Leadership coaching aims at improving the impact and effectiveness of anyone in a leadership position.
Leadership coaching has become increasingly popular over the past three decades, largely because it’s the most effective form of professional development for people in leadership positions. Unlike offsite training programs, workshops, and classes, leadership coaching is highly customized, focusing on improving a person’s effectiveness in addressing their specific challenges and opportunities arising within the current work environment. Furthermore, coaching occurs regularly, usually every other week, until a client’s specific goals are achieved. This embedded approach allows a person to incorporate new behavior, perspectives, and insights from coaching over time and adjust coaching goals as they evolve and their needs change.
Leadership coaching provides leaders with individual attention, support, and feedback regularly and aims to help a person who is already performing well do even better. Engagements start with as assessment, (DISC, 360, Motivators, EQ1, Values, or Strengthfinder), which identifies strengths and opportunities for leadership development. Through this process, a leader understands their behavioral and communication style, their values, and how others see them.
This feedback centers on what a leader does very well and identifies areas of improvement that would further enhance that person’s leadership impact and effectiveness. The 360 assessment serves as the basis for setting goals for leadership coaching. Typically, this process affirms a leader’s positive performance and contributions while also generating very frank and revealing information about how and what a leader might do even better.
Regular sessions with a leadership coach provide a confidential, supportive setting for exploring how to move forward in achieving a leader’s coaching goals, as well as sorting through how to best respond to emergent opportunities and challenges.
A typical coaching session ends with an agreement about what next steps the leader will take before the following coaching session. Then the following coaching session begins with a review of the last session’s next steps. In this way, leadership coaching also provides a framework of accountability for a busy leader to ensure there is timely follow-through on completing specific actions.
Increasingly, employers realize that leadership coaching also has several organizational benefits when it comes to attracting, promoting, and retaining talent and supporting succession planning. Employers often use the offer of leadership coaching as an incentive for potential hires. In many organizations, leadership coaching is also utilized as a practical approach to successfully onboarding new hires and helping recently promoted leaders adjust to increased responsibilities and new roles.
Likewise, providing coaching to people in leadership positions also serves as an important perk that increases the identification and retention of good talent. Since leadership coaching usually involves the client’s boss in setting and reviewing coaching goals, it can also provide valuable personnel insights relevant to succession planning. And finally, leadership coaching lets a client share and sort through emergent challenges and opportunities in a confidential setting, allowing for earlier and more successful responses to both.
When leadership coaching is made available to all senior leadership team members, or even more broadly to other levels of management, the benefits can be further magnified, especially if the coaching is grounded in information produced by 360 developmental assessments. The interviews that are the basis of these assessments tend to have two distinct effects. First, they introduce a new candor level in discussions about what colleagues do well and how they might further improve. Second, being interviewed for a 360 assessment makes participants mindful that they will likely have their own 360 assessment at some point, heightening their awareness of how their colleagues would likely comment on their own strengths and areas of needed improvement.
In most cases, this dynamic results in raising the bar for professional behavior in an organization since improved behavior modeled at the top of an organization usually cascades downward. In this way, leadership coaching that is broadly and effectively utilized can also substantially improve organizational climate.