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Coaching is Leadership...  Leadership is Coaching...

A Blog about Leadership in Coaching


Leadership Development – How Is Coaching Perceived?

By Helen Caton-Hughes  May 31, 2016

As a provider of career coaching and leadership training, it's difficult to measure how coaching is perceived by business leaders.

I’ve asked this question of a few people recently. Because it’s not enough to simply offer coaching – at a significant investment of time and money - it's essential that I understand perceptions and uncertainties that people may have. Especially since my focus is on leadership development.

Yes, people who use coaching value it highly – but what about people outside that magic circle?
These questions are linked to the paradox and challenges of leadership development – in that, it seems to take appreciation of the coaching experience itself to appreciate its value and understand the new possibilities it brings.

Downloading leadership qualities
What expectations do people have about leadership coaching?  Image: Pixabay

When I talk with our L&D and HR clients, many have already created access to a pool of internal and independent coaches. Some even have online matching processes to get people together. Both of these build the coaching capacity in the organisation - so they're great.

Three main challenges:

  1. Gatekeepers who over-process access to coaching
  2. People who have a perception of what coaching is for - without personal experience
  3. Senior leaders with beliefs around what coaching can reasonably be expected to do

The struggle I see is that people are overwhelmed with information about the types of executive and leadership courses on offer, and they are unaware of the primary goals and benefits of leadership coach training - which trains coaches in leadership and leaders in coaching.

Let’s stop for a moment.  And consider the reasons for using 1-1 executive and leadership coaching:

  • Performance behaviours
  • Remedial behaviours
  • Developmental attitudes and behaviours
  • Transformational attitudes and behaviours

If an organisation wants to achieve any or all of this through coaching, then its coaches need to be trained in these four areas.

    Performance Coaching

    Performance coaching should be part of the conversation that every leader has with his/her direct reports – regularly.

    • What’s working?
    • What have you achieved?
    • What resources do you have?
    • What support do you need?
    • How’s all this getting us towards the goal?

    The kinds of questions that promote resourcefulness, delivery and learning.  So this is (should be) a readily accessible internal resource by leaders and managers trained to get the best out of their people.

    Remedial Coaching

    Of course, in business there are times when things don’t go so well and people need support. It’s easy to label ‘remedial’ coaching as fixing problems; dealing with difficult people; sorting out dysfunctional team relationships. It might be linked to poor time management, lateness, absenteeism.

    Sometimes this kind of coaching is used to handle situations like grievances, performance management and redundancies. Whether it should or not, is a matter for debate.

    In my experience, 60% of the coaching effort is still in this area. Internal coaches do take on some of these situations – and it’s often where external coaches get involved – to provide independent support.

    Developmental Coaching

    This is where some coaches prefer to work. Looking after talented people. Supporting them in their professional development. Working on soft skills; presentation skills and leadership skills.

    In recent times, executive and leadership coaching has been built into the fabric of leadership development programmes. Alongside internal champions (who can provide work-shadowing, special projects and other strategic opportunities), and mentors, who can provide career advice and guidance.

    Future Success Man on Phone

    Leadership coaching helps individuals succeed and helps organisations succeed. Image: Pixabay

    Transformational Coaching

    Put simply, this is where leaders - who walk their talk - coach.  It's no longer about 'you'; it's about us.  

    Often attributed to Ralph Nader, transformational coaching speaks to this quote: "The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers".

    Transformation is an experience, after which, certain things are never the same again.  

    When we see our leaders being leader-like, inviting contributions from their teams, distributing power, influence and leadership - and bringing out the best in others by applying their coaching skills - that's transformation.

    As coaching professionals, we're required to know our boundaries.  And our coach training is a fundamental starting point.  If we have training, and supervised practice in, these four areas, then we have the potential to deliver for our clients.  And if you're commissioning independent coaches for your organisation, or plan to develop your own internal community of coaches, then these are four distinct development areas to consider.  All of them will make a positive difference to your organisation and repay your investment in time, money and effort many times over.

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