In 2022, 77% of companies report that they are experiencing a leadership gap – the leadership skills that are needed are not possessed by people within the organization. This is a significant problem, but also a significant opportunity for those who do develop these skills. If businesses are able to address their leadership gap and invest in developing their rising leaders, they will have a massive leg up on their competition and will have significantly reduced their own risk. Similarly, if individual leaders take their development into their own hands, they can quickly climb the ladder and exponentially accelerate their career growth. One of the most effective and efficient ways to develop these leadership skills is through leadership coaching.
What is Leadership Coaching
Leadership coaching is a systematic approach to developing the skills, competencies, and behaviors that help leaders bring out the best in themselves and those around them. It is distinct from other forms of leadership development in that it involves 1:1 interactions with an experienced coach, is personalized to the specific needs and situation of the leader, takes place over an extended period of time, and seeks to catalyze sustainable, lasting behavior change. Seminars, courses, and books on leadership all have great value. However, they don’t inherently possess the same power to bring about long-term transformation, as they lack the elements of personalization and consistency over time. For leaders who are looking to grow their skills in the most accelerated way, leadership coaching is the strongest option.
The Importance of Leadership Coaching
Let’s dive into the numbers:
- A recent study found that 83% of businesses believe that leadership development is important at all levels of the organization. Yet, only 5% actually develop leaders at all levels.
- Nearly 70% of the millennial workforce feel that they lack opportunities for developing their leadership skills
- Only 10% of people are born with leadership skills
What does this tell us? Nearly everyone knows that developing leaders is important. Despite that, nearly everyone isn’t doing it. By investing in leadership coaching for yourself or your team, you can attract better talent, retain them at a higher level, and massively outperform expectations and competition.
8 Benefits of Leadership Coaching
- Accountability and Support: Changing any long-standing behavior is a big challenge – especially when trying to do it alone. Leaders who have a coach to support them and hold them accountable through the ups and down are able make big changes much more easily than those who go about it alone.
- Habit-building: Behavior change is fundamentally about habits. The best leadership coaches understand the neuroscience of habits and can systematically help leaders “hack” their habits – not only breaking unhelpful habits, but building better ones.
- Inspiration and motivation: Everyone is motivated differently. We all take a different type of fuel. A leadership coach will work to understand how you are wired and deliver the gas you need, when you need it.
- Gaining respect: Leaders who are vulnerable with their flaws and actively seek to improve them will quickly earn the trust of those around them. They will be leading their employees by example and showing their own managers that they are the type of leader worth investing in. Working with a leadership coach can change the way everyone in the organization views you.
- Happier workplace: At its best, leadership coaching can have a huge impact on the culture of an organization. One leader taking responsibility for their actions and directing energy toward helping those around them can have far-reaching ripple effects. Each person that they interact with will leave the interaction feeling a little better than they did before. Those people, in turn, are more likely to have the same impact on the next people they communicate with. Positivity, kindness, and compassion spread fast.
- Thinking bigger: If a leader develops and empowers others on their team, it can create more space for the leader to spend time thinking about the big picture and creating the future. This can place the leader into a bigger role in advance of it being required. It is much easier to promote someone who is already doing the job to which they will be promoted!
- Better results for others: The most important role of a leader is to bring out the best in those around them. With the help of a coach, a leader can develop an arsenal of tools, skills, and techniques for consistently motivating, inspiring, and supporting others. Studies have shown that employee engagement is determined by the skills of their leader. Coaching can help a leader drive maximum engagement.
- Better results for you: The best leaders deliver results. Leadership coaching will not only help leaders to make others better, but it will help the leader to deliver better results than ever before – through improving situational awareness, vision, and focus.
How to Choose the Right Leadership Coaching Program
All of the benefits listed above are far from guaranteed if you are not working with the right coach. Although businesses spend hundreds of millions of dollars per year to train their leaders, many feel that their money has not been well spent. This is why choosing the right coach is more important than ever. Here are our tips for choosing a coach and a system that will be more than worth the investment.
- Data-Driven: Leadership is both a science and an art. Coaches who evenly represent both sides of the spectrum are the ones who get the best outcomes. While many coaches fall squarely on the “art” side of the spectrum, we suggest looking for those that also rely heavily on data and deep analysis. The most impactful programs begin with a data-driven assessment of the leader to gain a full understanding of where that individual stands. Even more importantly, the program should measure its results and have some way to track growth and improvement over the duration of the engagement. This can take the form of a second assessment at the end of the program and a rigorous analysis of where the leader started and where the leader stands now. The great Peter Drucker famously said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” This is certainly true for leadership development and underscores the importance of finding a program and a coach that relies on measuring results through data.
- Habit-Based: If a coach does not understand the science of habits, it is unlikely that they will be very skilled in helping clients to create long-term behavior change. And if a coach is unskilled in creating long-term behavior change, they are not worth much of an investment. How do you know if a program is leveraging the science of habits? There are a few key factors: 1.) Consistency in coaching contact points. 2.) Focus on small, concrete, easy to perform behaviors rather than vague generalizations and platitudes. 3.) Systems for tracking progress. 4.) Encouragement from the coach to enlist the help of teammates to reward and support the changes they are noticing in the leader.
- Long-Term: Real change takes time and is marked by slow, steady, daily improvements. Very rarely does an idea, suggestion, or piece of advice alone result in long-term change. Coaching programs that seek to create sustainable change must, therefore, take place over an extended period of time – ideally at least 6 months to a year. This is to ensure that the new habits are not only built, but that they will truly last.
- Tailored to You: Every leader, every situation, and every company is unique. So no two leadership coaching programs should look exactly the same either. The best coaches will tailor development plans to a leader’s specific strengths and areas for growth. They will work dynamically with the leader over time, track progress and stumbling blocks, and adjust accordingly. They will see the leader as a whole person and deliver the coaching that the leader needs, not just what usually comes next in the program.
- Non-Dependent: Many coaches, intentionally or not, create dependent relationships with their clients. This is not an ideal situation in several ways. First, it is financially untenable for many leaders. Second, it is actually dis-empowering – causing the leaders to doubt his or her own ability to make decisions. Ideally, a leadership coach teaches leaders how to coach themselves, empowering them to create their own futures.
Coaching programs that meet these specifications are more likely to be worth the investment and deliver the desired results – not only improving leadership capabilities, but driving success in all areas of the organization.