For your organization to remain successful and sustainable, employees at all levels must be properly supported throughout their careers. Leadership development programs remain one of the best investments you can make in the success of your organization, as they build organizational capability and ensure that employees are operating at their full potential.
Leadership coaching is a powerful development tool because it drives lasting behavioral changes as well as builds new skills and overall leadership capacity. However, because resources are often limited, tough choices must be made about who would benefit most from coaching programs.
Organizations achieve much better results when coaching is strategically deployed to ensure success, rather than to mitigate failure.
From our experience, we know that the ‘safest’ decision is to prioritize senior leaders when offering coaching opportunities, but there are many other situations where leadership coaching can be strategically applied to drive results for the whole organization.
Employees who are assuming new leadership roles should be offered coaching whenever possible. This includes situations where:
- An employee has been promoted into a leadership role for the first time, and may lack much-needed skills, behaviors, and mindsets
- Due to restructuring, a key leader has a new team that they need to get aligned and engaged quickly
- An employee has been identified as a candidate for a promotion into a leadership role and needs to develop skills in preparation for that role
Experienced leaders who are new to the organization should also be considered as a priority when assigning leadership coaching resources – a Wharton School study shows that many externally-sourced leaders either fail or deliver suboptimal results for up to two years in their new role.
Although these leaders may already possess the skills necessary to perform well in their role, they will benefit from coaching to help them adjust to the new organizational culture and get up to speed quickly.
Coaching is often considered for leaders who are clearly struggling, but we find that is better to dedicate coaching resources to employees in high-stakes situations. This includes situations where:
- The leader in question has a very important goal to reach or mandate to lead that is critical for the organization
- There is some urgency to develop someone for a role or to reach a target
In our experience, organizations (and leaders) achieve much better results when coaching is strategically deployed to ensure success, rather than to mitigate failure.
Leaders Getting Stuck
That said, there are times in everyone’s career where they hit a sticking point that begins to affect their results. Leadership coaching is the best way to help people overcome obstacles and build new ways of thinking, and can be applied in situations where:
- A leader has been trying to break through an issue for several months and hasn’t been able to do it, or are struggling to capitalize on an opportunity and are getting frustrated
- A leader is under a significant amount of stress and showing signs of burnout
- An employee has recently received some tough feedback (from a 360-degree report or performance review) and has a specific area they need to develop
- A leader is supervising a team that is struggling to work well together
- An employee is looking to get feedback on their leadership skills through a 360 tool and create an action plan to develop their skills
Retaining High-Potential Employees
Finally, coaching is an excellent way to retain high-potential employees, especially in a world where the majority of millennials plan to stay with their current organization for less than five years.
Access to impactful development opportunities like leadership coaching helps high-potential employees think about their career vision, their career goals, and their career options within their current organization. Our post-program surveys show that high-potential employees that receive leadership coaching report improvements in job satisfaction and intention to remain with the company.
Consider offering coaching in situations where:
- You want to make sure that a high-potential employee has a development plan they are working on to stay engaged and grow their skills
- You have identified a top performer and you want to engage and retain them by helping them develop a career plan within your organization
- An employee has progressed through your organization reasonably well, however is now stalled due to lack of clarity around their career path
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