Enhancing Your Leadership through Coaching

In our last post we talked some about leadership. We’ll continue that conversation today by reflecting a little about coaching and how it can benefit one’s leadership. First of all, it would be helpful to define “coach.” Within leadership coaching, the term coach is usually defined as “an instructor or trainer.” With that in mind, think back on some of your experiences with coaches and coaching. Perhaps you played in Little League growing up. Perhaps you were part of a Girl Scout or Boy Scout troop. Perhaps you took voice lessons from a voice coach. Perhaps you have even coached another person or group of people. These, or other such coaching experiences, likely have impacted you in many positive ways. Likewise, your leadership can be positively enhanced through coaching.

Coaching is a leadership skill. In coaching leaders, the one who is coaching assumes that everyone they are working with and supervise is an expert at what they do. The coaches’ role, then, is to help draw out that expertise from the leader and to “unlock their potential.”[1]

The outcomes of leadership coaching can be vast. Coaching outcomes are often dependent on the overall goal of the coaching, and coaching services provided by Strategic Consulting and Coaching can (and should) be targeted to meet particular needs. In the broadest sense, there are four areas where coaching can have a positive impact on your leadership: general improvement in performance; raising awareness and feedback; responsibility and accountability; and encouragement.  Let’s consider these areas briefly. For clarity, understand that coach refers to the one doing the coaching, and leader refers to the one being coached.

General Improvement in Performance

Coaching provides attention and focus from an outside viewpoint. This generally leads to an increase in performance by the one being coached. If that is not the case, this could be an indicator about fit and a need to make a change either for the sake of the individual leader, the organization they serve, or both. Coaching in this way can even be a type of “job fit analysis.”

Raising Awareness and Feedback

With attention also comes feedback. In particular, constructive feedback is the best currency for a leader.  This feedback from a coach allows one to know what they are doing well and what they may need to improve on. A good coach not only knows how to offer useful feedback, they share it effectively and work with the leader whom they are coaching to help facilitate growth. Put another way, a good coach, through feedback, helps a leader fully lean into and express their expertise.

For leaders, a coach helps provide awareness through a sort of a balcony-type view that they may be missing because of their involvement and role.[2] Having someone who can offer an objective perspective is invaluable in leadership.

Responsibility and Accountability

A coach is someone that not only trains or instructs, they also help hold a leader responsible and accountable to themselves. They provide accountability by providing feedback to the leader and allowing the leader to process and learn from what they are experiencing.[3] They provide instruction regarding potential best practices when a leader might have questions about how best to approach a particular challenge. Through coaching, a leader is not only able to help create responsibility and accountability for themselves, they can use that to help provide the same responsibility and accountability to their larger team and/or organization. In many cases, this may help the leader become more responsible and accountable to their self and overcome previous tendencies to perhaps shift responsibility (and in more unhealthy situations, to shift blame).[4]

Encouragement

The best coaches may not always be positive, but usually they find a way to positively encourage the people they are coaching. In coaching leadership, this means the ability to identify strengths and to be honest with feedback, but to also take experiences (good or bad) and help leaders drive to a deeper sense of success and purpose.

These are just a few ways that coaching can help enhance leadership. In the most successful of leadership coaching experiences and relationships, leaders themselves might even be trained and equipped to become better coaches themselves. By doing so, they may become better at helping bring out the fullest potential of their teams, employees, and fellow leaders. [5]

In what ways has your leadership been enhanced through coaching? In what ways might it be improved if you were to enter into a relationship with a coach?

 

[1] For more on this, see: Sir John Whitmore, Coaching for Performance: GROWing People, Performance and Purpose, (Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2009).

[2] For more on what it means to “see the balcony,” see: Leadership on the Line: Staying alive through the dangers of leading, by Ronald A. Heifetz & Marty Linsky, (Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2002), pages 51-74.

[3] Some times this can be in ways of helping the leader become more aware of their own emotional intelligence as well as personality and strengths types. Daniel Goleman’s work on emotional intelligence would be helpful to consider here, as well as resources like Strengths Finderand the Enneagram. Additionally, for more on accountability see this post by Lolly Daskal.

[4] Sir John Whitmore discusses this as well in Coaching for Performance.

[5] Tom Crane, “Why Create a Coaching Culture?