We have been doing a lot of leadership coaching recently and it occurred to us that we had not yet written an article about it, and more specifically an article designed to help you answer the question; do you need a leadership coach? Our intention is not to sell you on our coaching approach, but rather to inform you of what coaching is, what it can and cannot accomplish and to help you evaluate whether or not you need one.
Coaching borrows its identity from sports. That is a reasonable metaphor for the type of work involved in developing the “playing ability” of a leader. However, in sports a coach is responsible for helping encourage and maximize the players’ potential ability, devising a game plan and executing that game plan to achieve the win. In leadership coaching, the coach is primarily focused on helping the leader develop leadership ability. The coach does not often get to devise the game plan or for that matter even attend the game. So the sports metaphor applies in a limited way. We believe the better term for leadership coaching is leadership advising. We think that term more suitable because it sets a better expectation of what the coach or advisor can and should do for the leader.
Regardless of the terminology, an advisor must have these characteristics:
- Be someone you trust
- Have experience in leadership and advising
- Have a methodology for advising that is thorough and pragmatic
The first two items will be up to your personal evaluation if you decide to pursue the enlistment of a leadership advisor. However, we can provide insight into our advising methodology so you can evaluate that aspect of any advisor you meet. We advise leaders using a simple and powerful approach outlined here:
- First we understand which capabilities the leader needs to develop. This can be done in a series of interviews, assessments or both.
- Second, we determine a list of behaviors the leader needs to begin or stop in order to build the desired capabilities.
- Third, with the behaviors identified, we then ask the client to tell us what scares them about changing those behaviors.
- Fourth, we find situations the leader is facing to provide the context for our advice. For us context is everything, and consequently there must exist real situations within which the leader is expected to demonstrate their ability to lead.
Before you ask yourself this question, of whether you need a leadership advisor let us share some important lessons we have learned about the power and limitations of leadership advising.
- Accelerate a leader’s development
- Prepare a leader for advancement
- Boost a leader’s confidence
- Improve communication
- Dispel leadership myths
- Challenge thinking and paradigms that expand leaders and organizations
- Provide a substitute for good supervision
- “Fix” anyone
- Address emotional or psychological issues
- Cure performance problems
- Restore lost trust
So, do you need a leadership advisor? If you are already a good performer and looking to take your skills, confidence, thinking and career to a new and higher level, then you may. If you wonder what you don’t know about leadership and want to learn more, then you may need a leadership advisor. If you think you are holding your team back with your limited ability, then you may need a leadership advisor.
You can find an advisor internally or externally. If you look internally, look for someone you trust, that is willing to commit time and energy to you. If you choose an advisor outside the company, then again look for someone you trust, has the experience to help you develop skills and has a process for advising that fits with your current workload and commitments.