Many organizations utilize coaching as a reliable learning and development strategy as it is successful at meeting an organization’s needs; however, there are a few factors that can support a coaching program and boost its results. Before recommending that a leader be coached, consider how these factors can enhance your return on investment and contribute to the long-term success of the engagement.
1. Does the leader have organizational champions?
If a leader knows that they have organizational champions in their corner who want them to succeed, they are more likely to engage in coaching with confidence. Many organizations still consider coaching as an intervention tool used to address poor performance; however, its true power is seen when used as a tool to enhance leadership development. Champions who believe in the potential of their leaders and leverage coaching to facilitate the realization of that potential create an environment of psychological safety on behalf of the coach and coachee before they even step into the room. This sets the stage for the type of candor and vulnerability needed to engage in behavioral change.
In situations where leaders feel that coaching is unnecessary due to their prior stellar performance or their knowledge of the job, truly supportive champions are able to shine a light on strengths and blind spots with sincerity and compassion, thus increasing a leader’s receptivity to coaching. Whereas some stakeholders may offer generalized feedback or advice, champions are more likely to be specific with their input because they are personally invested in the leader’s success. Additionally, champions are likely to identify constructive and actionable feedback for the leader to focus on during the engagement which is beneficial to the coach and coachee. Champions are also more likely to leverage their organizational capital to support the leader in the achievement of the goals identified during the engagement. While coaching can be a great accelerator in a leader’s development journey, at some point the engagement will come to a close. Champions can help provide the ongoing support and accountability needed to make the learnings sustainable.
2. Does space for taking risks and making mistakes exist?
The phrase “knowledge is power” gained early popularity but over time, thought leaders have challenged this truth. Now we know that, as Dale Carnegie stated, “Knowledge isn’t power until it is applied.” Coaching is not designed to be only a series of discussions reserved for the confines of the engagement but should include time and space to try new behaviors. This means that leaders may make mistakes along the way. It is helpful to know up front that this will happen and to articulate the boundaries of this exploration so that all parties are clear.
Also, whether leaders are perceived positively or negatively, it will take time to overcome perceptions and assumptions about who they are and how they operate within the organization. As they are changing, space must be made for them to live into the new version of who they are becoming as a result of the coaching experience. Thus, it will be important to keep sources and circumstances in mind when assessing feedback about a leader’s progression.
3. Is it the right time?
To set your leaders up for success, ensure that they can dedicate the time and attention necessary for coaching to be impactful. Leaders will not be able to take full advantage of the financial investment if they are not able to also invest their time and attention into the process. Both business needs and family obligations can be common distractors, but there are also other challenges that can inhibit the success of a coaching program.
For example, if a leader is concurrently faced with hiring and training new staff, they may not feel well positioned to release the level of responsibilities that prohibit them from operating more strategically, which is a common coaching request. If well-established competencies are not in place, a leader may not be able to fully understand how to meet the expectations that coaching was designed to address. In some instances, it is helpful for coaching to happen in tandem with other development focused interventions, like team training; in other instances, it can be seen as just another thing on an already long to-do list. Considering the factors that would create the most suitable time for coaching can truly enhance its results.
There’s no doubt leaders today are facing more responsibility, stress, and complex issues than ever before. It’s important to remember that leaders aren’t born; they’re not made either. Rather, leaders are developed through conscious effort, encouragement, and feedback. One of the most important things an organization can do to ensure its continued growth and success is support and develop its leaders. Armed with the factors mentioned above, you can make sure your investment in coaching brings about the meaningful impact you want—for both your leaders and company.
Director of Coaching and Development