The leadership path is one laden with obstacles, setbacks, disappointments, missed opportunities and a torrent of risk. Given the changes occurring across all industries due to the advent of technology and the challenges that lie ahead with regards to workforce patterns and organizational cultures, there is a great sense of urgency to identify and develop executive leaders who can effectively position their organizations for success.
One of the most powerful leadership development strategies for building a leader’s competitive edge is coaching. In this article, we will look at leadership development and the role of bespoke executive coaching to facilitate its growth.
Executive coaching can greatly inform and impact leadership growth and organizational success by zoning in on the development of specific leadership qualities required for success. In addition to consolidating executive skills, coaching is also significantly impactful for employers and managers who, in addition to their daily duties, are now being tapped to lead self, lead others, lead change, and lead for results. These new requisite competencies can be greatly enabled through targeted individual leadership development, via coaching, conducted in concert with other developmental strategies.
According to Medium, U.S companies spend over $14 billion a year on leadership development. Most VP-level and up have been through some sort of leadership development program at some point in their career.
Leadership Coaching, however, is a collaborative, individualized relationship between a leader and the coach — the leader could well be an executive, manager, supervisor, team leader or business owner for example — anyone in charge or responsible for a group of people. The aim of the partnership is to bring about sustained behavioral change and transform the quality of the leader’s working and personal life.
Before we delve into the benefits of leadership coaching, let’s understand what the Institute of Leadership Coaching says about what leadership coaching is NOT:
It is not technical guidance although it is true to say that some coaches have a strong technical background.
It is not career counseling although many coaches certainly assist in helping leaders find the right fit and match for their talents and strengths.
It is not consulting (although the boundaries between coaching and consulting can often be blurred) where the consultant is really seen as the expert who comes in to solve a problem and give advice. Coaches on the other hand, prefer to ask questions and assist the leader to find their own solution.
It is not mentoring with someone who has trod the journey before. In this way, mentors are often informal supports either within or outside the organization, but they have done the journey and typically have the wisdom of experience on their side. However, they can often be compromised with the company on the one hand and the needs of the ‘mentee’ on the other. Further, mentees are somewhat loath to bring up issues with them that might be considered ‘career limiting.’ Coaches instead, are generally hired from outside the team or organization, have a broad range of experience and are skilled at managing discussions that might be deemed sensitive or ‘off limits.’
It is not training. Training usually does not involve reflection and introspection; it is usually not tailored to the individual and trainers are often not aware of the intricacies of human nature that undermine or sabotage behaviour (including success) or that bring about an individual’s downfall.
TLDGrouplnc, a leadership development group, outlines six benefits of executive coaching when exercised properly:
One benefit is to retain valuable leaders. This is because, dissatisfaction with potential for career development is a leading reason executives leave their organisations. Executives who receive coaching often feel more valued, cultivate a stronger connection to their organizations and take upon themselves a greater sense of commitment to their jobs.
It is also beneficial when a company is undergoing growth or change. The skills necessary to successfully lead an organization can shift dramatically when the organisation enters a new stage of growth, shifts strategy, enters a new market, faces an evolving competitive landscape, is acquired, or merges with another organisation. Coaching can assist executive leaders in adapting to change more quickly and competently.
Thirdly, as a succession planning tool, executive coaching is essential for leadership development. Talented individuals being groomed for leadership roles may excel in some areas, but may need improvement in other skills before promotion to a senior role.
Onboarding is also a benefit executive coaching provides when an executive is being promoted or moved to a new role. Coaching can provide a newly-hired or promoted executive with critical strategies for learning about the organization, including its culture and politics, understanding expectations of the new role, getting familiar with processes and practices, and developing new relationships.
Executive Coaching can also step in when training courses or internal ‘mentors’ are not options. Senior executives may be hesitant or unable to attend training courses or other ‘en masse’ learning events or may simply prefer individualized, one-on-one development. In some instances, these executives may also feel that they should already have the skills or expertise in question. In these situations, coaching can be preferable since it is a confidential, personal, and ‘safe’ development option where the individual is using an objective, external person to help them with their development.
Last but not least, executive coaching greatly assists with cultural alignment. It can support executives arriving from other organizations and/or other countries as they adjust to a new culture. Many organizations offer this type of on-boarding or assimilation coaching for an executive’s first few months. It can also help align seasoned executives to the new culture that the organization is striving to create.
Companies which invest in coaching for their leaders regularly experience a significant return-on-investment. The ICF Global Coaching Client Study Executive Summary (April, 2009) reported that an organization can typically expect a return of seven times the initial investment of a coaching engagement. Coaching, as a development tool, helps to build and strengthen leadership competencies such as teamwork, communication, collaboration, and productivity, inevitably improving the efficiency and overall quality of the organization’s bench strength.
Roughly 25 to 40 percent of Fortune 500 companies seek out executive coaches, according to the Hay Group, an international human-resources consultancy. Coaching helps build behavioral competencies that drive bottom-line business results, including cost reduction and overall profitability. Coaching can also improve the job satisfaction, engagement, and working relationships of those who receive coaching. Executive coaching for leaders is undeniably a worthy development strategy that enables organizations not just to manage change but to embrace and thrive in it.
Though seasoned leaders are usually adept in things like charting complex stakeholder environments and allocating resources to address business priorities, we must not overlook how the development of coaching skills can benefit us as leaders and employees. Here are four strategies that leaders have to keep in mind when considering executive coaching in the workplace for themselves and their staff.
- Coaching should be bespoke in regards to the nature of the person being coached.
Coaching should be based on the needs of the recipient, not the coach. To do this, leaders must seek out coaches with a heightened sense of self-awareness and an understanding of how they can be perceived by others. From this level of self-understanding, coaches can begin to recognize the interpersonal preferences of their coaching recipients and adapt their coaching style accordingly.
- Coaching is not a transfer of information, but a conversation.
Leaders should remember that coaching is not just a transfer of information from coach to recipient, but a conversation. Coaching conversations should have a cadence where both parties are asking questions, providing insight into their perspective and experience and developing a plan for the future that both parties are invested in. To enable these conversations to occur, we as leaders must seek out coaches that listen to the people we are coaching and create an environment where coaching recipients feel comfortable enough to be vulnerable about the areas they need help in.
- Coaching to help identify development opportunities in leaders and teams.
Coaching conversations create a dynamic where leaders get increased visibility of issues their team members are struggling with. This visibility allows leaders to stave off issues before they become unwieldy and out of control. Essentially, coaching allows leaders to glean insights about their team’s operations and morale that they would not receive otherwise, which helps them manage their team’s priorities in a more effective way.
Like all other leadership skills and tools, professionals should remember that coaching is a tool that can help managers empower their employees to reach for new levels of effectiveness in achievable and sustainable increments.
- Coaching should seek to churn out responsive and adaptive leaders.
As leaders we should seek out coaches with a firm mandate to strengthen leaders and employees’ autonomy and independence, thereby preparing them to adapt to new challenges. Becoming proactive and anticipating change will become more and more indispensable to survive in our highly competitive economy. Thus, it is very crucial to imbibe these qualities through executive coaching
So why coaching in leadership development? Simple: To help consolidate and elevate us as leaders to be of more impact in our personal and professional lives.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specialising in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
Dzigbordi has been featured on CNN for her entrepreneurial expertise. She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017.
She can be reached on [email protected] and @dzigbordikwaku across all social media platforms.