Leadership Coaching Positively Impacts the Individual, the Team and the Culture
In the relatively short span of time since leadership coaching hit the business world ten to fifteen years ago, the field has exploded. But exactly what is leadership coaching?In a business setting, leadership coaching focuses on helping the individual achieve business objectives by better understanding themselves and their environment and exploring options available to accelerate movement toward both professional and organizational goals.
The leadership coach, unlike a consultant with specific methods and agendas, engages with the participant to explore what is and what could be. The coach helps map a strategy to get there and helps hold the individual accountable for the outcomes. Leadership coaches have excellent listening skills and use powerful questions to help the client.
Coaching is a skill set, a perspective and a process; it’s collaborative in nature. It differs from mentoring in which the individual has walked this path before and can provide expert advice and insight. Leadership coaching skills include:
- Active listening
- Nonjudgmental reflection
- Processes that engage the client in new perspectives
- Action plan development and accountability
A managerial role is traditionally hierarchical and directive. The role coaching plays is supportive and developmental. While coaching for potential derailers (when a manager is in trouble) is a component of the mix, organizations are finding important ways to apply coaching even more positively and strategically. The initiatives we see are those focused on leadership development, especially for high potentials (rising stars) or the executive team, developing high functioning teams, and career development for talent throughout the organization. This represents a huge mindset shift, from fixing what is wrong, to supporting, encouraging and rewarding professional development. Studies clearly show the positive impact of talent development on acquisition, retention, employee and customer satisfaction and ultimately the bottom line.
So, how is your company effectively using leadership coaching? Consider the following checklist: How many of these applications are present at your company and which ones are missing?
- We provide executive coaching for the CEO and high level executives to enhance their leadership skills
- We offer leadership coaching to a targeted group of high potentials to develop their managerial and leadership skills
- We include coaching at the back end of a training program, adding time one-on-one with a leadership coach to anchor in the content and practice the information
- We offer coaching for onboarding new leaders, assimilation of new employees and those recently promoted
- We teach coaching skills to our managers
- We build high functioning teams through coaching and a thorough assessment process of our teams’ strengths and weaknesses
- We measure our results and recognize the positive and sustainable impact leadership coaching has on the organization
Integrating leadership coaching programs into your organization may be easier than you believe. With the help of expert leadership coaches, any business can begin to improve their individuals, teams and culture through the following key areas.
Leadership coaching to develop high functioning teams artfully establishes a powerful framework for exploring the team as its own entity, a system unto itself which benefits from a coach who treats the team as greater than the sum of its individual parts. “Effective team coaching focuses on the whole as a system and the interrelationships among the team members.”
Case in Point:
An experienced business coach in Canada, facilitated the merger of two executive teams as their respective non-profit associations merged into one organization. Using a team assessment for productivity and positivity, she coached them as a team to explore the dynamics they were grappling with: bringing together people with varying skills, struggling with inconsistent communication, an inefficient reporting structure and variable management practices. While helping the individuals identify their personal strengths and talents, emphasis was placed on creating awareness among the group as a team, with its own values, its own profile and dynamics and its purpose. Through the team coaching program, the participants designed a new alliance, embraced a shared vision and created processes to support that vision.
Integrating Coaching Into Strategic Programs
In addition to very targeted programs such as one-on-one executive coaching of the C-suite or executive leader to strengthen performance or work on specific kills, we find pioneering companies incorporating leadership coaching as a key component of broader business solution strategies. These programs target managers and high potentials in addition to the executive team and include leadership development, succession planning, career development, and talent retention.
Case In Point:
A technology client introduced coaching in its executive ranks several years ago resulting in powerful success – a more focused leadership and more effective executive team interactions. When a new leadership training program for high potentials was designed by the HR department, leadership coaching was added as a component. Following each workshop, the participants were given several one-hour sessions with a specially trained internal coach. These sessions were designed to help the high potential employee target specific skills for development, skills identified in a benchmark assessment. This customized coaching model – helping each high potential participant target and focus on specific skills he or she wants to develop – resulted in an increase of promotions from within, positive increases in 360 assessments of participants, and significantly less turnover.
Accelerated Learning and Sustainable Inspiration
Companies spend millions of dollars on training. The question has always been, to what effect? Leadership coaching is increasingly perceived as an essential bridge from the classroom to the office, from concept to practice, and a potent way to customize learnings that creates a meaningful and sustainable impact. Using a leadership coach to work with a program/class participant after the class (or during) helps anchor information from workshops or training, sustain the learnings with specific plans of action, and increases likelihood of application by holding the individual accountable through a coaching relationship. Ken Blanchard, management guru and visionary, incorporates coaching in his Executive MBA program, acknowledging its potency for anchoring new information otherwise lost once the class is complete.
Case in Point:
A colleague teaches a well known coaches training program, which gets high marks for content from participants. However, the majority were not completing requirements for certification. By coaching participants for two months after the classes end, our firm helped them establish an action plan for completing their certification. We coached them before and after their practice sessions with their own clients, we held them accountable for their commitments and helped them develop their own style of coaching. In less than a year, completion of the certification program rose from 50% to 90%.
The Next Frontier: Creating a Coaching Culture
Leadership coaching can thrive in all types of business environments. However, when we talk about creating a coaching culture, we are pointing to behaviors and perspectives that infiltrate the organization in which we see the fundamentals of leadership coaching – great respect for the individual and the team, excellent listening, artful feedback – cascading through the system and producing business results. Not only is this behavior present and rewarded, but there is a structured programmatic approach which deploys coaching best practices in an integrated manner.
Several markers identify an organization’s embrace of leadership coaching such that it becomes part of the cultural norm. Here are just a few indications the organization is moving in that direction:
- When coaching skills become a competency on the 360 assessment of managers,
- When training programs include coaching skills workshops for managers (powerful questions, radical listening, nonjudgmental reflection, talent development plans, etc)
- When the application of coaching is included in more than one strategic initiative, and applied to more than one set of individuals, for depth and breadth across the company,
- When the leadership team starts to refer to themselves as coaches and, more important, when they are described by their employees as leadership coaches.
So, where are you and where is your company in its application of leadership coaching as a business solution?