Leadership

Coaching for leadership

By: Dale Simpson, Bravo Careers, Managing Director

Recent Gallup research suggests that the corporate world is appallingly bad at capitalising on the strengths of its people


“(Research found) the vast majority of businesses in the U.S. don't focus on helping employees use their strengths - and this is a costly oversight. When employees feel that their company cares and encourages them to make the most of their strengths, they are more likely to respond with increased discretionary effort, a stronger work ethic, and more enthusiasm and commitment” (Gallup)

Considering that for many organisations people costs are one of the largest lines of expense, you would think that employers would spare no effort to obtain maximum leverage from the skills and potential of their key staff.


Further, it is not uncommon that you see the promotion of an individual with impressive technical achievements into a role that requires a high degree of people skills to stand any chance of success.  Yet these individuals are often left to their own devices to sink or swim.  


Enter leadership coaching.


Typically our careers begin in technical or professional roles in which we are personally accountable for our results and achievements through the application of our own expertise. As we progress and expand the scope of our responsibilities, we will inevitably become involved in leading and managing people. This means managing performance, providing feedback, resolving conflict, managing issues, and having those ‘difficult conversations’.


And all of this tempered by a balanced sensitivity to external vs internal issues: i.e., strategies, priorities, tangible results (external) melded with values, good cultural practice and purpose (internal).


Coaching then becomes an essential component of the skill-building, and building on an  individual’s existing strengths, needed to achieve this upward transition. And coaching happens from the inside out. Self-awareness, emotional intelligence, authenticity, humility and open-mindedness become essential acquired qualities – the ‘holistic’ leader. 


An executive coach, supporting from arm’s length and with a total lack of bias becomes a pivotal  catalyst to making this journey. A good brief properly scoped and with outcomes mutually agreed and understood, becomes the cornerstone of effective coaching. 


Reasons to get an executive coach

In a recent Forbes article, several benefits of executive coaching were outlined: 


Clarity   


The truth is that most of us don't see ourselves very clearly and it matters. Accurate self-awareness in leaders is highly correlated with organizational effectiveness and profitability, and employees prefer to follow leaders who see themselves clearly are authentic in their approach.  You will experience some form of feedback took which compiles third party views of you and your own perceptions, patterned into themes of  key strengths and growth areas.  Most important, if your coach is effective, they will  help you  build skills to see yourself more clearly: to question your assumptions about yourself,  get curious about where you're strong and where you need to grow, and learn to see yourself, others  and situations objectively and more accurately.


Leverage your existing strengths


Having an effective and supportive coach can also help you see and leverage strengths that you already have but that you may be underestimating. Many years ago, I coached a senior marketer who was keen for a change of direction. He loved sailing but couldn’t see how that would bring him a new job. Together we worked through his key strengths – building relationships, seeing opportunities, energy and resilience. In the end he found a new career marketing and supplying high quality sailing vessels across Europe which meant he was able to sail – his passion – and employ his key strengths. 


Get what you want


For an effective coaching relationship, this is where the rubber hits the road. You will have become clearer about your goals and dreams, and what you can do to achieve them. As an objective, neutral third party ally they a coach is a useful support system on your journey. There are no hidden agendas or dependence as there might be with family, friends, and employees. A good coach will keep you honest about your progress, your commitments, and how you are getting in your own way. Finally, and most importantly, your coach will help you explore new ways of thinking and operating, that will accelerate your results in terms of career. 


Over my years as an executive coach I have helped hundreds achieve their goals but with two caveats – the ‘fit’ has to be right. The coach must be skilled and the coachee “coachable” (link to blog on ‘Coachability’). Then you have the starting point for coaching success. 




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