Getting a coach is becoming a big thing. Leadership coaching, as a service, has been around for a while now. Early on there were predictions that it was just a fad that would fade away. Certainly, the expertise, qualifications and accountability of leadership coaches has been enhanced. Far from a passing fad, leadership coaching is now well and truly a highly valued approach to developing leaders.
What is leadership coaching?
Leadership coaching is typically a one-to-one relationship between a leader or emerging leader and a person with knowledge and expertise in helping people grow and develop to greater levels of competence as leaders. While there are some core skills that all effective coaches have, leadership coaches come from a diverse range of backgrounds. Some coaches have been leaders and managers, others come from learning and development backgrounds, others from psychology and others from the arts. This brings a wide range of options for people considering a leadership coach.
One of the most important distinctions in leadership coaching is the difference between a coach and a mentor. A mentor is someone who has more experience than you in the same kind of leadership roles. Mentors are useful for giving you specific advice on how to best handle situations. A coach may or may not have a similar background to you, but their skill is in helping you find and develop your own unique leadership approach and to work through issues in your own way.
When is one-to-one coaching useful?
There are many ways to develop as a leader. Learning from a boss who is a great leader. Participating in leadership development programs can also be a very valuable experience.
Leadership is about relationships and so, in the end, it is about you as a unique individual leading in your unique context. One to one leadership coaching is very effective at developing your unique leadership approach
What makes a good coach?
There are several frameworks covering the capabilities required of an effective coach. They are very useful and worth looking at. For me, these are some important attributes to look at when selecting a coach.
- They respect and value the dignity of each individual human being.
- They can separate their own needs from the needs of their client.
- They take responsibility for their own stuff and don’t take responsibility for your stuff.
- They understand the messiness of leadership and working in an organisation.
- Understand their role as a coach.
- You feel safe with them and feel they have the strength to challenge you.
- You feel a connection with them.
When can a coach get in the way?
Like anything, leadership coaching can be useful, and it can sometimes get in the way of the goal of you growing as a leader. Here are some of the things to watch for:
Building learned dependency
Your relationship with your coach should enhance and grow your confidence and ability to stand on your own two feet. While there is nothing wrong with valuing a supportive relationship, just watch out if you find you always feel that you need to ask your coach.
The slip into parent-child relationships
The worst extension of this is when your relationship with a coach slips into a kind of parent-child thing. If you find yourself wondering if your coach would agree with what you are saying or doing, you may have tipped into this.
A coach is just another human being. Each coach brings their unique perspective that can be a great source of insight and growth. But they are just one perspective and one person. Make sure you are drawing insights from other sources as well.
Leadership coaches must create safe spaces for you to open up and explore the real issues you are facing. You also want your coach to be on your side. But if all you ever get is whole-hearted support for everything you think, then you may have a coach that is too supportive.
There are a wider range of coaching styles out there. Some coaches are more directive and talk more than others. Again, this may serve you well. However, if you find you are walking out of every session with a list of things to do that you don’t really feel committed to, then maybe your coach is too directive.
A healthy working relationship with a leadership coach will include regular reviews and check-ins to ensure the relationship is still serving your growth as a leader.
If you are interested in exploring leadership coaching further, please contact me at optimalfuture.com.au.