Coaching, a popular approach to executive leadership development, is a widespread practice in many organisations. Individuals have regular sessions with a coach, which focus on specific needs and where the individual is held accountable for implementing action plans. It can be a cost effective and beneficial approach to development and success stories do abound. But just how widespread is the focus of coaching in organisations?
According to Jean Dick, Executive Coach working in Johannesburg, coaching initiatives often target the senior echelons of an organisation to the exclusion of more junior levels of leadership. Jean has heard varying responses to this situation, ranging from, “that is where the need is because they are the leaders of the organisation”, to, “we aren’t prepared to spend the budget on coaching junior levels.” But what if organisations did exactly that? What if they were to focus coaching efforts on more junior levels?
An example would be the first line manager who has transitioned on their career path from managing self to managing others – a difficult transition for some. The changes are huge and often the individual who is the top performing technical expert, with little interest in managing others, finds themselves having to make sure that targets, deadlines and budgets are achieved. No longer do they rely on their own efforts primarily, they must now lead and inspire others to achieve goals too. Perhaps this even includes encouraging, begging and pleading! When approaches don’t yield results and the pressure is on, some may switch to tactics such as coercion and bullying to achieve objectives. If the ‘newbe’ manager / leader was coached through this critical transition, a sound base would be created for the value shifts most required at this time.
Jean sees a shift to the following as necessary and most enabling:
- honoured responsibility for partnering with team members to achieve goals;
- recognition of the commitment required to develop others while supporting their growth to enable advancement in the organisation;
- the confidence to step up to the daily challenges of managing others through managing self;
- creating an environment where collaboration and empowered participation become the norm.
A junior leader who embraces this shift will advance through the organisation leaving a trail of development, empowerment, engagement and an ethos of collaboration that ripples throughout the organisation to sustain it well into the future. This is exactly what we are crying out for in our organisations as we face increasingly strained skills pipelines.
I wonder what would happen if organisations broadened their focus of coaching? What do you think would happen?