What is Leadership Coaching?

CoachOiseau Career Coaching

Life coach, business coach, relationship coach – what the heck are all these fancy titles? It’s no wonder there’s so much confusion in the world about what the coaching profession is all about! Let’s dive in to what leadership coaching is centered around, and why it’s so beneficial to those who engage in it.

Give it to me straight – what is leadership coaching?

Leadership coaching is a process in which a client and a coach partner together to help the client develop tangible skills that improve the client’s ability to influence themselves and others.

In most coaching engagements, the client is often in need of help in developing one or more of what I call the core leadership skills: self-awareness, relationship development, communication, productivity and personal growth.

The 4 core leadership skills
As you grow yourself in these four areas, your ability to lead grows with you.

All of these areas have strong effects on a person’s ability to lead. The more a client develops these skills, the better they become as leaders.

I’ve heard of a “life coach.” What’s a “leadership coach?”

According to Google, it seems like far more people have heard of a life coach as opposed to a leadership coach:

“Life coach” searches versus “leadership coach,” with life coaches clearly winning the search battle.

In reality, most coaches across all the coaching niches have similar skills and training. A coach’s main skill set focuses around asking empowering questions, objective and intuitive listening, exploring a client’s internal narrative, and challenging assumptions and limiting beliefs. All great coaches possess these tools in their belt, usually among a host of others.

In addition to the niche audience that a coach tends to work with, there is usually a central set of problems that a coach ends up helping a client solve. Some of the major issues that leadership coaching clients may face include:

  • a lack of confidence in themselves, despite their lofty leadership position
  • the inability to communicate a clear and meaningful vision to a team
  • difficulty working with others
  • a lack of clarity around what organizational goals should be
  • the absence of a feeling of purpose in what they’re doing as leaders
  • a frustration around how rarely people seem to understand their intentions
  • trouble managing their emotions, particularly in stressful situations such as negotiations, sales presentations, and conflict resolution meetings
  • an inability to balance work and life commitments

These are often deep and tough issues to overcome. Any one or a combination of these can make life very difficult for a key organizational leader.

Leadership coaches help clients first identify where they’re most in need of help. Then, they work together to come up with strategies and tactics to improve how effectively the client leads.

Why should someone hire a leadership coach?

You’d think that most people, once they’ve supposedly identified what’s holding them back from life and career advancement, would be able to figure out how to solve their problems on their own, right?

Well…not really. Humans don’t really work that way.

Off the top of my head, I can give you two major reasons why most people can’t solve a lot of their own problems, at least not exclusively on their own.

  1. All people have mental blind spots, or patterns of thought, emotions and actions that they can’t recognize for themselves.
  2. Our human brains struggle to organize thoughts that are purely internalized. Externalizing thoughts through the help of a questioning coach gives a client the chance to understand themselves more clearly and deeply.

The number one role of the coach is to check their client’s blind spots, and help the clients understand those what those blind spots are, how they may have got there in the first place, and how they can better handle those blind spots going forward.

After that, the coach provides an intimate, trusted space for the client to explore their minds, feelings, and patterns of behaviour. By dialing back on the judgment that clients feel from others, the coach invites the client to let loose and really dig in to who they are, what they want to do, and how they can do it.

Does leadership coaching only “fix” clients who are “broken?”

Easy on the judgments there! No one’s broken, and no one needs to be fixed! At least not in a coaching context.

While coaching gets a rap about being “remedial” in its approach, it’s really an amazing endeavour for those who simply want to grow their abilities in a certain domain or build an amazing life.

Helping a client imagine a bigger and better version of themselves is a powerful aspect of the coaching process. Identifying what keeps a client “playing small” and how they can “up” their game is an exhilarating experience for both the client and coach.

Does leadership coaching ever spill over into a client’s personal life?

Absolutely! It happens all the time.

It’s rare that a coaching engagement remains purely focused on the “professional” elements of a person’s life. Despite our best efforts to compartmentalize different parts of our lives, we are always the same person at our core.

Here is one of the greatest observations of human behaviour that I learned about while at the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (or “iPEC,” for short):

“How we do anything is how we do everything.”

People who are late to meetings with coworkers are usually the same people who are late to meet up with their friends after work.

Those who avoid conflict at work, also tend to avoid conflict when they’re away from work.

Someone who gets inconsistent results in one area of their life because of a lack of consistent effort is likely to see a pattern emerge if they step back and examine other facets of the their world. Their inconsistent effort is likely showing up elsewhere in some way.

Many of the challenges that we face in our professional lives are a reflection of the ones that we face in our personal ones. As such, leadership coaching can definitely start to resemble life coaching. This why both titles appear in my company’s name.

Burning question: is the coaching industry legit?

Based on the numbers, the answer is yes! A 2016 study by the International Coach Federation and PwC, the global coaching industry was estimated to be worth roughly $2.3 billion USD.

The industry is also growing: total revenue of the market for coaching is up 19% from 2011.

Conclusion

Leadership coaching is a valuable and worthwhile process for those who understand its purpose and the potential impact it can have on a client.

It may only be a couple of key skills, such as public speaking or the ability to foster close connections with others, that may be holding a person back from their next big promotion.

Sometimes, it’s the more profound element of self-awareness that needs to be addressed in an up-and-coming leader. They may have amazing technical skills, but no one wants to work with them because of their inconsiderate, possibly disrespectful persona. Or they simply don’t feel as confident as they’d like to in their leadership role.

Whatever the need or the goal is, working with a coach can help you go from where you’re stuck at now, to where you want to go in the future.

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