Coaching: Five Reasons It May Be For You!Dec 14, 2021
Coaching is a profession.
Coaching is a profession whose application in organizations is often ill-defined and misunderstood. The International Coach Federation defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
But definitions such as these do little to assist leaders in determining if coaching is an appropriate option for professional development. And here we talk of both Board leadership and Chief Executive Officer leadership.
Moving towards a practical application, coaching can be defined as a powerful partnership between a leader and coach that is focused on helping the leader gain awareness of strengths and weaknesses and transform those behaviors into results and performance. It is an appropriate solution for highly motivated, often well-performing, individuals who face performance, development, transition, and/or leadership issues. Based on that definition, is coaching for you?
Starting with you as a leader, consider Michael Bungay Stanier’s The Coaching Habit; Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, a wonderful book for individuals looking to bring a more ‘coach approach’ to conversations.
So, Is Coaching For You? Five Considerations.
1. "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act, but a habit."—Aristotle.
All of us have unconscious behaviours, patterns, and leadership tendencies that have an impact on those we lead. As we advance in the hierarchy, feedback becomes more and more scarce. By our sheer position of authority, individuals are not prone to provide feedback. I work with many leaders who ask their direct reports, “What feedback do you have for me?” Their reports look at them, like deer in headlights, and think, “How truthful can I be here?” In other words, “Will I lose my job?” Additionally, I meet very few ‘bosses’ who provide effective, development feedback.
Often, they have moved up the leadership ranks because they have proven they can ‘get things done’ rather than be effective people managers. A good coach will provide a mirror to you as a leader. An excellent coach will also interview individuals who work with you to determine your ‘blind spots’ - a humbling but effective way to create specific coaching goals.
2. It’s lonely at the top!
As leaders advance, the complexity of relationships and politics increases. Leaders often feel alone and have very few people they feel safe to talk to, about these issues. A coach provides an objective, third-party, confidential sounding board, helping the leader examine multiple perspectives, long and short-term impacts, and identify the ways one is contributing to the issue at hand.
3. Accountability. Period.
Left to their own devices, leaders often neglect their own development. Learning is often technical or consists of two-day leadership ‘dip’ programs. These programs can provide excellent skills and knowledge; however, the integration of new skills is often challenging. A coach holds a laser focus on the leader’s development goals and is relentless in holding you accountable for specific actions/commitments developed during each session.
4. Truth. And nothing but the truth.
A good coach will speak truth to a leader—real-time. The client must be open to this kind of feedback and highly committed to taking action. If these don’t exist, the leader is simply not ready for coaching.
5. Treading new waters without both paddles.
Leaders often use coaches when they face new situations they have not experienced before. They may have been promoted or taken on new responsibilities; their team may be facing new challenges; or there may be individuals in their organization they have not been able to influence. Their current skill levels are simply inadequate. A coach helps leaders achieve their next level of performance, attaining different results.
Leaders too often believe coaching is the magic bullet to any and all performance issues. I often receive ‘911’ calls from individuals who want coaching for one of their ‘problem’ employees. In many cases the ‘problem’ is really not their employee, it is the leader who has failed to manage the employee’s performance effectively. Before you pick up the phone, look at yourself first.
There are few relationships that can be as rewarding and as life-changing.
Are you ready?
Alison Lee is an executive coach in the for-profit and not-for-profit sectors, she has worked with a wide range of senior and mid-level leaders, including in major health, arts/cultural and library sectors. She can be reached at <[email protected]> or 604.290.1973.
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