A Brief Introduction To Leadership Coaching
For managers, leaders, aspiring leaders, (and even for coaches who want to do more leadership coaching), here are a few common leadership coaching topics I get asked about frequently. They are shared to help you get a better feel for what leadership coaching is, how it works, and what you might get out of it.
What Exactly Is It?
In the broadest sense, whenever you are working with someone acting in a coaching or mentoring capacity in an ongoing relationship to; raise your awareness, grow as a human being, develop your leadership skills and effectiveness, work through some of the common challenges managers and leaders face, close gaps between where you are now and where you want to be, translate goals into specific actions, change behavior, increase the impact you are having, and generally get better results – you could be considered to be engaged in some form of leadership coaching.
Who Seeks Coaching
Most clients that come to leadership coaching tend to be proactive and take their growth and development seriously. They are typically open-minded, high performers who are used to seeking out the best support and training available. However, a percentage of coaching clients may also be noticing elevated levels of stress or perhaps some early symptoms of disengagement or burnout.
Coaching is most valuable on the more important challenges clients face, or the bigger changes they seek to make, where they do not seem to be making the progress they desire. Generally speaking, the bigger the emotional investment in reducing the current level of discomfort, or achieving the payoff of the most desired outcome, the more someone will benefit from coaching.
How Does The Process Of Leadership Coaching Work?
There are hundreds and hundreds of well-trained and experienced coaches who work with leaders or aspiring leaders, and there is a wide array of approaches they take. On one end of the spectrum, let’s call it the “pure coaching” end, you have coaches who will work with a leader on whatever agenda the client brings to coaching. These coaches may or may not have relevant experience or additional training in any leadership or business competencies. However, if they are well-trained, they can assist the client get clear on an agenda that aligns with what matters to them, identify strengths, pinpoint gaps, evoke growth, set priorities, stay on track and get better results. (I know quite a few very effective and successful coaches who have no background in business or organization life, yet manage to add great value to their clients.)
On the other end of the spectrum, there are many coaches who are not only well-trained in the core coaching skills, but also have dozens of other qualifications and/or relevant personal experience in leadership issues. Let’s call this the “expertise” end of the spectrum. These coaches typically have training in a wide variety of assessments, team intervention protocols, or other specific competencies of common interest to leaders or their organizations. At this end of the spectrum, coaching is often kicked off with some form of assessment, or more elaborate intake process, which sets the learning agenda for the subsequent coaching.
In my experience the majority of leadership coaches fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Here, in addition to being well-trained, they typically do have some relevant experience as a leader, and often have accumulated additional knowledge on topics of frequent interest to their leadership clients such as: common leadership models and competencies, leadership and communication styles, team development, confidence building, stress management, etc. However, here in the middle of the spectrum coaches may not lead with assessments or have as much of a prescriptive approach. Typically the majority of leadership coaches tend to meet whatever agenda a client brings to coaching. (With my leadership coaching clients the 3 most common topics that contribute the greatest value are usually: 1) Learning the various core leadership competencies – which include; challenging the status quo, developing a compelling vision that connects to all constituents, enabling/empowering others, walking the talk as a leader, and mastering the wide range of emotional and communication skills required to keep people emotionally engaged. 2) Understanding the different common styles of leadership, (commanding, pace setting, visionary, coaching, etc.) their strengths and weakness and when a particular style is most effective. 3) Stress and time management. Stress is the silent killer of countless leader’s initiatives and careers, and wreaks havoc with time management, overall energy and happiness levels.
Also, I would estimate that approximately half of all leadership coaching is done in-person, and half is done over the phone. There are some coaching agendas that benefit from in-person coaching. (For example if a coach is observing a client to team interaction.) However, the vast majority of coaching I do is very successfully done over the phone. The benefits of phone coaching is greater flexibility, a greater sense of confidentiality (which often translates into greater candor and thus faster change) and because no travel is involved, phone coaching is often more affordable.
Benefits – How Do I Know It Is Working?
In any coaching interaction, you should experience value quickly. (I tell my clients if they do not get value out of every session, they are free to leave at any time.) You should also expect the coaching process to be overwhelmingly positive. Meaning, coaches are trained to build on your strengths and help you keep emotionally connected to the best possible outcome while you work to close any gaps or move past current obstacles. (There is a good reason for this. Modern neuroscience has shown that none of us can grow or change optimally when we are too stressed out or solely focused on our shortcomings.)
