Coaching and Culture Change

In the previous post on this topic, we explored the relationship between leadership development and culture. Leadership always takes place in the context of cultural dynamics that both constrain and create opportunities for leaders. Effective coaching takes this into account and, where possible, coordinates leadership development with culture change initiatives.

Ideally, both the culture and the leader undergo formal assessment as a first step. The second step is to map the results against each other to achieve at an understanding of the Leader-Culture Fit.

A coach plays a pivotal role in translating assessment results into corresponding inferences about Leader-Culture Fit. This involves not only interpreting assessment scores, but integrating data from other sources—such as perspectives gathered using qualitative, observational, and ethnographic methods, or talking with key stakeholders. These sources help contextualize the data by honing the focusing the interpretation on current and future business needs, and facilitating a sense-making process with the coachee. The goal is a clearer understanding of relevant leader-culture dynamics and an agreed-upon set of follow-up actions for the coach and the leader.

This type of coaching requires not only a unique blend of skill sets, but also interaction with a greater number of stakeholders than is typical of more traditional coaching engagements. The collective insights gained can help to prioritize the focus and form of the leader’s follow-up actions, bolster support for the leader’s development, and even create momentum for change around particular aspects of the culture.

The Goal is Not Enhanced Leader-Culture Fit

The goal of coaching is to improve a leader’s performance and personal satisfaction, and consequently, the effectiveness of the organization. The primary objective of the Leader-Culture Fit coaching model is enhanced individual and organizational effectiveness, not enhanced leader fit with the current culture, because that culture may need to change!

If you would like to consult with us regarding coaching practices, or discuss your own organization’s leadership development needs, please contact us.

This post is adapted from the article “Aligning leadership and organizational culture: the leader–culture fit framework for coaching organizational leaders,” by Levi Nieminen, Benjamin Biermeier-Hanson, Daniel Denison, in Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research (2013, Vol. 65, No. 3, 177–198).

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