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The future of people development: Using coaching to build culture

Understanding how coaching factors into the future of people development can help you lay the groundwork for the workplace culture you hope to create.


All across organizations, and around the world, there’s a consistent demand for one resource: answers. Answers to questions like: how do I get promoted? how do I handle a difficult colleague? how can I grow as a manager? Answers have, for decades, seemed like the most valuable currency to fuel professional growth.


A new report suggests that this paradigm may be changing – that questions are becoming as coveted a resource to catalyze people development. The Future of Coaching study, conducted by RedThread Research and licensed by Torch, explores the ways in which coaching is exploding across industries, and with it the idea of a coaching culture. This is a culture that prizes questions as tools for growth, and one that utilizes inquiry to drive success.


“During this study, the term “coaching culture” came up a lot – describing everything from managers having the ability to coach their teams to developing a culture of feedback,” wrote Dani Johnson, co-founder of RedThread and author of the research. “Organizations are looking for ways to infuse the benefits of coaching into the culture.” The report identifies nine different coaching styles currently being used by organizations, focused on supporting individual effectiveness, group effectiveness, and organizational effectiveness.

Coaches are trained not to tell you the answer, but to help you locate that answer inside yourself through structured questioning. And indeed, part of learning leadership is learning to discover and chart your own answers to questions.


Some researchers have long appreciated the power of questions as people and leadership development tools. “I have now come to believe, after listening to hundreds of managers discuss difficult decisions of personal and professional responsibility, that the most useful guidance involves asking questions, not giving answers,” Harvard Business School Professor Joseph Badaracco, the author of many books on leadership, has said.


What’s newer is our understanding of another role questions can play – relationship-builders. Indeed, research suggests that asking more questions of others increases our likability, and it can accelerate our ability to form close bonds with each other. And this is another reason why coaching may be so popular at the moment: the report cites ‘connection and engagement’ as one of the most common reasons why leaders are investing in coaching, noting that coaching, at its core, is about building relationships between people. Other goals included using coaching to support personalized development, to navigate organizational change, and to experiment with the developmental impact of offering it to different groups of people.


Johnson, too, thinks coaching resonates right now “because the world is uncertain. We’re all looking for ways to connect with each other and we’re all looking for direction. Coaching helps us do both.”

To learn more about the Future of Coaching, you can read the report here, or you can listen to me and Dani talk about it here.

The Immediate Future of Coaching Report by RedThread Research Sponsored by Torch