14 Coach Culture THE HEADLINE TEST In 2016, Neil Scotton, PCC, International Coach Federation, Co-Founder of the One Leadership Project and Dr. Alister Scott published an article ‘Three Minutes to Midnight: What’s the Point of Coaching’ and refer to “ ‘cultures of fear’; places where ‘if you care about your future, you don’t tell the boss the real story.’ There were examples of careers damaged by whistleblowing... A simple truth emerged that if a leader makes us ‘feel on edge,’ chances are others feel it too, and the truth will not be spoken to them. And that has big consequences.” In a coaching culture, the organization would feel free to ask “How would this headline read?” Perhaps there is another way... A NEED FOR CONTROL The rationalizations don’t stop at employees. Managers have to rationalize their behavior, too. It can sound like “For my department to perform, I need to control how my employees do things, or what they say or who they interact with, and I can’t possibly allow for additional innovation that may not produce great results.” They’re feeling the pressure, too. Not only do they have to be first among equals—they feel pressure to be the best on their team, or their job’s at risk—they also have projects that they have to run. This contributes to a need to control; a death grip on every employee. There isn’t room for innovation. In most Fortune 50 consumer companies, when new ideas are proposed, if such new ideas cannot achieve a billion-dollar market, it is often discarded. Investments in R&D and other resources require great discretion, and there is no room for minor innovations.
Introduction 15 THE CHALLENGE OF DELEGATION An article that was originally published in the Nov-Dec 1974 Harvard Business Review (HBR), and reprinted in 1999, that has been one of the publication’s two best-selling reprints ever—“Management Time: Who’s Got the Monkey?” by William Oncken Jr. and Donald L. Wass, discusses the challenge of delegation. A coaching conversation could create the awareness for the leader that they were accepting assignments from their subordinates. The manager feels the pressure to run the project, to perform the best, to control communications and innovations—and they end up unable to grow and focus on their own strengths. They’re too busy doing everyone else’s job. They have to, in this kind of company. Of course, they feel stuck. They’re not growing, they can’t add new talent, there are no openings for new opportunities or creativity. Their job might not be as much at risk as others’ (although remember, no guarantees), but when anyone is let go, the manager takes over their workload. That’s exhausting, and they have to dig their fingernails even further to control their team—which is, of course, a vicious cycle. There’s a resignation at their level: “This is as good as it’s going to get. This is what I have to do. This is the way it has to be...” For ten years, I was an internal coach at a Fortune 10 company. I was the head of a community of practice numbering ‘450 internal coaches’. These people were not exclusively coaches, but it was a portion of their role; they used peer coaching or coached as a leader in their daily work. I was the only person who was exclusively a coach. I heard and saw a lot during my time there.