Close the manuals, turn off the PowerPoint, and hit the free lunch buffet. Sure, now your employees are more informed from that training seminar, but is your business any better? A successful organization does more than just provide ongoing instructions; it closely monitors its culture. Just what is organizational culture?

Coaching the Culture – Moving beyond training and focusing on organizational values and beliefs instead.

According to business professor John McLaughlin, organizational culture can best be defined as “a system of shared assumptions, values, and beliefs, which governs how people behave in organizations.” Furthermore, business experts have identified seven characteristics that all organizations share. They are:

  • Innovation and risk taking (Risk Orientation)
  • Attention to detail (Precision Orientation)
  • Emphasis on outcome (Achievement Orientation)
  • Emphasis on people (Fairness Orientation)
  • Teamwork (Collaboration Orientation)
  • Aggressiveness (Competitive Orientation)
  • Stability (Rule Orientation)


Although these components of organizational culture are present in all businesses, each company places different priorities on each. A characteristic one particular organization puts a high value on may be low on the list for another. For example, some companies place a strong emphasis on out-of-the-box thinking while other companies wish for employees to maintain a standard way of doing things. The first places a high value on Risk Orientation while the second places a low value on it.

Each unique culture within an organization usually begins with the values and beliefs set forth by its founders. As soon as a company is established, a set of unwritten rules emerges that governs how things are done. Additionally, intensive training of management and employees is conducted in order to establish continuity in practices. There comes a time, however, when training alone isn’t enough. Maybe the business is no longer performing to the standard, or maybe the entire culture itself has become toxic. When issues arise, savvy managers call in a business coach. What exactly can these professionals do to improve organizational culture? Let’s explore each characteristic in turn to discover how a business coaching program can possibly work for your company.

Innovation (Risk Orientation)

Large, successful corporations such as Apple, 3M, and Pixar thrive on innovation. Does your company encourage its employees to think outside the box or does it adhere to business-as-usual practices? Establishing a routine and teaching employees to follow it, both have their place, but sometimes stagnation can develop. While training is useful for overall company operations, what employees contribute must go beyond what they gain from a book or class. When it comes to increasing innovation within your business, coaching can help you achieve the results you are looking for by:

  • Identifying and removing barriers to innovation
  • Creating a structure for developing and managing innovation in your organization
  • Developing strategic design-thinking skills
  • Mapping an execution strategy

Innovation keeps a company relevant and in demand. Any or all of these steps can increase and foster creativity in your workplace.

Attention to Detail (Precision Orientation)

How accurate do you expect employees to be with their work? Some companies place an extremely high value on completing work with precision while others do not consider it to be a particular priority. If you are looking to improve attention to detail within your organization, you may want to turn to assistance from an outside source. Along with leadership coaching, training from a qualified business coach can greatly improve a company’s Precision Orientation characteristic by helping employees at every level with:

  • Creating a detailed work plan for each position
  • Making lists
  • Planning for future projects
  • Maintaining a schedule
  • Avoiding last-minute deadlines and overscheduling
  • Using teamwork to check the quality and accuracy of work
  • Using positive mental coaching to implement positive practices

Even if you work in a business that doesn’t place a high value on this characteristic, all employees can benefit from better time management and attention to detail.


Emphasis on Outcome (Achievement Orientation)

Without set goals, a company has no real purpose. In order to be successful, a business must see results or risk ruination. The leaders of the organization must set effective and achievable results for which to strive. How though, can these types of goals most effectively be set? One tactic used in peak performance coaching is to teach and implement the SMART system of goal-setting. SMART stands for:

  • Specific – Is the goal precise?
  • Measureable – Is the progress quantitative?
  • Attainable – Is the goal within reach?
  • Realistic – Is it practical?
  • Timeline – Can it be achieved in a reasonable amount of time?

It’s natural for businesses to lose focus from time to time. A business coach is an invaluable resource for any company looking to boost results. By utilizing SMART goal setting, managers can greatly increase the positive results they are seeking.


