As we launch into a new year, the must-have accessory for leaders of all levels – from the executive suite all the way down to the frontline managers – is going to be coaching.
For decades, coaching was a benefit provided almost exclusively to leaders at the very highest levels of an organization. Along with prime parking spaces, coveted offices and expense accounts, coaching has been a perk offered to executives to help them manage the stress and pressure of running an organization.
Over time, however, our understanding of what coaching is and what it can do for an organization has expanded considerably. So, too, has the target audience.
Coaching will always be an integral support for executive leaders. However, it has evolved into a solution that is applicable to all levels of leadership, largely because leaders at all levels are being asked to exhibit the same, high-level leadership skills that were once the sole domain of the C-suite.
Today, even frontline managers are expected to be experts at delegation, maestros of communication and strategic architects. They are expected to demonstrate executive presence and a firm grasp of Emotional Intelligence and all of the so-called soft leadership skills: compassion, empathy, self-awareness.
If those are the expectations we currently have of all leaders, then why aren’t all leaders getting coaching? A very good question that far too few companies can answer.
In case someone in your organization asks you, here are the top four reasons why coaching should be a key part of leadership development at every level of your organization.
1) Coaching allows for more meaningful feedback, on a more consistent basis. Leaders at all levels of an organization want specific, meaningful feedback on their performances, and a once-a-year review often doesn’t satisfy this need. However, a coaching solution that is fully aligned with organizational goals and culture can provide meaningful, constant feedback in a more intimate fashion. It means your leaders are never without a sounding board, a place to try out new ideas and a safe place to work on all the concerns and problems they face.
2) Coaching is the best way to help a technical expert become a true people leader. It’s well known that technical stars who are promoted into leadership roles often struggle to make the transition. Even with a modicum of traditional leadership training and support, many of these leaders struggle to inspire the people they lead. Coaching allows top performers to slowly and steadily acquire the skills and capabilities needed to be great people leaders without losing any of their technical acumen.
3) Coaching allows leaders to both learn and practice. We know the best way to sustain learning after any leadership development program is to practice beyond the classroom. Leadership development, augmented by one-on-one coaching, allows leaders to model skills and get immediate feedback on whether they are applying them appropriately. That allows best leadership practices to be fully embedded in all leaders.
4) Coaching allows leaders to adopt a coaching mindset. One of the greatest dividends from an investment in coaching is the adoption of coaching skills. It is not an exaggeration to say that the best leadership cultures are built on a coaching mindset. This is where individual leaders have learned to listen and share their thoughts and feelings with the people they lead. A coaching mindset allows leaders to reject the traditional, top-down, my-way-or-the-highway approach to leadership.
The best news for any organization that is looking to extend coaching beyond the executive levels of leadership is that it can now be done at scale. Current approaches and technology platforms that support coaching solutions allow for it to be offered to many more leaders in a convenient and cost-effective manner.
Coaching will remain a key support for leaders at the upper ends of the organizational hierarchy. However, it can also serve as a valuable support system for frontline managers and even help cultivate high potentials as future executives.
Coaching is the ultimate leadership development tool. Why not share it with all of your leaders?