How Coaching Begets Coaching

This article was originally published on BlessingWhite’s website.

Many organizations aspire to build a ‘coaching culture’ in which each manager not only shares experiences and insights with their direct reports but also relies on coaching opportunities to boost performance.  Organizations that have achieved this lofty goal report increases in both contribution and satisfaction among team members, with each employee benefiting from the experience of their manager.

BlessingWhite’s most recent research on coaching (**) points to the strong correlation between a manager receiving coaching from their manager and their commitment to, in turn, coach their own team members.

This will come as no surprise to organizational development professionals. It is a classic example of the ‘20%’ in the famous 70/20/10 equation, in which 20% of learning comes from seeing behaviors modeled by colleagues, typically one’s immediate manager.

Coaching is a skill that is best developed by experiencing it oneself, and having a manager model what effective coaching looks like.  Managers who report receiving coaching themselves will, in turn, spend more time and see greater returns from their own coaching.

Time commitment and learning to love coaching

Overall 79% of managers agree(*) to the statement “I love to coach”. This drops to 76% for managers who report not receiving coaching from their own manager, but jumps to 83% amongst those who do.

Commitment of time to coaching is also correlated in the same way: only 54% of managers who receive coaching agree with the statement “I spend about the right amount of time coaching team members.”  For managers who do receive coaching, their commitment of time is much higher with 65% agreeing.

Expectations and belief

But the biggest gap is around expectations and belief.  Here, 69% of managers who do not receive coaching say that they personally are expected to coach and develop their teams.  If the manager receives coaching themselves, then 90% report being expected to coach and develop others.

Managers who are not coached by their manager are 54% likely to agree that “there is an established belief in my organization that coaching by managers leads to greater business results,” whereas managers who are coached by their manager are 75% likely to agree.

In both cases, this represents a 21-point difference between the two groups.

It is worth noting that the immediacy of the manager setting expectations (i.e. my manager coaches me therefore I am expected to coach and develop others myself) is higher than the overall organizational belief in coaching.




This confirms the importance of middle managers modeling coaching behaviors when it comes to building an overall culture of coaching.  64% of all managers report that there is an established belief that coaching drives higher performance in their organization.  Yet, of these, only half (55%) report receiving coaching from their immediate manager, pointing to a large gap between belief and practice.  The impact of the immediate manager should not be underestimated.  But naturally, to be truly impactful, there needs to be both an organizational commitment and local action by the immediate manager.



These coaching behaviors hold steady and hold true:  the same 5 behaviors were rated top and in the same order when BlessingWhite conducted previous research into coaching dynamics in 2009.  It points to an agreement on the critical items of clarity and sticking to a process, but also highlights a gap in addressing the coachee’s needs for recognition and inclusion.

Based on my earlier research, we have highlighted how organizational belief and individualized coaching relationships were at the heart of building a coaching culture.  Most often, a trusting relationship and good intent in coaching will be a much greater asset than coaching skills alone.  To these we can add the importance of having a role model who can demonstrate what good coaching looks like to boost the confidence of individual managers.


(*) Throughout this article the term ‘agree’ refers to respondents who answered ‘Agree’ or ‘Strongly Agree’ to the question asked.  This is based on a Likert 5 point scale.

Based on an analysis of 1,806 survey responses of which 682 were manager responses.  Coaching behaviors in bottom table based on a recent sample over 3,700 coach and coachee responses.

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