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Influencing Stakeholders to Create a Coaching Culture

Investment in developing a coaching culture is a long-running initiative, so ensuring long-term alignment with stakeholders is critical for success. It’s important to identify who the key stakeholders are, define what support you need from them and create a strategy or plan for engaging them from an early stage.

A stakeholder is anyone in the organisation who is affected by, has an interest in, or can influence the development of a coaching culture. The key reasons to engage with stakeholders are:

  • Their decision-making power

  • Their control over resources

  • What they do or say is perceived as important

  • To ensure alignment to business strategy

Identifying your key stakeholders

Engaging with stakeholders is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach and understanding what control or influence they have will help you to decide what approach to take. Start with knowing who they are, how they might support or block the development of a coaching culture, and what it will take to gain their support.

Consider the diagram below adapted from Wilson (2011) and create a stakeholder map.

Graphic to show how to identify key stakeholder

Influencers views and opinions are considered important. What they say and do is often perceived to be a clear message of what is truly valued and important in the organisation.

Approvers control the budget or other resources and can pull the plug on projects if they don’t fully understand the intended outcomes.

Shapers help you to consider how coaching is aligned with and embedded into core business strategies. Their involvement affects how the initiative lands in the organisation.

Users are most impacted by the change. Helping them to understand how a coaching approach benefits them will be critical.

Three key elements for stakeholder support

Clutterbuck, Megginson and Bajer (2016) describe three consistent elements that are effective in gaining top-level support for developing a coaching culture.

A clear business need

Being able to articulate and communicate a clear business need is an essential starting point to engage stakeholders.

“Coaching will never move beyond a “nice to have”, HR-driven initiative at the margin, unless it contributes, and is seen to contribute, to a core business issue …” (Clutterbuck and Megginson, 2005)

Four key questions to ask as you define a business case are:

  • What are the key business priorities of the organisation?

  • What needs to happen for the organisation to be able to achieve these?

  • What skills, attitudes and mindsets will people need to develop and demonstrate to support this?

  • How will developing a coaching culture enable the development of the necessary skills, attitudes and mindsets?

These questions are best answered through an ongoing dialogue with key stakeholders that allows them to contribute to the future vision. Make sure the benefits are framed in language that’s important to your stakeholders. It may take time to bring them onboard – patience and persistence are required.

Start small

Instead of pushing hard for a large-scale culture change programme, unless there is already support for that, many organisations have grown a coaching culture organically, starting small and adopting a stepwise approach or multiphase plan. This approach can help to build understanding of what coaching is and the benefits, and the early success stories create a firm foundation for larger scale initiatives. Based on a review of what coaching is already happening, consider opportunities to build on what is working well. You might choose to start with a few targeted pilots or extend an existing localised coaching programme to a wider group, e.g., add a coaching skills workshop into existing management training, provide 1:1 coaching as part of a leadership development programme, develop the HR team as coaches so they can model this approach to managers.

Look for areas of the business that have an appetite for coaching, a business leader who is onboard and a challenge that could be resolved through a coaching approach. Consider the early pilots as experiments from which you can learn and develop ideas further.

Remember to measure the impact and share the success stories to build further interest from stakeholders to extend the initiatives.

Positive experiences of coaching

No amount of data around the effectiveness of coaching can achieve results as powerful as providing people with an opportunity to experience coaching for themselves. Many organisations that have successfully developed a coaching culture have senior leaders who found their own coaching experience to be so powerful that they wanted to sponsor it for their organisation. However, be careful in your choice of coaches to ensure they are set up for a positive coaching experience, as an unsuccessful coaching relationship could seriously harm your plans.

Strategies for engaging with stakeholders

Your specific approach to engaging with stakeholders will depend on your organisation and the norms and usual practices, as defined by the existing organisational culture, that are adopted when embarking on transformational change. Here’s a few ideas to get you started with engaging with stakeholders:

  • One-to-one meetings with stakeholders – an effective way to assess their interests, business drivers and likely barriers to gain their support, particularly in advance of a group discussion or workshop.

  • Group discussion or workshop – a helpful approach to discuss the benefits of a coaching culture, a vision and how these link to business strategies.

  • Identify a senior level sponsor – someone who is willing to talk publicly about coaching and be a visible role model.

  • Wait for a debate on other HR issues – timing may be critical for the idea of a coaching culture to land well, e.g., as the results of an employee engagement or changes to the performance management process are being discussed.

  • Case studies – find opportunities to speak to people in other companies to share ideas of what’s worked for them.

Are you interested in creating a coaching culture?

If you are ready to take the next steps to develop a coaching culture in your organisation and are seeking professional assistance, The Leadership Coaches can support you. We have experienced coaches who can help you turn this vision into a reality for your organisation.

Call us on 03450 950 480 to discuss this further.

Further reading

Creating a Coaching Culture: Developing a Coaching Strategy for Your Organization, (Open University Press, McGraw Hill) 2012, by Peter Hawkins

Building and Sustaining a Coaching Culture (CIPD) 2016, by David Clutterbuck, David Megginson & Agnieszka Bajer

How to Create a Coaching Culture: A Practical Introduction, (CIPD, HR Fundamentals) 2019, by Gillian Jones & Ro Gorrell

Coaching and Mentoring, CIPD Factsheet, June 2021. Accessed here:

Carol Wilson (2011). Developing a coaching culture. Industrial and Commercial Training, 43 (7): 407 – 414

Case studies from the annual winners of the ICF International Prism Award programme that celebrates businesses and organisations that have built strong coaching cultures. Accessed here:


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