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Creating a Coaching Mindset in Organizations

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Thursday, September 27, 2018
Updated: Wednesday, September 26, 2018

*** By Allison Holzer, InspireCorps ***

Leaders today invest in coaching more than ever before. In fact, between 25 to 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies hire executive coaches. According to a recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article on the subject, leaders “see personal involvement in the development of talent as an essential activity for business success.”

Research supports the investment in coaching in organizations, with meta-analytic reviews showing that coaching significantly increases “performance and skills, well-being, coping, work attitudes, and goal-directed self-regulation” (Theeboom, Beersma & Van Vianen, 2013).

In today’s highly competitive and turbulent market, organizations cannot afford high turnover or the loss of their greatest talent, so there has been an increasing priority on attracting, retaining, and cultivating top talent.

Coaching is seen as a key strategy in doing this. Managers who are either trained to coach internally or hire external coaches do so to invest in and accelerate the performance of their top talent and steady performers.

In our experience collectively, leaders don’t just hire coaches to retain and accelerate the performance of their top talent. Leaders hire coaches because they want their teams to think and act like coaches.

Coaching Mindset Contagion

On a personal note, I first fell in love with coaching in 2006. Participating in a coaching certification course changed my orientation to the world, my mindset, and what I saw as possible for both myself and others.

Prior to that time, I had more rigid views of myself and the world, often judging myself harshly for setbacks or making fear-based decisions. The process of both coaching and being coached shifted my mindset to allow more flexible and growth-oriented views of myself and the world, being more empathetic and emotionally agile, learning from setbacks, and making decisions based on resonance.

After speaking with hundreds of coaches over the years, I have found that this experience is not uncommon. There is power in the process of being coached — it can fundamentally shift how one views oneself and others in a way that has positive ripple effects going forward.

I believe that this coaching mindset and the opportunity for positive change is what leaders seek when they hire external coaches. They do so with the hope that the process will fundamentally shift those who go through it in a transformational way that leads to more effective decision-making, better problem-solving, greater well-being, and more flexible approaches. These shifts benefit not only the client, but also the team and organization at large.

Companies that want to cultivate a coaching mindset culture do not have to send all of their employees to coach training programs, though. These mindset shift and skills can be learned through the process of being coached or even through an internal company training or peer-coaching program that focuses on key characteristics.

Five Characteristics of a Coaching Mindset

Although a coaching mindset includes many different qualities, the following five characteristics align tightly with organizational success. The majority of our clients over the past five years have identified these characteristics as top priorities for their talent to ensure business success:

1. Deep, Full-Body Listening

Coaches are trained to listen deeply with their bodies, eyes, and ears. They listen to what clients are saying verbally and look for what’s being communicated non-verbally. They listen for “resonance” — the emotion behind the words.

And they listen to their own bodies as clues for what is happening for clients. Leaders who more deeply tune in to their team, their customers, and their stakeholders have a better understanding of their needs. This leads to stronger interpersonal connections and better decision-making.

2. Radical Curiosity  

Coaches learn how to ask powerful questions. These are questions that have no clear answer and cannot be answered with a “yes” or a “no.” Instead, powerful questions open up clients to think about a problem differently.

The most powerful questions are those that make clients stop in their tracks, get quiet, and go deep to answer them. Radical curiosity and deep, full-body listening are essential elements of empathy, which has been shown in recent research to be directly linked to commercial success in business.

3. Practical Empathy

Coaches are trained to be empathetic, but in a practical way — with some emotional distance from their client. This allows them to get into their clients’ heads and hearts to understand what they are experiencing without getting pulled in too far. They learn how to be empathetic without experiencing “compassion fatigue.”

Empathy is a critical skill in coaching and in business. As I wrote in a recent InspireCorps blog post and according to a recent HBR article and the 2015 Global Empathy Index ratings: “there is a direct link between empathy and commercial success.”

4. Possibility Focused  

Coaches learn to be possibility focused, rather than problem-focused. They look for emotional “resonance” — what is leading to excitement, joy, optimism.

Leading coaching researcher Anthony Grant has studied the impact of solution-focused versus problem-focused orientation in coaching. He has found that when people focus on possibility and future solutions, they create more concrete and actionable plans towards achieving their goals. A possibility focus can benefit everyone, from managers working with their team in performance reviews to employees generating new ideas for a product launch.

5. Relationship First

Coaching is often referred to as a way to accelerate performance. However, at its core, coaching is about the person first and foremost and the coaching relationship — a relationship that focuses on strengths and possibilities. When the person feels supported, inspired, and motivated through the coaching relationship, the growth in performance happens as a result.

