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A Coaching Culture By Heather Mausz

Instilling a Coaching Culture

Many organizations have made a strategic decision to depart from the traditional employee performance review system in favor of the more growth-minded option of coaching. In coaching, an employee is paired with a senior employee who works with them on their career progression.

For decades, organizations have evaluated employees based on their previous performance, often setting goals and determining promotions, bonuses, and even job security based on whether the employee met those goals. In this model, supervisors maintain a familiar cycle: set goals, measure goals, then administer punishment or reward.

In recent years, organizations have realized that employees perform better when they are seen as individuals worthy of an investment of time, thoughtful input, and follow-up. Both employees and organizations are benefitting from a culture of coaching instead of performance measurement. Employees are happier and grow faster in their careers, while organizations benefit from team members who enjoy their jobs, strive for the next goal, and have resources to turn to for help.

Coach vs. Mentor

While many organizations use the terms “coach” and “mentor” interchangeably, the roles differ quite a bit. Imagine you are a soccer coach. Your role is to pay attention to the players, identify their strengths and potential, and coach them on how to achieve their goals. One player may seem to excel at defense but despise playing that position, losing steam quickly. Another may show great potential for offense but lack the confidence.

Coaches become aware of their players’ unique attributes not only through observation but also because they are willing to listen to each player’s wants and needs. And while coaches’ relationships with players exist on the field, they aren’t responsible for the players’ school or home experiences. Coaches have a defined role and the relationship has parameters, often only lasting for a finite period.

Much like that scenario, the relationship between a coach at work and the employee being coached is less personal in nature. Instead, it is laser-focused on helping the employee achieve his or her goals. It’s not about coaches sharing their own life experiences or projecting their own wants for that employee onto their plan for success. Rather, the role of coaches is to listen to the employees’ needs and wants and help them identify ways to meet their goals.

In fact, many organizations find it beneficial to assign a coaching relationship that doesn’t involve a supervisor coaching a direct report. Then the coach is less likely to provide guidance based on his or her own professional bias.

Engaging and Encouraging Millennials

It’s important to keep in mind that the percentage of Millennials in the workforce is growing. Millennials have many positive qualities to add to a team, and organizations can amplify their strengths by assuring their core needs are met.

Millennials typically welcome regular feedback, seek opportunities for upward momentum, desire affirmation, and want to know how to navigate the path ahead. A coaching program is well-suited to the Millennial workforce because it allows them to be seen as individuals with a voice who are worth the time and effort it takes to troubleshoot, determine helpful resources, map out next steps, offer solutions, and determine what’s needed to rise to that next professional level. A coaching program focuses on positivity, encouragement, and support, which fits right into the Millennial’s wheelhouse.

Assessing Your Organization’s Approach

Though upper management at some organizations may not be keen on changing the way they’ve always handled performance reviews, it’s important to make organizational decisions based on the current professional landscape. The employees who will contribute most positively to your organization need to be fulfilled in three essential ways:

  • Employees should feel valued.
  • Employees should feel motivated.
  • Employees should be equipped to succeed.

A coaching program is an essential component in helping employees obtain fulfillment in those three areas because of the time, goal-setting, positive affirmation, career mapping, and resources provided by this type of program versus the traditional performance review process.

Employees who feel fulfilled and dedicated will work harder, be a positive influence on their peers, and take their contribution to your organization to new heights, eventually moving on to be influential coaches themselves.


Heather Mausz is Vice President of Talent Management at CapinCrouse, a national full-service CPA and consulting firm devoted to serving nonprofit organizations. Heather has over 18 years of experience in the fields of recruiting, talent development and coaching and provides a range of talent management consulting services.


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