Leadership coaching needs to happen at all stages of professional development, not just within the C-suite. Why? Well, one reason is that leaders don’t spontaneously grade their skills after receiving a promotion. Meaning, they may not know where they need to improve, or what strengths they can double down on to create organizational impact and to advance their professional goals.
At Sounding Board, we believe that leaders should be committed to developing better skills and reaching their highest potential, which requires intentionality, structure, and guidance. When they commit to this level of leadership development — with their organization’s full support — leadership coaching can be transformative.
Leadership coaching works, and it’s necessary
Often incorrectly looped in with mentoring, leadership coaching is an individualized development strategy that helps business leaders at all levels to develop capabilities they lack, and strengthen skills they already possess.
Today’s business leaders are under immense pressure. Many grapple with the shift to remote work, losing key talent to The Great Resignation, and personally and professionally navigating the pandemic. Are your leaders sufficiently supported during this period of high pressure and disruptive change? Do their direct reports trust their abilities to handle it? Some 2020 research from ADP shows that employees who trust their leaders’ abilities are 14 times more likely to be fully engaged at work.
“The coach’s primary job is to help the leader find a way to be the most productive, highest-potential version of themselves,” said Lori Mazan, co-founder and chief coaching officer for Sounding Board.
Here are a few ways leadership coaching develops great leaders:
They learn to generate and include new perspectives in their work.
Even successful leaders have blind spots – everyone does. The biggest problems often develop when we can’t recognize them. Leadership coaching invites leaders to view work, their organization, even themselves, from new perspectives. When leaders acknowledge and leverage this diversity of thought, they can better promote successful business outcomes long term.
Developing leadership capabilities such as self awareness, communication, and interpersonal skills, are an underrated solution to help leaders understand myriad obstacles, then create a toolkit to overcome them. For example, when it comes to difficult manager-employee relationships, soft skills like self-awareness can help improve the relationship greatly. Leadership coaching creates space for executives to build self-awareness of their own skill gaps – and then help to fill gaps within the organization. Employees who receive tech-enabled leadership coaching have a space to talk through ways to own their organizational impact, and learn how to better engage with their managers.
Leadership coaching produces tangible ROI
Talent leaders no longer have to rely on anecdotal “evidence” to prove the ROI for leadership coaching. Tech-enabled coaching management platforms remove the guesswork by showing the benefits of leadership coaching through data.
For instance, after a six-month leadership coaching engagement, leaders in software company UserTesting saw 32 percent improvement in their executive presence, and 21 percent growth in their ability to lead high-performing teams. Leaders from software development consulting firm Pivotol Labs saw 173 percent improvement in interpersonal skills, and 91 percent strongly agreed that coaching improved their ability to reach business goals.
It enables targeted, more substantive development.
In too many organizations there is a disconnect between how talent leaders have historically run leadership development programs and how it needs to function to create tomorrow’s successful, innovative, highly capable leaders. For example, according to 2020 research by IBM’s Institute for Business Value, 61 percent of surveyed HR leaders now identify “deeply personalized experience-centric design” as a top priority in their learning and development strategies. Rather than developing leaders in traditional classroom settings, or static online courses, leadership coaching is almost a sure thing when it comes to providing individualized skill development.
According to the IBM research, continuously and transparently measuring employee performance must be a top priority because “clear and continuous coaching and performance conversations are essential to proactively address workforce and performance issues.” They suggest the following action steps to develop continuous and transparent measurement:
- Establish a rhythm of perpetual feedback throughout the year
- Promote transparency with leaders through shared goal setting
- Apply analytics to link results to workforce growth and development
Similarly, IBM shows that since leadership roles require evolving skills and behaviors, investing in measurable leadership development creates the ability to predict strong leaders. Key action items for supporting leadership roles include:
- Leverage AI and predictive analytics to identify new leaders
- Foster transparency with the workforce through ongoing dialogue
Further, these ideas work. According to their research, 83 percent of outperforming organizations report having a deep pipeline of future leaders.
It can enable and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Organizations can use leadership coaching to build a more diverse talent pipeline. When open to leaders at all levels – rather than only for senior roles – this investment in organizational growth democratizes development opportunities. Providing personalized leadership coaching for underrepresented populations helps to diversify your leader bench, and it can shift current leaders’ perspectives, and help them understand how to create a more inclusive workplace.
For example, purposefully developing leadership capabilities like empathy, self-awareness, and learning how to demonstrate inclusive leadership are all tenants of Sounding Board’s leadership coaching methodology. Leadership coaching is an effective way to build a more inclusive leader. Leveraging coaching in your leadership development strategy is key to program success.