“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.”
Former business executive Jack Welch knew a thing or two about leadership. During his tenure as CEO of General Electric, the company’s value rose by staggering 4000%. There’s no denying that great leaders inspire us to do our best work. Research has categorically proven that effective leadership results in everything from increased workplace productivity and employee retention, to improved succession planning and, ultimately, a better bottom line.
But great leaders aren’t born – they’re made. And effective leadership training is one of the ways they’re created. Here’s a look at the techniques used in this specialised field of coaching – and why it’s so important in the modern workplace.
Partners in command
When looking to enhance ability, even the most talented athletes need a coach, someone who will help them analyse their performance and set goals for what they want to achieve in the future, and direction in achieving those goals. Business is no different. Indeed, coaching has become one of the foremost tools used to enhance the leadership skills of those in positions of authority, be it an executive, manager, supervisor or business owner.
Coaching is a collaborative partnership between leader and coach, the aim of which is to bring about sustained behavioural change and transform the quality of the leader’s working (and often personal) life. It has at its core, the principle of goal setting – the basic paradigm that is fundamental to both personal and organisational change. We need to know where we are going and what we are aiming for or we’ll probably never get there.
Leadership coaching uses a solutions-focussed approach to dealing with problems. This means that, when faced with an issue, those in leadership positions are encouraged to clarify the goals, decide what needs to be changed, view the problem as something they have (not something they are), chart their progress towards a solution and focus on the strengths and talents at their disposal.
It’s been said that the coach’s role is to be “the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage”. In other words, coaching is neither didactic nor concerned with unravelling the problems of the past. In this way, it differs from mentoring and counselling. Essentially, the coach is more akin to a fellow traveller, one who helps to discern what the client wants to achieve and encourages him or her to do so through solutions and strategies that have are self-generated and for which the client is accountable.
Taking the lead
At its heart, leadership coaching is primarily designed to bring about more effective, healthier organisations. The assumption is that when leaders improve their performance, these benefits spread throughout the business. In a sense, exposing senior leaders to the coaching experience has the knock-on effect of precipitating a coaching culture within the organisation itself.
Among the many advantages of coaching leaders, the following five are perhaps the most persuasive:
1. Bottom-line benefits
Let’s face it, leadership coaching wouldn’t be so popular were it not for the fact that it delivers hard results – increased profits and reduced costs, achieved within a defined timeframe. But, to be truly effective, leadership coaching must be both strategic and individualised: a balance has to be struck between the needs of the client (who has to be engaged and motivated) and the needs of the business (to deliver results).
2. Employee retention
Retaining key people is an important competitive strategy in the new global economy. Many companies today find themselves fighting a war for talent to keep their competent people from leaving to pursue new opportunities in other organisations. Needless to say this costs the business, in addition to the obvious loss of the employee’s work contribution and organisational knowledge. The skills and culture that good leadership coaching develops make companies more attractive places to work for irreplaceable, high-achieving employees.
3. An objective springboard
Have you ever noticed how talking through an idea with someone who is detached from it can provide fresh insights? In the same way, an impartial coach can offer unique perspectives, helping leaders see their blind spots and improve in areas they might not even have been aware existed. Also, because coaches are partners, not friends, they will tell the cold truths others might not, giving leaders an honest assessment of their skills and where they can improve.
4. Insightful analysis
Because they deal with different kinds of companies and businesses, leadership coaches see successful applications in unrelated situations. As a result, they bring these collective strengths to the table, drawing on the best of management styles and methods. Leaders will develop these skills to cross-pollinate and draw in disparate concepts to analyse and solve their particular organisation’s problem areas.
5. Deeper learnings
Arguably the most valuable benefit of all is that coaching provides leaders with a greater understanding of themselves, how they’re perceived and where they can improve. Effective leadership coaching offers clarity on the client’s values and what he or she stands for, which, in turn, leads to greater conviction. It also provides an awareness of perspectives, beliefs, and attitudes that may be holding the leader back. All of these are incredible leverage points – good for leader and good for business.
Have you ever considered becoming a business coach? The South African College of Applied Psychology offers a range of accredited coaching courses, including a Postgraduate Diploma in Coaching, a part-time Coach Practitioner Programme and an Advanced Coach Practitioner Programme, aimed at deepening one’s coaching development. For more information, enquire now.