Leaders at all levels struggle with many personal challenges that can affect their business. And it can be lonely at the top, especially for women. The process of coaching often reminds people of their own humanity, the importance of seeking support from others, and cultivating key relationships.

How a Coaching Mindset Leads to Business Results

My appreciation for the impact and power of coaching is rooted in both personal and professional experiences. The positive paradigm shifts I’ve seen my executive clients and their teams go through as a result of developing a coaching mindset includes greater emotional agility and empathy, more flexibility and openness, stronger resilience, and better decision-making.

In a business environment characterized by a fast-paced culture and rapid change, hiring an executive coach and developing a coaching mindset is one of the most sustainable, cost-effective, and agile interventions a leader can make today. It is not only an investment in the performance of that leader, it is an investment in a mindset shift that can lead to cascading positive impact across the organization.



Braunstein, K., & Grant, A. M. (2016). Approaching solutions or avoiding problems? The differential effects of approach and avoidance goals with solution-focused and problem-focused coaching questions. Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 9(2), 93-109.

David, S. (2016). Emotional agility: Get unstuck, embrace change, and thrive in work and life. Penguin.

Holzer, A.A. (2017). Empathy Works and You Can Work It. Inspired Insights:

Parmer, B. (2015). The Most (and Least) Empathetic Companies. Harvard Business Review:

Pudrovska, T., & Karraker, A. (2014). Gender, job authority, and depression. Journal of health and social behavior, 55(4), 424-441.

Pritchard, M. (2016). Executive Coaching: The FORTUNE 500's Best Kept Secret. LinkedIn:

Theeboom, T., Beersma, B., & Van Vianen, A. E. (2013). Coaching in Organizations–A Meta-Analytic Review of Individual Level Effects. In Academy of Management Proceedings (Vol. 2013, No. 1, p. 11881). Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510: Academy of Management.

Waytz, A. (2016). The Limits of Empathy. Harvard Business Review:

Weintraub, J. & Hunt, J. (2015). 4 Reasons Managers Should Spend More Time on Coaching, Harvard Business Review:

Tags:  coaching  effective leadership  HR coaching  hr leadership 

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Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDOs) – Helping Employees Become Better Versions of Themselves

Posted By Editor, Laurie, Wednesday, May 24, 2017
Updated: Thursday, June 1, 2017

HR West Blog: Contributed by Mike NormantContributed by Mike Normant - HR West Blog

I wanted to share a few thoughts on a book I’ve recently read called “An Everyone Culture – Becoming a Deliberately Developmental Organization” by Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey. This book is exciting for organizations that want to create a culture where people can become better versions of themselves while doing great work and driving highly successful business results. Deliberately Developmental Organizations (DDOs) place a strong emphasis on raising self-awareness across all employees.

Continue reading this article on the new HR West Blog!




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How to Empower Your Employees & Provide Opportunities for Growth

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, August 12, 2015

By Susan Hunt Stevens - founder and CEO of WeSpire

Engaging employees has never been easy – especially in today’s always-connected world where it’s harder than ever to ensure employees are focused, empowered and engaged. But this isn’t an issue to be taken lightly. Much of the research and industry analysis being published today proves organizations that are able to successfully engage their workforce are higher-performing and more profitable. Beyond that, an engaged workforce can also drive increased shareholder value, productivity, innovation and bottom-line performance, all while reducing human resources costs related to hiring and retention.


As the workplace modernizes, employees expect and demand that their employers provide opportunities for empowerment and personal growth, leading to more fulfillment in and outside of the workplace. But if you’re like many of the organizations WeSpire works with, getting started on the pathway to employee engagement is often the hardest part. Here’s how you can take a page from the most successful organizations’ playbooks. These companies understand the increasingly important roles of purpose, positive impact and great managers in driving engagement:


1. Implement tools that improve the work experience.

As much as organizations would like to have engagement just “happen,” employees need tools, solutions, and programs that support their efforts in and outside the workplace, and that help transform one-time actions into committed habits for long-term positive impact. The options here are endless, but one that has worked particularly well with WeSpire clients are robust sustainability programs.

Solutions that promote recycling, composting, green commuting alternatives and more, as well as enable employees to track their actions and be rewarded or recognized for their efforts, positively drive employees’ workplace engagement, satisfaction and overall productivity. Ultimately, it’s critical not to underestimate the power of purpose and positive impact–employees who are able to get involved in activities that contribute to the greater good (whether that be connected to their company or outside communities) are often happier in their jobs and better contribute to their organizations’ bottom lines.

