10 characteristics of a Coaching Culture

Creating a coaching culture in your school requires a clear vision of what that might look like. Most of the literature around coaching describes one-to-one relationships but it is worth thinking about the culture of the organisation as a whole. In reflecting on the characteristics of a coaching culture I have just come across a great read “Making Coaching Work”[1]. This book, although perhaps more focused on corporate organisations, certainly made me think. So adapting their ideas, here are 10 characteristics which in my view together describe that vision for schools.

  • Everyone in the school signs up to the belief that learning is critical to organisational and individual success. “Deep learning” is promoted as an investment in excellence.   Leaders use language to emphasise this commitment.
  • A major responsibility of all leaders and managers is to develop others and to create a learning environment. Leaders and managers are held to account and are rewarded for success in this area.
  • Teachers and educational support staff coach one another to share knowledge, to pass on expertise and to help one another, and also to raise their own standards and general standards of professionalism. People are rewarded for knowledge sharing.
  • Wherever possible decision-making is devolved to those who are closest to having to implement the decisions. People are given freedom to take risks and set their own goals. Roles and accountabilities are clear and explicit.
  • The leaders in the school are skilful in their use of non-directive leadership, that is they employ a coaching style with peers and colleagues.   Those with line-management responsibilities use a coaching style in the way they manage staff on a day-to-day basis.
  • The work of the school takes place predominantly through teams and team-working. Membership of the team is based as much on individual interests and passions as it is on an individual’s formal role, expertise and status. “Diagonal” teams are common. Team success is rewarded and valued more than individual success.
  • Those with the most energy, irrespective of their position and status, lead teams. Teams are characterised by an atmosphere of openness; there is respect for and interest in everyone’s views.
  • Hierarchy is lightly held.
  • All employees are comfortable in giving and receiving feedback. People challenge and support each other regardless of the other’s role or position in the school.
  • Having a mentor or a coach is seen as normal. The style and structure of any mentoring and coaching is matched to individual’s needs at a particular point in time.

[1] Clutterbuck, D and Megginson, D; “Making Coaching Work: Creating a coaching culture” CIPD, 2005