Leadership coaching is a little like losing your virginity: you’ve either done it, or you haven’t. And if you haven’t, then you really don’t know what it’s really about until you’ve tried it (we promise never to use this analogy again)
We thought it would be useful to pull together a short and sharp FAQ for leadership coaching virgins (ok, we lied):
- Why would I ever need a coach? – leaders are in both a privileged but perilous position at the head of an organisation. The risk is that no one within your organisation challenges you and you remain stuck in mental ruts without realising it.
- I couldn’t trust someone not in my business: how does that work? – coaching relationships are always 1 to 1, whether face to face with an individual practitioner, or with a technology-driven coaching organisation like Constant Mentor. If the relationship works for you then you will start to trust more. If it doesn’t, you’ll try a different approach. What matters is how you change for the better as a result of the coaching.
- What value could someone who is not in my business add if they don’t understand my business?: Their knowledge of your business is not important. Their knowledge of human nature and their ability to get you to think different and do better in your business is key. People in your business have the risks of bias/ inability to tell it straight to their boss etc.
- I don’t have time for coaching, and I definitely don’t have time for long, slow navel-gazing – it takes a lot of time doesn’t it?: bad coaching feels like a waste of time with no objectives, no tracking of progress and no discernible change being experienced by the leader being coached. Good coaching feels like the best investment of time you can make. Most leaders just need focused, frequent interventions that maximise attention gaps.
- I’m different. I have different needs to other leaders. How does leadership coaching deal with that?: all leadership coaching has to be tailored to the individual. All coaches know you have different needs. You’ll have different blockers, beliefs and biases. You’ll want different outcomes and will have different skills, knowledge and experience as the foundations of your change. The tools applied to get you to change are however normally fairly common: the use of questioning, challenge and thought interventions are applied to achieve your needs and objectives.
- Don’t leaders have different needs at different times?: they do, and different types of leadership coaching are geared up better than others for this. The important thing is to ensure you’re reviewing monthly or quarterly with your coaching provider about how needs have changed. On top of this, short to medium goal or objectives should potentially be revised more frequently, with long term goals reviewed every 6 months.
- Leadership coaching is expensive. If I struggle to give it my attention, how will I get the value out of it?: Frequent intervention services are timed to create attention gaps throughout your day. Content is normally engineered to spike your attention and then get you to act, so you feel daily value. The act of deciding and then paying money for leadership coaching also makes you give it your attention – a bit like paying for health club membership. The difference is the health club doesn’t hassle you to change!
- How is leadership coaching different to learning and development?: both have similarities in that they’re about you developing new skills and knowledge, or unlocking latent abilities. When it comes to specific areas of new knowledge being required, coaches will tend to recommend reading or provide concise summaries tailored to your needs. The difference lies in coaching focusing on the act of unblocking, the achievement of insight and the process of change required to use this new knowledge. Learning and development focuses less on how you need to change and more on the delivery of the subject matter.
- Is it about skills development or just unblocking you when you get stuck?: both. The right coaching should help you develop new skills – in fact, everything you need to develop a complete set of leadership skills. The things that get in the way of you being the best leader you can be are then the things that coaching works on. Questioning you and challenging your limiting beliefs is where coaching comes into its own.
- How does the leadership coach ensure that the changes they’ve helped me with are embedded and I don’t go back to how I was before?: coaches hold you to account. You should be sufficiently challenged not to slip back into your old ways. New thinking and acting patterns should be reinforced via both repetition and multiple ways of engaging with the new ways of being. This sounds odd and means that the coach treats you as the changed individual to reinforce the change…. even if you’re not completely there yet.
- We’re already quite sophisticated with goals, objectives and targets. How does leadership coaching fit?: leadership coaching is about coaching the leader to achieve their goals, objectives and targets. It’s all about unblocking and execution rather than loading the individual up with even more goals. There should be complete alignment between the leader’s corporate goals and the goals that are being worked on with the leadership coach. Sometimes the coaching process will identify important new goals necessary for the leader, and these will have to be integrated into the corporate goals.
- Does leadership coaching always have to be face to face?: increasingly there are online and remote offerings – like Constant Mentor – where rather than a face to face time booked in the diary, traction is achieved using software to delivered tailored content to make you think and act differently. There still needs to be support to help you with specific problems or blockers, but otherwise there are benefits in having frequent interventions rather than just monthly or fortnightly face to face time.
- How do I evaluate leadership coaching? It’s a lot of money so how do I track progress?: progress should be measured and used as part of your evaluation of the effectiveness of the coaching across a number of areas. First, are goals, objectives and targets being achieved? Second, does the leader being coached feel better and more productive for the coaching? Third, good coaching will be assessing you against a high performing leadership framework. How have your scores improved over the periodic reassessments you should be undertaking?
- How long should I expect to work with a leadership coach for?: leadership coaching does tend to be an ongoing relationship when the fit has worked with the coaching provider. This is because you need to be constantly improving as a leader. The use of high performance leadership frameworks to plan against, and tailored learning and skills development cycles all help provide structure around the ongoing support and challenge you’d expect from a coaching relationship.
- How does leadership coaching involve others?: as a CEO, founder or entrepreneur your coaching implicitly impacts on your whole business. Directly, senior teams and boards can be impacted as you need to work through issues which arise with them. You may need to get specific feedback from people you work closely with, and sometimes when personal blockers are identified you may need to ask questions of people close to you outside of work who may be able to provide you with the insight you need. In reality most of what comes out of leadership coaching impacts the business indirectly through changes in your strategic thinking, personal and leadership effectiveness.
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