Creating a good coaching conversation culture…

I had a great conversation yesterday with a client, an HR director of a large and complex organisation – which, like so many others, faces upheaval and uncertainty in hefty doses. This can often leave staff feeling isolated, overwhelmed and tired, and heading towards cynicism, stress and possible burnout. When I listen to individuals in this situation though, I am always struck by the underlying commitment, energy and desire that most people have to do a good job. In fact, I’ve hardly ever met anyone who doesn’t want to do a good job, given the right conditions, but that’s often not our perception when we judge other people from the place of our own busy-ness and overwhelm. It’s a frustration for everyone involved that positive motivation and energy can get buried and lost, and work can stop feeling like a team effort but more like a lonely crusade for many people (which can be exhausting and tempting to give up on). 

I am working with this organisation to bring coaching conversations (and good conversations in general) into the culture of a very busy workplace, and I’m finding it refreshing and exciting. Rather than slap everyone through a short “coaching skills” course, this organisation is taking a braver and calmer approach in taking small groups through a very experiential two days. Throughout that two days (which is residential and away from the office as much as possible), the group undertake a number of coaching conversations, and we draw out the specific behaviours and principles that work.

Participants work on real, live issues they may be dealing with at work or at home. They set up conversations in a way that builds trust.  They practice and observe each other and themselves. They give feedback. We examine what specific actions help to get the best out of these conversations.The initiative is clearly and openly supported by senior management. Whilst most of the group work in different departments and didn’t know each other well before the workshop, they are being encouraged to use each other for coaching conversations throughout their working life to support them in dealing with the ongoing challenges and issues they face in a fast paced working life.


The client describes it as building “small bonfires” to bring about culture change from within. It makes me think of old-fashioned beacons, lit to communicate and navigate between communities. There are few organisations who wouldn’t like a bit more of that I suspect.

It ties in so much with what I am currently hearing from the excellent School for Radicals course which I have mentioned before. The final session of five is happening this Friday – but the slides and recordings are available for anyone to view if you’re interested – and this is the first one:


And there is still opportunity to join us in the Creating Focus Friendly Society over on Facebook if you would like – and I will also be keeping people updated via the newsletter if they are not on Facebook.

Let’s get the kindling out!