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Why Leadership Coaching Works

By: Mike James


Why Leadership Coaching Works

More and more businesses are utilizing leadership team development as part of an integral approach to developing key staff. When leaders get bogged down with everyday management tasks such as planning, budgeting, organizing and even motivating staff, their own personal development and vision starts to fall by the wayside.

The common mistake in many businesses is to create space for leaders to ‘lead’ but offer no effective coaching strategy. Managers are being increasingly supported by slick cloud-based management solutions, such as the staff rota software offered by Planday. These are attractive and efficient tools aimed to free up more time in the managers day, but they don’t direct managers to overcome leadership blind spots.

Leadership coaching has seen a dramatic growth in recent years. Originally confined to the sporting world, coaching has migrated to the business world with astonishing results. While the mechanism for monitoring the effectiveness of leadership coaches are sketchy, it must be doing something because businesses are coming back for more.

What is leadership coaching?

Leadership coaching is a collaborative partnership between a coach and an executive or employee (a manager, team leader, supervisor or even a business owner). Leadership coaching effectively looks at changing behavior to transform the quality of the leader’s work and personal life. It generally involves one-on-one coaching for a specific length of time to achieve a pre-determined outcome. Leadership coaching typically focuses on enhancing performance and business outcomes.

What it’s not

Leadership coaching is commonly mixed up with other terms such as training, consulting, mentoring and career counselling. Leadership coaching is none of these and it has its own process and aims. Leadership coaching includes a high level of introspection in order to overcome sabotaging behavior. The aim is to make successful people in business more effective, and to strengthen self-confidence and well-being. While training, consulting and so forth touch on aspects of the work covered by leadership coaches, they aren’t all encompassing.

What’s the point of leadership coaching?

There are a number of reasons a business might appoint a leadership coach. These include:

  • Conflict resolution – to fix toxic behavior or personality clashes.
  • Develop the capabilities of potential high-performers and support promotion.
  • Personal development and better work/life balance.
  • Business etiquette grooming – to improve interpersonal and communication skills – there are many individuals working at high levels in business who possess underdeveloped social skills.
  • Transition management – when business requires a restructuring or a dramatic refocusing, having a skilled coach to help leaders rebuild a team can have a positive impact.
  • Employee development from the top down – a cascade effect on development of staff within the organization.

What does leadership coaching involve?

Initially, leadership coaching involves an in-depth assessment to develop a development plan. The assessment process will identify the executive’s strengths and weaknesses so the development plan can be adapted accordingly. This process also works well when looking at teams and how they can work more effectively together to accommodate differing personalities and skill sets.

The initial assessment helps to uncover behaviors or routines that are blocking an individual’s development. Input from team members is also usually required for a leadership coach to confirm personality traits and enable effective analysis of progress moving forward.

Once the information gathering stage is complete, there is usually a series of de-briefing sessions to feedback data gathered from other people in the organization. The next phase consists of goal setting followed by coaching on how to achieve those goals. Finally, achievements are measured and reported. Longer term development plans are often implemented following the successful coaching.

Why does it work?

  • Objective – leadership coaches are not entrenched in company culture and can focus on achieving results without worrying about a conflict of interests. And because coaches aren’t from within the company, there is generally a greater level of honesty and open-ness in the coaching process.
  • Honest feedback – as managers progress in their careers, candid feedback is often lacking, leaving blind spots in critical leadership competencies.
  • Personalized – large-scale training adopts a one-size-fits-all approach, so opportunities for personal development are missed. Leadership coaching is geared to the individual.
  • Timing – crucially it’s set at the right time and pitched at the right level.

What are the benefits?

  • Greater productivity and bigger profits
  • Awareness of beliefs or actions that may be holding you back
  • Confidence to make big decisions
  • Ability to gain perspective and see blind spots
  • Making critical decisions quickly
  • Emotional support
  • Support for dealing with conflict, management and delegation
  • Learn how you can improve
  • Gain insight into things your staff won’t tell you

How do you find a good leadership coach?

Just as in a therapeutic relationship, there needs to be good chemistry between you and your leadership coach. If you really want to grow and improve you’ll likely be looking at some cold hard truths. To this end, you need to be working with a coach you can trust. Recommendations are obviously a tried and tested avenue for finding someone you can work with. Observe how a coach works by looking at his or her social media and blog posts.

It’s worth noting that coaching doesn’t work for everyone. Sometimes consultancy or therapy are better options. It will depend highly on the type of person you are and your level of trust.

Ultimately, leadership coaching is a blend of therapy, board discussion and something akin to an athlete’s training session on a mental level. It should take you to a new visionary level.

Published: May 1, 2017

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Mike James

Mike James is an independent business writer, digital marketing professional and student of management behaviour – using data from HR specialist Planday for this and a series of other advice-based articles. Follow @Planday on Twitter and Facebook.

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