What is leadership coaching?
If like many of us on this island you experienced walking in the dark, with eyes strained and your arms stretched out in front of you feeling your away against the walls of your homes, seeking guidance from your memory of where your furniture is positioned to make your way round, then you have also experienced leading blindly.
Leadership coaching, or executive coaching, is like turning on the light in the dark. It adds colour, vision, depth and context to the struggles leadership brings with it.
While there is enough stigma to prohibit leaders from accepting they need help, leadership coaching is a fast growing activity, that is helping numerous leaders and get back on the right track to delivering positive impact in their organisations, for their people, and their communities.
How does leadership coaching help leaders improve their performance?
Let me start by defining what leadership coaching is not to avoid misconceptions.
Coaching is not training. It does not provide an indexed manual of how to ‘switch on and switch off’ leadership skills or motivate staff or deliver improving business results.
It is not the panacea to all leadership ailments.
What it is though is a context relevant guide to personal and professional development.
Fancy words? You are right.
Let me explain.
Behind every leader is an individual. So what leadership coaching does is explores how the individual fits in the leadership seat and assists the leader to regulate how that seat is positioned depending on the direction they are taking.
As coaches our purpose is to equip the leader with the self-awareness necessary to better themselves at fulfilling the responsibilities that come with that role.
As a result, our leadership coaching focuses on four particular areas of development: Personal, Team, Leadership and Organisation. We consider these as the four main components of the role of a leader.
By focussing on these areas of development, we enable individuals to work holistically on their role, and not just their job. Leadership is not a mere list of items to check off at the end of a day or represented by a five-page job description. Leadership is about the responsibility one takes on to bring about positive change and impact.
It requires mental fortitude, caring for others, ownership and, constantly working on self-improvement. Coaching allows the leader, together with a trusted partner, bring perspective in all these areas to drive business results.
How does leadership coaching help businesses?
If we accept the premise that business is all about people – whether those who create it, deliver it or consume it, then it should not be surprising that working with the people in the business will help deliver better business results.
To be more specific, leadership coaching helps highlight an individual’s strengths – and emphasises on how to elevate that strength to enhance their leadership, while becoming more self-aware of limitations and working on improving those skill sets that could limit the way the individual performs in their role.
Among some of the more important roles leadership coaching performs is that of challenger. A leadership coach is there to challenge the individual’s way of thinking to improve their performance. A leadership coach will set stretch objectives and remind the individual of their accountability in making these incremental changes in the way they lead.
It is only through continual improvement that individuals and leaders can remain on top of things in a fast paced environment. Today’s thinking becomes obsolete tomorrow, so leaders need to be able to continuously check the way they are thinking about things as this is translated into behaviour.
It is not for the faint hearted. A leadership coach is not a private coffee morning. It is to question current results that are brought about by current behaviours and actions. Leadership coaching requires the individual to be ready to be vulnerable, to put themselves on the spot and take on the accountability for change rather than blaming others.
This is where real change happens and real business growth takes place.
What does a typical programme look like?
Leadership coaching is not a short-term, quick-fix solution. It is a medium-to-long-term partnership based on defined objectives. Some can be turned around relatively quickly. Others, that require more in-depth introspection and self-reflection, require more effort and persistence.
It requires taking the learning outcomes into both personal and professional spheres, and is not just about the individual, but also about the relationship with the individual’s team and organisation.
Leadership coaching is for anyone who takes on leadership roles in their life; whether as a CEO, team leader, football coach, community volunteer, parent, sibling. Leadership is a mindset, and anyone can be a leader in their own right if they put their mind to it.
What makes Up Your Level’s Leadership Coaching programme so effective?
At Up Your Level, our leadership coaching programmes are crafted with a clear purpose, designed to deliver the objectives set-out by the coachee, and carried out with clear intent.
Our FIRE methodology focuses on four key components that help drive performance. These are:
- Flow and the ability to take on challenges as a stimulus to concentrate, focus, avoid distractions, and move beyond finding excuses to putting the necessary systems in place to perform at high levels.
- Impact is all about understanding the legacy of your work in relation to the objectives you set for yourself. It means caring about others and aligning your individual purpose in life with the purpose of your role in the business. This helps gather following, belief, confidence and culture within an organisation.
- Responsibility for what we sign up for. Leadership, as mentioned earlier, is not a finite checklist of chores. It is, as quoted in the original DC movie Spiderman, about the responsibility that comes with being in a position of power (influence), autonomy and authority. It is not to be taken lightly, and it is not for everyone.
- Finally, Excellence. This is not about seeking perfection. It is about working on our shortcomings, being curious, inquisitive, innovative and creative in ways that can enhance our core and peripheral skill sets.
FIRE is a balance scorecard that will keep leaders on track to continuously seek inspiration for improvement through the four channels that drive performance.
What are the real-world benefits I can expect from a leadership coaching programme?
This is a great question we get asked a lot during our coaching conversations. In the absence of a crystal ball or silver bullet to all leadership problems, coaching will provide introspection, self-awareness, unbiased, non-judgemental feed-forward.
Coaches, good coaches, are great listeners and allow the individual the opportunity to explore their own limitations in a safe, unbased space. We are committed to only one thing, and that is improving an individual’s or a team’s ability to build the resilience to resolve and anticipate their own limitations. Sometimes it’s through a breakthrough moment, other times it’s through accepting a challenge, or taking on a new perspective to question our current way of seeing things.
Why we tend to overestimate our leadership capabilities
Our human mind is the only one on the planet capable of visualising our future. It is the only one that can create stories of how we see ourselves today and in the future. It is the only brain that takes our primitive fight or flight instincts to self-sabotage our growth and development. Overestimating our leadership capabilities is a fight or flight response to safeguarding our position, the story we tell others about us, our Ego.
By doing so we self-preserve, but we do not grow.
Some say it is lonely at the top (wherever that may be). It doesn’t have to be.
It requires a commitment to care about the impact we have on our surroundings. It behests commitment to the role. It invokes new ways of thinking and mental preparedness. And it mandates for the creation of space – in our busy lives – to actually stop doing what we are doing and learn new skills.