Traditional leadership development fails to provide leaders with many of the fundamental skills they need to perform at their best.
We highlight 4 reasons why coaching is a more effective method for improving leadership performance.
1. Leaders don’t have the time
On average, CEOs devote as little as 3% of their time on their own development – that’s less than 7 days a year. Given how little time they have available, it’s no wonder that they might be reluctant to spend hours in a classroom environment.
Coaching offers the opportunity to deliver meaningful results and real solutions to pressing problems in as little as an hour’s conversation that can be fitted in between meetings or scheduled at the start or end of a day.
2. Leaders learn most on-the-job
Ask any leader where they have learned the most and it’s unlikely they’ll tell you about a training course they went on. Instead they’ll tell you about experiences they’ve had and the learnings they took from them. These informal and unplanned experiences are one of the most important components of learning as a leader.
Coaching uses these real experiences to help leaders learn better. By helping leaders to turn these experiences into modifications in behaviour and approach, it allows leaders to capitalise on their experiences to make changes for the better. What’s more, coaching makes them stick – turning changes into habits and sustainable performance improvements.
3. You can’t train leaders in the skills they really need
There are many skills that a senior leader needs, but the most important of them is strategic capability. To build strategic capability, leaders need to understand complexity and be able to deal with ambiguity. The reality is that a classroom environment is a difficult place to create this type of situation. Training materials need to be prepared, time needs to be structured and it has to satisfy everyone – all factors which don’t compare well with the ever-changing reality of the modern workplace.
Coaching is proven to help leaders develop their strategic capability – it allows the leader to bring the reality of the workplace into a ‘learning laboratory’, talk through options one-to-one with a coach and identify options for action.
4. Leaders don’t need knowledge, they need reflection and action
When leaders encounter a problem, they might refer to a favourite leadership book, scour training materials or search the internet for a solution, but finding knowledge that works in their specific situation is unlikely. Everyone’s situation is unique and specific, and any answers we find in a book will always be broad and generalised. That’s not to say it’s a useless exercise, but they need to be supported to turn the knowledge into an actionable plan.
Coaching provides a space where leaders can reflect on their experience and learning and create plans that work. A coach will help them explore the positives and potential pitfalls of any chosen approach, make good decisions, and drive commitment to act.