In its April, 2006 issue, Fast Company released results of a study indicating that 71% of senior leaders had worked with a leadership coach, and that 91% of those who had worked with an executive coach planned to use a coach again. The magazine also stated that 63% of organizations planned to increase their use of leadership coaching during the next five years.
Was the coaching prophecy fulfilled? The answer is a clear “yes.” Even in a challenging economy, effective leadership coaches are in demand. Much of this is due to the need to ensure that employees are performing to the best of their abilities. Many are managers finding themselves doing more with less, requiring them to be at the top of their game. This is where coaching comes in.
However, leadership coaching is not the panacea for all leadership struggles. As with any process or intervention, coaching has its clear place in organizational and individual performance. Before considering whether a coach is right for you or your organization, first take into consideration when coaching is right. The following is a list of those circumstances when leadership coaching is most likely to generate a significant return on that investment dollar:
- During a time of individual transition. Take the manager who is given additional responsibilities, or the person new to a management role. This is a time when leadership coaching provides much-needed insight for developing into the new role. It can serve as a fast-start in a time when it’s critical to get up to speed ASAP.
- During times of organizational transition. Perhaps the organization has just gone through a major acquisition, or has moved into a new strategic direction. Coaching helps individuals and organizations gain strategic clarity and drive plans for moving forward.
- To address specific performance issues. While leadership coaching should not be used as a form of remediation or punishment, it can help identify and focus on specific areas for individual improvement within the organization. Similarly, issues with performance that are due to personal concerns (stress management, interpersonal skills, self-esteem, lack of focus, etc.) can often be addressed through effective coaching. Assessments, such as 360-degree feedback, are particularly useful in identifying behaviors or competencies that require focus.
- Specific skill development. When an individual is lacking in specific skills, coaching can focus on developing these skills. For example, if an individual struggles with public speaking, a coach can often provide feedback and assist in setting goals for improvement.
- Succession planning. Quite often an indivdual may be competent in his or her current role. However, in order to climb to the next rung on the ladder, there may be areas which require some attention. Leadership coaching helps provide this awareness, and helps to further prepare the individual for the future.
While a powerful tool for improving organizations and individuals, leadership coaching is not always the answer. However, when used correctly, coaching has the ability to help transform both individuals and organizations.
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