Why External Coaching is used in Leadership Development

May 03, 2015  |   Executive Coaching Blog,Featured   |     |   0 Comment

Here we explore when external executive coaching is used as part of an organisation’s leadership development activity. We look at some of the different types of leadership development offered and the reasons why an external coach is preferred to an internal coach by participants.

Purposes of Leadership Development

There are lots of different types of leadership development activity used by organisations. The purposes of these interventions can also vary. They maybe designed to build the capability of leaders for the future. Alternatively their purpose might be to enhance the skills of current leaders in an organisation. As a result they are aimed at the most junior staff right through to the board.

We use the term executive coaching in the article but this does not mean it relates to coaching for the most senior leaders in an organisation. Executive coaching can be provided to managers at any level in an organisation.

Where Executive Coaching is an Important Element of Leadership Development

Here we focus on external coaching and this is based on our experience of supporting organisations with leadership development. It also includes the experiences of other coaching organisations with whom we work closely.

  • 360 feedback to identify strengths and development areas. Executive coaching can facilitate a discussion of the results but perhaps more importantly enable an individual to determine the actions they want to take to enhance their leadership skills. Coaching can also provide the ongoing support for a leader making a change in style. This is perhaps the biggest gap in many leadership 360 interventions. There seems to be a lot of support in interpreting 360 feedback and defining an action plan. Often there is little support in the difficult task of changing behaviour. In our experience this is the cause of leadership interventions of this type failing.
  • Leadership skills training followed up with coaching sessions. These are normally aimed at enabling line managers to transfer their new skills into practice. Too many quite expensive programmes do not bother with this. As a result managers tend to say the courses were; interesting, valuable, challenging, eye-opening or useful. But actually do nothing with the content of the course!
  • Senior managers provided with an annual coaching allowance. These tend to be at Executive Committee level or those that report to Directors on the Executive Committee. This approach is used by organisations which wish to provide individually tailored personal development to their senior management group. It avoids the ‘sheep dip’ and allows managers to use the hours when they really need/want them. In most cases the managers do not have to use the hours they are available if requested.
  • As a follow-up to development centres to build the capability of the best talent in organisations. These can be anything from 2 to 8 coaching sessions and may cover a wide range of topic areas. These might include subjects like time management, delegation skills to the need to develop a more strategic outlook.
  • Support for line managers developing their own coaching skills. This might be in providing the coaching skills or as part of a programme to assist in the development and use of coaching skills.

Participants’ View of the Benefits of External Executive Coaching

Rather than tell you what we think are the benefits of using external executive coaching, it’s probably more helpful for us to give you what has been said by those receiving coaching from an external coach. They are not given in any particular order of priority or preference.

  • Trust that the conversations will be confidential and not relayed to others in the organisation
  • The opportunity to have a totally honest and transparent discussion with someone who has no organisational ‘axe to grind’.
  • Trust that the coach has the skills to know how to manage some of the issues that I need to discuss
  • The chance to discuss things with some who has extensive experience of the way other organisations and managers do things
  • A chance to get independent feedback and challenge from someone with no organisational agenda
  • The chance to work with someone I perceive to be an expert at coaching (meaning: rather than doing it as an add-on to their normal job)
  • A practical demonstration that the organisation is willing to invest in me and my development
  • Knowing that my coach will be coming to meet me makes sure I pay attention to getting my actions completed
  • The chance to work with someone dedicated to helping you succeed
  • The coach provides a useful role model for me to consider and develop my management style (meaning: listening and questioning skills)

It seems to us as an executive coaching company that there are valuable roles for both internal and external coaches. We find that our coaching clients appreciate an external coach where they want to feel they can open up and explore their topic areas. This is particularly the case where they are looking at changing a particular behaviour. It is in this kind of coaching that clients say the things mentioned above, about their preference for being coached by someone from outside the organisation.
Tony Goddard

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