self-review and go deeper into their concerns in an open and honest way, and then determine their coaching needs. At times, a mindset shift may be required to develop new learning and establish new behaviours.   


Increasingly, the responsibility for coaching is being transferred from a human resource function to a business unit manager to improve the performance of their team [2-4]. Leaders develop their ability to coach within a dedicated Leader-as-Coach program or a leadership development program, or by undertaking an accredited coach-training program delivered by an external provider. Managerial coaching improves team performance in work-related areas of performance. However, leadership coaching is emerging to more regularly provide the constructive feedback on performance that employees need to make behavioural change. Stages and strategies to translate individual learnings into benefits for the team and organisation have been recommended by several authors [5-8]. 


My research findings 


My research has identified four stages in the development of a coaching culture, together with the shared understandings of coaching at each stage, the motivations for coaching, key drivers of coaching, and ways in which coaching is delivered within that stage [9] 


In Stage 1, Coaching-as-Intervention, coaching has a utilitarian conceptualisation as a skill or tool to fix an immediate problem. It is a one-off investment to remediate an underperformer or comply with legislation before exiting the employee from the organisation. Line managers are instrumental in outsourcing the coaching to an external coach which may be expensive and put a strain on the line manager’s budget. 


In Stage 2, Coaching-as-HR-Function, coaching is conceptualised as a training and learning experience. HR trains leaders in coaching skills within leadership development programs or dedicated Leader-as-Coach programs. The developmental motivation for coaching is to improve leadership skills and support leaders who coach their direct reports and teams. The responsibility for implementing the coaching agenda lies with the HR function. HR develops ongoing support structures for coaching to be delivered throughout the organisation.   


In Stage 3, Coaching-as-Leader-Capability, coaching is designated as a core capability of leaders that is necessary for them to progress in their career. Coaching is a reflective practice that promotes team and team member performance improvement to achieve business targets and retain talent. Business unit leaders drive coaching as it is cascaded down their function. The internalised delivery of leader coaching is supported by the appointment of specialist coaches who ‘coach-to-revenue’ in sales and services functions.  


In Stage 4, Coaching-as-Culture, coaching is conceptualised as organic and naturally occurring throughout the organisation. Individuals and teams transform as they learn how to cooperate collectively and gain from the experience of others. Everyone has the ability to conduct coaching, feedback or corridor conversations with others as the need arises – peer coaching. Coaching becomes the lens through which all business transactions are analysed for possible uplift by the application of a coaching approach. Coaching becomes part of the DNA and fabric of the organisation and the platform for transformational, cultural change to occur.  


In this fourth and final stage, the CEO and senior executives are totally committed to coaching and role model coaching within their teams. Coaching becomes a strategic priority for the business with clearly-defined success outcomes. Senior leaders realise the cultural change takes time; hence their investment in coaching is long-term. They appoint a champion for coaching to steward the coaching agenda throughout the organisation and monitor its progress. Coaching relationships are extended to all customers and suppliers. 



This excerpt is taken from the book “Transforming Organisational Culture through Coaching” by Dr Susanne Knowles which is available from and 



  1. Van der Horst, C. and R. Albertyn,The importance of metacognition and the experiential learning process within a cultural intelligence–based approach to cross-cultural coaching.South African Journal of Human Resource Management, 2018. 16(1). 
  2. Beattie, R., et al.,Managerial coaching: A review of the empirical literature and development of a model to guide future practice.Advances in Developing Human Resources, 2014. 16(2): p. 184-201. 
  3. Hamlin, R., A.D. Ellinger, and R. Beattie,Coaching at the heart of managerial effectiveness: A cross-cultural study of managerial behaviours.Human Resource Development International, 2006. 9(3): p. 305-331. 
  4. Ellinger, A.D., et al.,Managerial coaching as a workplace learning strategy, inSupporting Workplace Learning: Towards evidence-based practice, R. Poell and M. van Woerkom, Editors. 2011, Springer: London. p. 71-87. 
  5. Hawkins, P.,Creating a coaching culture.Strategic HR Review, 2012. 11(6): p. 364. 
  6. Clutterbuck, D., D. Megginson, and A. Bajer,Building and Sustaining a Coaching Culture. 2016, London, United Kingdom: Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.
  7. Hart, W.,Getting culture: Imbuing your organization with coaching behavior.Leadership in Action, 2005. 25(4): p. 7-10. 
  8. Passmore, J. and K. Jastrzebska,Building a coaching culture: A development journey for organisational development.Coaching Review, 2011. 1(3): p. 89. 
  9. Knowles, S.,Transforming Organisational Culture through Coaching. 2020, Bloomington, IN.: Xlibris.