How can we create teams and business environments that are open to coaching? We asked three people currently looking at this in their settings

By Alister Scott and Neil Scotton

In these times of complexity and rapid change, it’s vital for organisations to be adaptable, reflective and open to the perspectives and intelligence of others – which sounds a bit like being coachable.

If you’re reading this you will almost certainly have seen aspects of coachability: humility, openness, learning, purpose, courage. We spoke with three people looking at this in team and organisational settings.

A tough environment can be the enemy of encouraging coachability. Rusty Earnshaw at England Rugby sees the culture in many rugby clubs, where the ‘hard man’ and ‘win’ mindsets can narrow the view of success and prevent an openness to learning and change.

Rusty, a former Bath player, tells of two teams of 10-year-olds, with one club beating the other by 80 points and no-one stepping in. It challenges the role of coaches.

“Who’s learning anything?” he asks. “Do any of the coaches suggest evening up the teams, or introducing game constraints to force the winning team to be more creative?”

We asked Geoff Glover, former VP of Talent at Volvo Cars, what’s required for organisational coachability:

“First, there has to be a very real sense that there is a gap between where they are and where they need to be – if the organisation doesn’t feel this, there is no dynamic. Second, they have to believe that people or people processes are their greatest asset and the solution to the gap. Many companies feel ‘it’s all OK’. Invariably they are wrong, in my view. If they have this level of comfort, they will be unwilling to go on any kind of change journey.”

“Systemic thinking is essential given the complexity and change we see today,” says Kosmas Michail, a senior leader and UK-trained coach. Kosmas has worked in a range of organisations, including the Bank of Greece, during some extremely testing times. Thinking of systems nested within each other – the mind, relationships, organisations, nations, the global economy and natural environment – these all “work best if you have the integration of the differentiated parts or you will get rigidity and chaos; coaching is a natural tool for, and needs to be linked to, integrating these parts”, Kosmas says.

All change starts with small groups of people. For Rusty, this means enabling clusters of leaders who want to learn and are open to self-reflection and change, then sharing the learning.

For Kosmas, it is about leaning in on people, especially senior people, to make it clear that reflection and learning are conditions of their continued success in the organisation.

For Geoff, it is about organisational, team and individual reflection and appraisal, identifying dysfunctional teams and then sending in systemic team coaches to help diagnose the challenges and facilitate the team in finding their solutions. Each said much more; part of our systemic challenge is to adequately capture the richness of people’s thinking.

So it seems that creating organisational coachability, like all big change, is a balance between various pairs, indeed opposites – between top down and bottom up, directive and non-directive, being supportive, but relishing challenge, embracing the system and paying attention to the parts, celebrating individual initiative and working together – that to thrive, the organisation needs to be able to stay open, to learn and adapt.

What about the coachability of your organisation and/or organisational clients?


  • Dr Alister Scott and Neil Scotton of The One Leadership Project are helping those leading their organisations to ‘Think Beyond’ and ‘Act as One’.


Alister Scott:

Neil Scotton:

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