2. Make it social.

It’s no secret that people respond well to positive feedback and group learning. By encouraging employees to connect with each other through employee engagement platforms, they’ll be able to get advice, share ideas and support one another’s efforts. The power behind this is the network effect – or the idea that even small, individual actions can snowball to create an enormous cumulative impact that affects the company and the world.

Moreover, by introducing programs that encourage employee socialization, the greater the chance that organizations will achieve long-term positive impact. One example of this is manager interaction – which can enable managers to better connect with employees and create a two-way dialogue. Research indicates that employees with managers who communicate and care about them feel more engaged, so if you’re able to facilitate an environment where everyone can share thoughts and ideas, and managers can easily deliver frequent and regular recognition, employees are more likely to identify and appreciate the meaning in their work.

Another great example of the power of social interaction is when working toward a common goal. Think about this: if employees are being encouraged to wash their clothes in cold water (maybe as part of a sustainability effort) and can share those actions with other employees, the chances that this will become a repeat behavior increases. Regardless of how you adopt this at your organization, the social aspect of employee engagement is a key driver in improving relationships and satisfaction at work.

3. Don’t overlook individual passions.

Every organization is made up of intelligent, unique individuals, so it only makes sense that each employee is also going to have their own personal passions and interests. Work to tap into them. A great way to do this is by implementing a comprehensive volunteering program, which enables employees to participate and contribute to efforts that resonate with each of their personal goals. This could extend across everything from local park clean-ups to animal shelter visits to mentor programs for at-risk students.


These types of volunteer programs are also excellent catalysts for empowering employees to drive comprehensive, company-wide activities–such as yearly fundraisers benefiting local causes or more robust recycling efforts at company offices around the world. By giving employees the tools to take action on their passions, not only is there a greater chance that they’ll be more open to participating in new programs down the road, but they’ll have a more enhanced work experience and better add to the existing values of the organization.

To really empower employees and support personal growth, organizations need to invest in engagement programs that help individuals achieve more purpose at work and satisfaction in their relationships. While there’s no arguing that employee engagement programs will be different for each company, the most successful organizations, today and in the future, will be able to bridge the engagement gap by giving employees the resources they need to be more motivated, productive and empowered.


Originally posted in OpenView Labs.

About the Author

Susan Hunt Stevens is the founder and CEO of WeSpire, the employee engagement platform company that empowers forward-thinking global organizations to reach their greatest potential. WeSpire partners with Startup Institute to gain access to the talent in SI’s passionate alumni community.


Tags:  coaching  confidence  employee  empowerment  engagement  hiring  HR  human resources  leadership  NCHRA  recruiting  retention  workplace 

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3 Characteristics of a Focused Listener

Posted By Amy S. Powers, Wednesday, June 3, 2015

By Karen Rodriguez  Exec-Comm

Have you ever noticed that some people just seem to be better listeners than others-- engaged in your every thought; understanding your message; focused on you?

It’s called focused listening. 

Focused listening is a key factor to exuding executive presence and an important business skill. With practice and effort, anyone can become a focused listener.

Focused listening requires a combined effort from your ears, eyes, body and mind and it’s a key to being a successful leader.


Here are three characteristics of a focused listener:

  1. Focused listeners take notes (in-person or face-to-face meetings/ interviews). Taking notes helps you to concentrate your mind and compliments the speaker by showing that you’re engaged and value what he/she is saying. Notes also improve your recall of the content.
  2. Focused listeners encourage speakers (in-person or phone meetings/interviews). Show the speaker you’re listening by raising your eyebrows or nodding. You can also offer a response when the speaker pauses.
  3. Focused listeners probe for issues (in-person or phone meetings/interviews). If you’re not clear on something, ask questions!

Focused listening is an important skill that can be used in all parts of your life, whether at home, the office or in the classroom. Give these three tips a try and see how it improves your communication style.

About the Author

Karen Rodriguez joined Exec.Comm in 1999, and entered the partnership in 2009.  As the manager of the Exec|Comm brand, marketing and design efforts, Karen oversees the firm’s identity, touching all aspects of the brand (online presence and web site, web-based learning center, advertising, PR, classroom materials, and live special events). She recently introduced the firm’s blog, The Chat, and launched their quarterly lunch and learn series, The Learning Exchange.  Additionally, she manages their open-enrollment seminars in New York and San Francisco. Karen holds a B.F.A. from Parsons The New School for Design in New York City. She lives in Aberdeen, NJ, with her husband and three sons.




