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Archive from "Coaching and Leadership"

When coaching programs begin to fail

Leadership development was identified as a main concern by two thirds of 500 executives interviewed.
30% of US companies admit that they failed to explore their international business opportunities to the fullest due to a lack of leaders with the right capabilities.

Four reasons attributed to why leadership-development programs fail to deliver:

1. Overlooking context

  • Training programs tend to believe that “one size fits all” independent of company culture or strategy.
  • The focus of training programs must be flexible and adaptable to the needs of the company, taking into consideration their current strategy and goals instead of making companies adapt to the training programs.
  • Focusing means selecting two or three competencies which can make a significant difference once worked on.
  • A clear path must be established on the competencies worked on: a “from – to” path must be clearly drawn.


2. Decoupling reflection from real work

  • Leadership programs usually detach the leader from their work environment, usually inserting them into a “classroom” like environment.
  • Typically, adults retain 10% of what they see in a classroom or lecture versus two thirds of learning through a “hands on” approach.
  • By doing on-the-job training, leaders can balance their demands between urgent projects and leadership development


3. Underestimating Mindsets

  • In order to cause change, generating discomfort is inevitable once addressing root causes as to why a leader acts in a given way.
  • Training programs usually avoid exploring individual beliefs and mindsets of leaders and instead choose to promote empowerment and delegation; successful adoption of this is unlikely.
  • Just as a coach would view an athlete’s muscle pain as a proper response to training, leaders who are stretching themselves should also feel some discomfort as they struggle to reach new levels of leadership performance.

4. Failing to measure results

  • When businesses fail to track and measure changes in leadership performance over time, they increase the odds that improvement initiatives won’t be taken seriously.
  • Too often, any evaluation of leadership development begins and ends with participant feedback; the danger here is that trainers learn to game the system and deliver a syllabus that is more pleasing than challenging to participants.


SOURCE: McKinsey & Company

Five key points to excellent coaching

Nowadays, coaching has become a fundamental centerpiece to the development of leaders within companies. Even so that many companies include in the job description of its new leaders “the ability to coach and develop others”. Unfortunately, many of today’s managers and leaders don’t live up to this.

The 2010 Executive Coaching Survey has shown that 63% of organizations use some form of internal coaching, and half of the rest plan to. But even still, coaching is a small fraction of the job requirement for most managers; half of the interviewed managers spend 10% of their time coaching others.

The central purpose of coaching is to assist individuals on how to retain focus and improve the activities they perform. The growth that coaching stimulates is done by provoking thought rather than giving directions and on holding a person accountable for his or her goals.

In other words, the purpose is to increase effectiveness, broaden thinking, identify strengths and development needs and set and achieve challenging goals.

Here are the five main skills that managers should be able to coach others on:

1)     Constructing a relationship

Simply put, your coach needs to be somebody you trust. Once there is a true link of trust established, learning and coaching will be a smoother process.


2)    Adequate assessment tools

Coaching is no good if you don’t have the right tools to measure the yielded results. This is part of the process of self-awareness that comes from the changes that occur due to coaching. This type of feedback should show all aspects of change (or lack of it).


3)    In depth questioning

This process can be summarized as “the art of thinking about thinking”. In other words, a coach should make the coachee ask himself the correct questions through the usage of open ended questions.


4)    Full support

A coach must always allow for employees and coachees to vent their emotions without judging them. Also, they should encourage them to reach their goal through the recognition of progress which has been made and recognize their success.


5)    Establishing goals

This step is central to coaching. The establishment of reachable and realistic goals is the central pillar of coaching. Reaching each of the set milestones will make the coachee and the coach truly visualize how far they have come since the beginning. Milestones should be set in order to keep tabs on how things progress through time.

You should seed your organization with coaching role models. The key is to create a pool of manager-coaches who can be role models, supporters and sustainers of a coaching mindset.

Always link the purpose and results of coaching to the business. Managers have to know the business case for coaching and developing others if they’re to value it and use it effectively. Where is the business headed? What leadership skills are needed to get us there? How should coaches work with direct reports to provide the feedback, information and experiences they need to build those needed skills? Set strategic coaching goals, tactics and measures for the organization as well as including coaching as an individual metric.

Finally, give it time. It’s not surprising that managers feel they don’t have enough time for coaching. Even if you make learning and coaching explicit priorities, time is tight for everyone. But as your coaching processes and goals become more consistent and more highly valued, in-house coaching will take root.

Successful Organizations Need Leaders At All Levels

Anybody who has ever watched interviews with managers or coaches of professional sports teams will have heard plenty of discussion of the need for leaders throughout the team. The same thinking is also increasingly a preoccupation of business people. Indeed, the need for “leaders at all levels” is one of the 12 critical issues identified in the Global Human Capital Trends 2014 survey published earlier this month by Deloitte University Press, the publishing arm of the professional services firm’s leadership center.

In a paper examining the findings, Adam Canwell, Vishalli Dongrie, Neil Neveras and Heather Stockton – who work for Deloitte in a range of locations  – point out that leadership “remains the No. 1 talent issue facing organizations around the world,” with 86% of respondents to the survey rating it “urgent” or “important.” However, the fact that only 13% say they do an excellent job of developing leaders at all levels means that this area has the largest “readiness gap” in the survey.

Finding good leaders has, of course, always been a crucial issue for all sorts of organizations. This is why the armed forces, for instance, put so much effort into training their officers and why business schools and other providers of executive development have thrived. But the Deloitte team argues that “21st-century leadership is different”. Canwell and his colleagues write: “Companies face new leadership challenges, including developing Millenials and multiple generations of leaders, meeting the demand for leaders with global fluency and flexibility, building the ability to innovate and inspire others to perform, and acquiring new levels of understanding of rapidly changing technologies and new disciplines and fields.” No wonder organizations are coming up short.

