Leader as Coach: Reviving Leadership Development in Your Organization
Leadership development in the United States is amid transformation. As a multi-billion-dollar industry that is not delivering promised results, it is begging for change. According to the March 2019 Harvard Business Review article, “The Future of Leadership Development,” more than 50 percent of senior leaders do not believe their leadership development efforts adequately build critical skills and organizational capabilities.
What is broken?
Much of traditional leadership development—including executive education schools, strategic or HR consultancies, and corporate university programs—focus on business-based leadership skills, such as strategy development and financial analysis. Today’s workforce, however, is calling for a greater emphasis on soft skill development: interpersonal and communication skills, collaboration, and emotional intelligence.
Additionally, leaders who complete training and development programs are struggling to apply what they learn on the job. According to HBR, the greater the physical location of learning is from the location of application, the larger this knowledge-to-practice gap.
What is the solution?
One thing your organization does not require is more leadership training. Rather, it is time to consider a simpler approach. Organizational development consulting firm Brighter Strategies believes coaching is one solution for effectively imparting critical and practical soft skills to current and aspiring leaders in your agency.
According to the International Coach Federation, coaching is a strategic partnership in which the coach empowers the client to clarify goals, create action plans, move past obstacles, and achieve what the client chooses. Coaches co-create the relationship with trust and intimacy and communicate effectively through active listening, powerful questioning, and direct communication.
When leaders in your organization serve as coaches for other high-potential leaders, they can develop and apply their own leadership abilities while teaching these skills to emerging leaders. Coaches develop greater self-awareness and organizations realize increased leader engagement.
Below are some best practices for creating a leader-as-coach movement in your organization.
- Criteria: Open the opportunity for leaders at all levels to serve as coaches. Like most effective leadership development, this is a volunteer initiative, and it works best for the organization when inclusive.
- Content: Determine the three-to-five skills the leader-as-coach program will help to instill in high-potential leaders. Use your organization’s mission, vision, and values as a starting point; when in doubt, focus on in-demand soft skills such as communication, team building, and collaboration.
- Preparation: Teach your leaders how to coach. Use internal subject matter experts or external consultants, if necessary, to impart coaching capabilities to your program participants. Refer to ICF’s coaching guidelines, which includes a core set of competencies.
- Practice: Experiential learning is a powerful technique for leader-as-coach initiatives. A coachee can learn from the coach while on the job, ensuring maximum application. Additionally, encourage coaches to reference their personal experiences and lessons learned through leadership.
- Outcomes: Participant evaluations are appropriate measures of program success. Tracking impact on leadership competencies and organizational performance is even more powerful. Include metrics that show how the program has moved the needle on critical business outcomes.
If you are ready to revive leadership development in your nonprofit, consider a leader-as-coach approach. This simple program invests in your current and next-generation leaders, focuses on the most important skills for leadership success, and ensures new knowledge becomes new behavior.
Hear more from our very own Swafia Ames, senior consultant through her course, Leader as Coach, offered by the Academy of Nonprofit Management at Tidewater Community College, October 29, 2019.
For more leadership training opportunities, check out our Leadership Cohort program.