Tags:  blog  coaching  communication  employee  Exec-Com  executive  focused  hr  interview  Karen Rodriguez  leadership  listening  meetings  nchra  training 

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How Coaching in the Workplace Builds Leaders at all Levels

Posted By Laurie A. Pehar Borsh, Wednesday, May 20, 2015

By Melissa Asher  - CPS HR Consulting



Coaching within the workplace – a long time practice in the private sector – has finally arrived in the public sector. The cost of coaching may be an initial deterrent, but savvy organizations see it as an important strategy to developing leaders at all levels. Currently, public-sector employees are facing new and difficult challenges around cost-effective service delivery, intervention, ongoing economic stress and political polarization as well as a barrage of technological changes to keep up with and adopt. Coaching allows for individualized development rather than a one-size-fits-all group training approach to growing abilities, confidence and skills.


Coaching is an ideal way to bring about new and different ways of thinking. It is about inspiring, empowering and engaging people to establish a new level of commitment and performance. The International Coaching Federation, a leading authority on coaching, concurs with its definition:


Coaching: partnering with individuals in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.


If done well, the coaching relationship fosters an attitude and action orientation around reaching beyond the status quo. Having an objective person who will work one-on-one to solve complex workplace challenges, elicit new ideas and solutions, and help the person being coached identify blind spots is one of the most effective ways to expand learning and thinking. This can be done with external coaches as well as internally through a partnership between a manager and an employee. 


No matter the coach, the following common elements must be present for coaching to be successful:

  • Both the coach and person being coached need to be fully present and committed to moving forward in a learning mode
  • The person being coached must adopt an attitude of engagement not entitlement
  • There needs to be a commitment to building and understanding context without getting stuck in past thinking or blaming
  • The coaching sessions need to connect how thinking and behavior are related for the person being coached
  • The person being coached must embrace the possibility of self-exploration and change
  • Coaching discussions are held confidentially and should not impact a performance appraisal

These elements set up the foundation for a productive coaching relationship, in which the agenda is often focused on improving performance and technical skills rather than organizational change. A shift is needed on the part of the manager from controlling and monitoring to one that is more collaborative and nurturing, engaging the employee in a shared understanding of what needs to be achieved and how to achieve it. In all cases the focus is on improved success on the job.


Getting to a breakthrough may come quickly or may take more time. The difference comes down to two main ideas:


1.       The attitude and willingness of the employee being coached

2.       The level of trust that develops between the coach and person being coached


At the core of coaching is a trusting relationship that makes several basic assumptions about employees:

  • They want to succeed at work
  • They can contribute ideas that improve work processes and the environment
  • They will work hard to achieve goals that they have helped develop
  • They are open to learning and can see its value in terms of improved success on the job, recognition and/or reward

Likewise, the coach must adopt an attitude of openness and helpfulness that the person being coached sees as a total commitment to his or her success. There are several ways to do this. One option is to introduce new possibilities and use questions to have a conversation where the person works through what the new possibility would mean for him or her. They would then analyze the impact to those around him or her and what is trying to be achieved.


An alternative is to give honest feedback that will help a person remove a blind spot. This can be done through direct observation, observing the effects on others, or reviewing results from any number of assessments (i.e. change preference, conflict style, personality). In this case, the coach is bringing light to an action, attitude or behavior that may be producing an undesirable outcome in a way that the person can think about it and choose to make a change.


A useful coaching model that CPS HR Consulting uses is called Agreed Upon Accountability and can be applied in virtually any situation with four steps:


1.       Begin with a request

2.       Host an open conversation to reach agreement

3.       Create commitment with “by when” or “how much” defined

4.       Hold each other mutually accountable


Coaching is an effective development tool that can empower employees by building competence and confidence. It can bridge the gaps created by the steady stream of retirements, the changing workplace demographics and the call for ever greater levels of performance. What could be better than individualized skill building delivered exactly when you need it and can apply it?


To learn more about this topic, visit and sign up for CPS HR’s one-day course “Coaching Within the Workplace.”


About the Author

Melissa Asher is the training and development manager at CPS HR Consulting, a self-supporting public agency that provides a full range of integrated HR solutions to government and nonprofit clients. She runs the training center in Sacramento, California, that offers open enrollment and group training, leadership development and coaching throughout the U.S. She has more than 18 years of experience inspiring others to reach their full potential and strives to impact organizational performance by enabling clients to apply learning in their everyday lives.

Tags:  blog  building  coaching  confidence  consulting  CPS  employee  HR  leadership  Melissa Asher  morale  NCHRA  training  workplace 

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