Almost inevitably, the problem is felt to be especially acute today. This is a result of the strengthening of the global recovery, the desire on the part of the companies to expand in new markets and the growing numbers of older leaders choosing to retire.

A key part of the solution identified by the Deloitte team is for organizations to develop leadership pipelines at every level. At present, it says, companies are not only not developing enough leaders, they are also not equipping those they are creating with the critical capabilities and skills they need to succeed. “Today’s market environment places a premium on speed, flexibility and the ability to lead in uncertain situations. At the same time, the flattening of organizations has created an explosion in demand for leadership skills at every level.”

It appears that there is no avoiding spending money when it comes to dealing with this situation. The best performing companies already spend thousands of dollars each year developing each would-be leader on their staff, with the figure for senior leaders in the tens of thousands of dollars. Creating strong leadership programs for leaders at all levels – as advocated – requires sustained and substantial investment. At the early stages in the leadership pipeline, potential leaders need to acquire core skills in supervision and management, with frequent assignments to build on this base. Later on, they need to understand all the business functions before becoming executives, when business and product strategy will be central, along with experience of driving change within large teams. Companies need to understand that there are no shortcuts to building broad and deep leadership teams. New leaders typically need 18 months before feeling fully comfortable in a new role, while for those in the mid-level the period is more likely to be two to three years.

The paper also calls for companies to be more flexible in terms of leadership paths. Some leaders will move into senior roles relatively quickly because of a particular situation, while others will develop more slowly.

Above all, though, organizations need to realize that developing leaders amounts to more than having a selection of training programs. “Senior executives should create a culture that broadens the opportunity for leaders to develop in new ways,” writes the Deloitte team. “This means putting potential leaders in positions that stretch them beyond their current skill sets, and continuously coaching and supporting leaders so they can build their capabilities as rapidly as possible.” This is increasingly well recognised, say the authors, but it is “simply not widely adopted and practiced”.

Where should companies begin? A few starting points include:

Engaging top executives to develop leadership strategy and actively govern leadership development.

Aligning leadership strategies and development with evolving business goals

Focusing on three aspects of developing leaders – developing leaders at all levels, developing global leaders locally and developing a succession mindset

Implementing an effective – and unique – leadership program.

But there is no time to delay. The best-performing organizations are already on their way.


SOURCE: Forbes

Top Athletes Use Coaches. Why Don’t CEOs?

Top athletes routinely rely on coaches to help them get even better at what they already do so well. Not so with CEOs, the top performers in their field.

Nearly two-thirds of CEOs do not receive coaching or leadership advice from outside consultants, according to the latest study from the Center for Leadership Development and Research at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance, and the Miles Group.

Most CEOs say they would welcome an outside perspective to advance their personal development. Nearly 43 percent of CEOs surveyed rated conflict management skills the area of most concern. Not far behind was sharing leadership (36 percent), listening and communication skills (both 32 percent), and planning skills (25 percent).

CEOs don’t see as great a need to work on their softer skills. Low on the personal development list: compassion (18 percent), interpersonal and persuasion skills (both 14 percent), and motivation (11 percent).

“It’s concerning that so many of them are ‘going it alone,’” says Stephen Miles, chief executive officer of the Miles Group. In an e-mail exchange, Miles explains why so few CEOs have leadership coaches and the best combination of “hard” and “soft” skills:

Nearly two-thirds of CEOs surveyed do not receive outside leadership counsel, but nearly all say they want advice. What’s stopping them?

There is still some residual stigma around coaching that it is somehow “remedial” as opposed to something that enhances high performance, similar to how an elite athlete uses a coach. But there really is not a single top athlete who does not have a coach, and what is also interesting is that most of the greatest coaches in the world were not the best players; just think of “Coach K” [men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski] at Duke. CEOs should not have insecurity about this issue, and instead see coaching as a tool for improving what is already high performance.

Why are CEOs most interested in developing conflict management and delegation skills?

A CEO’s ability to share leadership and delegate is really about developing an organizational design that will optimize the entire team. By creating an effective complementary leadership structure—which brings in the members of the top team—the CEO can maximize the whole and get more lift. The CEOs who get this right with the correct people around them can excel tremendously.

“Soft” skills are low on the personal improvement list. Should that concern boards? Do these skills have a place in the CEO’s tool kit?

Putting into place this kind of a complementary leadership structure goes hand in hand with coaching and developing people—what some consider “soft” skills. But while many of the most successful leaders are not naturally the best coaches, learning a few simple tools and frameworks for increasing their effectiveness as a coach goes a long way to strengthening and developing the team—and has a strong positive effect on retention.

The challenge for the CEO is that coaching takes a lot of nuance: The goal is to not make someone feel badly about themselves, but to have the person get up the next morning and be excited about trying something new or doing something in a different way.

Is there a balance between soft and hard skills CEOs should strive for?

Conflict management is actually a combination of hard and soft skills, and is critical in the CEO role. Just about anything that gets to the CEO’s desk has an element of pleasing someone and making someone else unhappy. When the CEO avoids conflict, it can shut the whole organization down: Decisions are not made and problems fester, creating a domino effect of unproductive behaviors down the ladder. But conflict shouldn’t be avoided. A CEO who can manage and channel conflict in a constructive way can get to the root of issues, apply rigor to the team’s thinking, and, ultimately, drive the best outcomes. So cultivating this skill can be a powerful tool to help the entire organization.

SOURCE: Bloomberg Businessweek