What do Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Eric Schmidt, and Michael Phelps all have in common (besides achieving incredible success)? They’ve all received help from coaches, even well into their careers. In fact, they’ve attributed much of their success to what their coaches taught them. For example, Schmidt, former CEO of Google, says of leadership coaching: “A coach listens to the situation, figures out what everyone’s doing, and helps you figure out how to be successful.” Phelps explained the help he received more succinctly: “My coach removed the word ‘can’t’ from my vocabulary.”
Companies and individuals who find themselves struggling will want to look at leadership coaching, as it improves performance at work, produces greater feelings of self-confidence, betters communication, and creates stronger personal and professional relationships. Read on to learn more about the basics of leadership coaching, the many benefits it provides, the steps coaching involves, some tips on how to implement it, and further instruction on what it does not include.
What is Leadership Coaching?
Leadership coaching (and management coaching) involves the development of key leadership skills designed to bring out the best in people. This is done all under the guidance of a coach or instructor. While coaching skills and leadership styles vary, the intent is to practice these skills, resulting in better performance. A leadership coach helps set goals, monitor progress, and provide helpful feedback to get the most out of candidates and organizations.
What Are the Benefits of Leadership Coaching?
For those wanting to reach their full potential, either individually or as a team, leadership coaching can help. Besides the benefits listed above, a leadership coach teaches people skills to resolve workplace conflict, strategies for reaching company goals, how to increase job satisfaction, and ways to improve their emotional intelligence. Leadership coaching makes for more well-rounded workers, creating leaders throughout an organization. This, in turn, makes the organization more agile and able to solve problems quickly and smoothly.
The benefits of leadership coaching can be measured as well. According to one study from the Human Capital Institute, more than half (51 percent) of companies reporting a strong coaching culture had higher revenue than companies without it. The International Society for Performance Improvement even found that leadership coaching has an impressive 221 percent return on investment. It’s clear that leadership coaching isn’t just about creating well-rounded workers. It also makes financial sense.
Different Types of Leadership Coaching
Like other types of development programs, leadership coaching can come in many styles. The coaching leadership style you choose will largely depend on the target, the overall goals, and what type of coaching is available. The following are some of the most common types of leadership coaching.
The executive coaching style, as the name implies, is geared specifically toward executive leadership. A leadership coach with this style works one-on-one with the individual to improve their leadership and management skills. Coaches usually come from outside organizations and work with the individual for a specified time or number of sessions. Most companies use executive coaching for people who are new to a leadership position. Doing so seems to pay off—one study found that executive coaching has an ROI of 788 percent.
Business coaching looks at improving leadership performance on a team basis. While coaches may work with individuals, the idea is to help teams develop strategies that will help them reach goals that the company has set. Business coaching places emphasis on working as a team and improving coordination and collaboration in the workplace.
The behavioral coaching model mainly focuses on finding long-term solutions that improve a person’s behavior. This might include implementing changes that enhance attitudes and skills affecting communication and personal interactions. The basics of behavioral coaching help leaders connect with their teams, giving them the skills they need to motivate and collaborate with others.
Like executive coaching, strategic coaching is intended for the top-level executives at an organization. Strategic coaching seeks to improve leadership development of senior leaders by focusing on long-term goals and how best to reach them. Leaders who enhance their skills can then turn around and help those they work with, creating a ripple effect that benefits the entire organization.
Leadership Coaching Steps
Leadership coaching doesn’t always follow the same pattern you might expect from employee training and development. Management coaching, in this case, goes much more in-depth, looking at people’s current skills, weaknesses, and the obstacles they’re likely to find along the way to success. A leadership coach works much more closely with people, and their results are much stronger because of that. For a better idea of what to expect from these coaches, here are the steps they tend to follow:
- Obtain Information: The first step involves a leadership coach who gathers data on who they’re coaching. That includes current performance stats, work history, and more.
- Observation: They then take the time to see how people behave in their current work environment. They may also have an in-depth one-on-one interview to get to know them better.
- Initial Feedback: The next step includes the coach giving feedback to their subjects on what they have gathered and observed so far.
- Planning: Next comes the planning step, where the coach gives people a list of practices and activities to do, usually with a deadline attached.
- Coaching: The coaching step involves a series of sessions where the coach works with their subjects through various activities, including roleplaying and active planning.
- Conclusion: The final step has the coach meeting with the person they’re helping so they can give them a complete evaluation of the process. This includes providing data and thoughts about the results and how well things went. It may even involve setting some further goals the subject can work on for the future.
Tips for Leadership Coaching
Leadership coaching doesn’t always come naturally. It’s not a simple training exercise but rather like forming a tight bond used for improvement. To find the right coaching leadership style at your organization, try the following tips.
1. Create a Welcoming Environment
Undergoing a significant change brought on by leadership coaching can make people uncomfortable. With that in mind, it’s important to create an environment where people feel comfortable and ready to open up. They should always feel safe to show a more vulnerable side. Give them plenty of support and let them know that as they take risks, they’ll get even bigger rewards in the future.
2. Emphasize Experience
Many people might not know that they’ve already had numerous learning experiences throughout their careers. Feel free to focus on past events in the team member’s life, helping them reflect on what they learned. Talk about their successes and failures and look for ways to learn from the times they came up short. Finding these learning moments from the past can help people see their future opportunities.
3. Allow Growth
Growing is a process of collaboration. Simply giving orders doesn’t help people reach their full potential. Instead, ask questions that encourage the subject to come up with the answers on their own. When team members need further direction, provide options for them to choose from. Coaching is more like teaching and not as much like delegation. You need to foster that growth at all times, especially with those who need more support than others.
4. Let Team Members Prioritize Their Work
At the same time, people should be able to choose their own agenda and goals. If someone wants to learn how to enhance their communication skills, let them follow that pursuit. A coach’s plan shouldn’t dominate the subject’s. While there may be times when a coach needs to step in and refocus the individual, this should be done sparingly and only after considering the overall impact it will have.
5. Walk the Walk
All coaches must practice what they preach. A coach who doesn’t set an example through their actions will find it difficult to get others to follow them. Show that your advice and methods get results through what you do. Benjamin Franklin probably put it best when he said, “A good example is the best sermon.”
Leadership Coaching Is Not:
- Career counseling. It does not find the right job for a person. However, it does help people succeed and improve in the position they currently have.
- Training. Leadership coaching invites reflection on the past and goals for the future. Business trainers usually don’t work with an individual on such a personal level.
- Consulting. A coach isn’t always hired to solve a specific problem. They’re hired in part to help others find the solution.
- A mastermind group: A mastermind group, while useful, doesn’t focus as much on developing leadership and usually involves people who have already established themselves as leaders.
Leadership Coaching is a Recipe for Success
“I believe that wherever there is mastery, coaching is occurring, and whenever coaching is done, mastery will be the outcome.” Those are the words of coach and author Andrea J. Lee. With leadership coaching, companies prepare a foundation for success in the future. Leaders also gain more confidence in their abilities, which results in high performance for all. Coaching produces the results professionals want and prepares them to meet challenges they have yet to encounter.
For more leadership ideas and inspiration, be sure to check out this helpful business podcast list.