In terms of tangible benefits, over the years there have been a few ROI studies on the value of coaching. One study conducted by MetrixGlobal, LLC, found the Return on Investment of coaching was calculated to exceed 500%.
Other industry studies have shown the percentage of clients reporting topic specific benefits in the following areas:
- Self-awareness: 67.6%
- Setting better goals: 62.4%
- More balanced life: 60.5%
- Lower stress levels: 57.1%
- Self-discovery: 52.9%
- Self-confidence: 52.4%
- Improvement in quality of life: 43.3%
- Enhanced communication skills: 39.5%
- Project completion: 35.7%
- Health or fitness improvement: 33.8%
- Better relationship w/ boss, co-workers: 33.3%
- Better family relationship(s): 33.3%
For a more complete list of studies and benefits, please visit this page on my site. http://acoach4u.com/about-coaching/benefits-of-working-with-a-life-coach/
How Long Does It Take?
This of course depends on the agenda a client bring to coaching. However, International Coach Federation (ICF) research has shown that 83% of clients stay with their coach for at least 3 months and the majority of clients remain in coaching for over 6 months. Some clients never leave. (I have clients I have been talking to for over 14 years.)
What Does Leadership Coaching Cost?
This too is all over the map. Some coaches charge by the hour, others by the month and some bundle their services with specific assessments or more elaborate intake, interview or shadowing sessions (and associated travel expenses) over 6 months or a year. Common range of charges can vary from $500 per month to over $20,000 for a six month engagement. However, in a recent industry survey conducted by The Sherpa Coaching Group, the average executive coach was charging in the range of $330 an hour.
How To Choose The Right Coach
Personal recommendation can be good. However, often a coach that is a good fit for a colleague, may not be a good fit for you. There is no one coach for everyone. With different personalities, specialties, approaches, backgrounds, client agendas, etc. finding the right coach is not always easy. Yet, as the right coaching relationship can be transformational, and make a huge difference in your career and life, you will really benefit from doing your homework.
Fortunately these days there is a wide selection of competent and experienced coaches out there. If you simply Google “Leadership Coach” or “Executive Coach” you are going to find a lot of candidates. I recommend clients check a few key areas. Has the coach been trained by a recognized, (ideally an ICF accredited) coaching program? Do they have a senior ICF credential? The designations PCC, or MCC are ICF credentials that indicate the coach has completed substantial training, accumulated years of experience, been supervised and examined by independent and qualified peers, and subscribes to a code of ethics and professional practices. This is not to imply that only coaches with an ICF credential can add value. (Full disclosure. I have served on the ICF Board and as its President. There are over 15 other coaching organizations around the world and some notable coaches who did not follow a conventional path into coaching.) Rather, as the ICF is generally recognized as a leader in the coaching industry for setting high professional standards, it is just another measure of quality assurance in a young profession still populated by no small number of self-proclaimed practitioners.
Also, for many clients who want to benefit from specific experience or knowledge based mentoring, it would be important to see if the coach has the relevant background or qualifications to best support their client’s agenda. (Sometimes reading a few of the testimonials on a coach’s website or LinkedIn profile will help you better appreciate the type of results they routinely get with clients.) And finally, when you talk to any potential coach (and I do recommend you chat with a few) is there rapport? Do you feel heard, understood and generally get a good feel for who they are as a human being? And when you get off a complimentary phone call with a coach, you should have a good idea of how the coaching will proceed and feel some sense of excitement.
Industry studies routinely show that over 96% of clients get great value from coaching. Clients routinely tell their coach that working together was the best decision they ever made. I hope your experience with leadership coaching will be equally successful.
B.ApSc, CPCC, Master Certified Coach
Executive, Leadership & Business Coach
2007 Coach of The Year
Steve Mitten is an award winning Master Certified Coach who works with executives, leaders and business owners to help them make powerful changes in their lives, careers and organizations. He coaches his clients on the issues most important to them including; leadership, communication, time management, emotional intelligence, stress management and work/life balance so they can lead more effective, enjoyable and meaningful lives.
* image courtesy of suphakit73 and freedigitalphotos.net