Emphasis on People (Fairness Orientation)

“That’s not fair!” This common childhood complaint doesn’t necessarily subside as we get older. Even as adults, we never lose the sense of what’s fair and what isn’t—and the sentiment is frequently uttered in the workplace. While even the most seasoned CEO (or mom) will tell you that fair does not always mean equal, its crucial for businesses to find a balance. A good coach can assist in finding that equilibrium. How? In his article “Four Ways to Foster Fairness in the Workplace” for Entrepreneur magazine, author Marcus Erb highlights some ideas such as:

  • Reaffirm that everyone will receive an equal opportunity to be recognized.
  • Create a sense that promotions are handled fairly.
  • Add transparency and a commitment to equity to the paycheck.
  • Offer a fair appeals process.


Implementing these practices with the help of coaching and mentoring can assist executives in restoring or maintaining harmony, which no amount of instructional training can provide.

Teamwork (Collaboration Orientation)

In business, no employee is an island and no company can function efficiently without collaboration. People who work for businesses that place a high value on teamwork usually have a positive relationship with both coworkers and managers. In order to create effective teams, business improvement consultants often employ coaching programs that enable company leaders to make the most out of successful teamwork. On the business skills website Mind Tools, contributor Elizabeth Eyre features four steps a business coach might help management to implement including:

Understanding team dynamics (With help from tools such as the Myers-Briggs, DiSC, and 360-degree feedback.)

  • Establishing behavior expectations
  • Evaluating reward and recognition systems
  • Supporting individual development


From boardrooms to ball fields, working in harmony as a team almost always results in positive outcomes. Once a goal is established, wise managers know the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and can intelligently assign them corresponding tasks.

 Aggressiveness (Competitive Orientation)

Not all businesses go for the hard sell as a means to achieving results. While levels of aggressiveness vary from organization to organization however, all benefit from and are driven by profit. If you are looking to place a higher value on being competitive in the marketplace, hiring a master coach who focuses on sales may be shrewd decision.

What motivates a sales team? It ultimately comes down to the personality of each salesperson and the kind of compensation they are looking for. Nationally-recognized sales coaching and leadership expert David Steel categorizes a sales person as either a “hunter” (more aggressive) or a “farmer” (less aggressive). Both have merits and it is important to understand which type of approach mirrors your organization’s culture. “Compensation can reveal a lot,” notes Steel. “For example, an aggressive salesperson will not shy away from a compensation model that has a graduation built into it, whereas a non-aggressive salesperson will look for a compensation model that has long-term annuity and a high base versus a high commission structure.” A sales team can be trained to company standards, of course, but understanding how they sell is just as crucial. Knowing that is just as, if not more, important for success.

Stability (Rule Orientation)

In the tides of an ever-shifting marketplace, stability anchors a company and helps keep it afloat. Without a set of standards to adhere to, businesses can find themselves adrift without direction. How can organizations find and maintain a high level of stability without becoming stagnant and bureaucratic? Proper executive coaching may hold the key. In his article “Proactive Management: How to Lead, Motivate, and Stay Ahead”, Australian leadership coach David Guest writes, “In order to maintain your business’ stability, you need to motivate your staff and become their leader. If your business is at this stage of development, then it might help to call in an experienced business coach to help you make the transition from doing everything to being the person with the vision and making the big decisions on direction.”

Additionally, business coaches assist you by making sure you are:

  • up to date with HR policies and laws
  • using market strategies that are a good fit for your business
  • planning to stay stable and the best way to achieve consistent stability


If you find your company failing, look to establish tactics that will bring it back under control. Even the most established businesses have, from time to time, needed a boost back in the right direction.

No matter what the current culture is at your particular organization, things can always improve. Poor managers never look beyond instructional training. All they care about is the bottom line and how to reach it in the most efficient way possible. Successful leaders of industry on the other hand, take the time to study their company’s assumptions, values, and beliefs and how those can be used to generate profit and progress. They also rely on business coaching and executive leadership coaching to help them reach their desired goals. Before you schedule that next training seminar, take a moment to look at each characteristic of your organizational culture. It might be time to take it from ordinary to extraordinary.