How Will Executive Coaching Make Me a Better Leader?
onApril 24th, 2019
- Updated onOctober 8, 2019 - 10:23am
- You have been identified as a high-potential in your organization and you want to prepare for a leadership role
- You are recently promoted from an individual contributor role to your first leadership role
- You’ve been recently promoted to a new leadership position (within or outside your organization)
- You are struggling in a new leadership role and you may (or may not) be sure why
- Your career has stalled or plateaued, and you want to jump-start it
The good news is that you are not alone. These are very common scenarios and there are proactive steps all leaders can take to become great, if not exceptional leaders. Individuals and their organizations are keenly aware of the need to prepare for leadership roles. The bad news is that leadership failure rates remain unacceptably high, exacerbated by the demands on today’s leaders. There’s no doubt that our VUCA world is increasingly unforgiving when it comes to leadership performance.
“... the demand for evolving leadership skills has become more critical in today’s chaotic business environments. Companies need their top leaders to perform differently and at faster speeds.” Conference Board Global Executive Coaching Survey 2018
- Review what’s preventing leaders from achieving their leadership potential
- Explore the research on soft skills to establish the importance of these skills on leadership performance
- Examine how executive coaching can support the development of these skills
- Share what leaders who’ve experienced executive coaching say about the experience and how it has made them better leaders
- Share ideas and recommended resources for leaders and organizations
The Biggest Mistakes Leaders Make
- Inability or unwillingness to transition from an individual contributor to managing others
- Failure to build a high-performing, motivated team
- Unclear or ambiguous expectations regarding the role
- Lack of internal political savvy, including failure to develop relationships with stakeholders
- Applying old approaches and solutions to situations that demand new and fresh thinking
- Under-developed or a lack of critical soft skills such as social and emotional intelligence, relationship building, communication, and conflict resolution
The Biggest Mistakes Organizations Make
- Lack of a process to assimilate executives into the organization
- Focus on hard or technical skills when hiring or promoting leaders
- Difficulty identifying and assessing soft skills accurately
- Lack of leader preparation for leadership roles
- Failure to understand and address cultures that negatively impact leader behavior
The Importance of Soft Skills
- According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Global Talent Trends Report, 92% of talent professionals and hiring managers say that soft skills matter as much or more than hard skills. Furthermore, the study reveals that 89% of bad hires typically lack soft skills.
- Meanwhile, Millennials see employers falling short in developing soft skills according to the 2018 Deloitte Millennial Survey.
- Finally, the Conference Board has been tracking Executive Coaching trends since 2006 and notes that companies need leaders with emotional intelligence in the latest report.
The Research on Leadership Skills
- Psychologist Daniel Goleman, known for introducing the concept of "Emotional Intelligence" (EI) in 1995 with his best-seller Emotional Intelligence. In his research, he found that of all skills (cognitive, technical, and emotional intelligence), EI separated star performers from average performers.
“When I analyzed all this data, I found dramatic results. To be sure, intellect was a driver of outstanding performance. Cognitive skills such as big-picture thinking and long-term vision were particularly important. But when I calculated the ratio of technical skills, IQ, and emotional intelligence as ingredients of excellent performance, emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important as the others for jobs at all levels.” Daniel Goleman
- In his 1996 study of a global food and beverage company, David McClelland, another renowned researcher in human and organizational behavior, found that senior managers who possessed emotional intelligence capabilities outperformed their yearly earnings goals by 20%.
- For the past decade, Google has been studying what it takes to be a great leader in its organization. Starting in 2008, “Project Oxygen” researchers, as part of “Google’s Innovation Lab’ analyzed 10,000 data points (performance reviews, surveys, interviews) to identify the behaviors most prevalent among their top managers. Seven of eight characteristics identified were soft skills, including being a good coach; empowering the team without micro-managing, communicating and listening well; sharing information, having empathy.
Google reported a statistically significant improvement in 75 percent of its underperforming managers after implementing its leadership development program. Google’s list has evolved over time and was updated in 2018. The list of “10 Oxygen behaviors of Google's best managers” includes two updated behaviors and two new behaviors (collaboration and strong decision-making).
How Can I Develop Great Leadership Skills?
|GAP||Problem||Executive Coaching As A Solution|
1: Individuals may benefit more than their sponsors
"Organizations invest in executive development for their own long-term good, but individuals participate in order to enhance their skills and advance their careers, and they don’t necessarily remain with the employers who’ve paid for their training."
|2: Lack of Soft Skills Development||"... the skills that executive development programs build and those that firms require—particularly the interpersonal skills essential to thriving in today’s flat, networked, increasingly collaborative organizations. Traditional providers bring deep expertise in teaching cognitive skills and measuring their development, but they are far less experienced in teaching people how to communicate and work with one another effectively."||
|3: Difficulty Transferring Learning to Role||
"... few executives seem to take what they learn in the classroom and apply it to their jobs—and the farther removed the locus of learning is from the locus of application, the larger this gap becomes.
In one AJO leadership development program spanning five cohorts, executive coaching has been consistently rated as the most valuable program component by high-potential program participants. Other program components include 360° feedbacks, self-assessments, skill-building workshops, peer coaching, leadership mentoring, and think tanks/group projects.
What Are the Goals of Executive Coaching?
The Benefits of Executive Coaching - Leaders Share Their Feedback
The coaching was a valuable use of my time
Coaching has enhanced my self-awareness
I achieved the goals outlined in my coaching plan
I have become a more effective leader than I was prior to coaching
Others would say they have noticed a positive change in my approach/skills
Leading Teams and People
- I have become a much more effective leader of leaders: I have learned how to support and empower my team rather than do things myself and I see that my team is responding to me in much more positive way
- My team increased the productivity of his/her individual work and better engagement with the team and myself
- Overall office teamwork/camaraderie has improved immensely
- The team is more engaged and feeling like they have a stake in the decision-making. I've been able to step back and enable them to step up.
- Improved mentoring/coaching with my team
- I have become a more effective leader and have been able to develop a motivated and engaged team in a high stress/chaotic environment
Executive Presence/Influencing Skills
- I know that my coaching has helped improve my influence and effectiveness during a critical time
- Improved communication when engaging with my direct reports as well as senior managers
- I have become much more aware of my own emotions and feelings and as a result, can better relate to emotions/feelings of my team and colleagues. I have learned to control my emotions better, which makes my business discussions much more effective
- Ability to pause, reflect and listen. Better understand what my emotional intelligence tools are and how to use them
- Improved self-awareness, greater ability to relinquish control, ability to get greater self-fulfillment via the enhanced performance of my team
- The experience was very much a confidence-builder
- Some intangible benefits included self-awareness and confidence in myself
- The opportunity for deeper introspection and an expanded self-awareness when facing challenges
- I've learned not to "sweat the small stuff", to be direct and ask specific questions and have developed my emotional intelligence skills
- My relationships with other executives within the organization have improved immensely as a result of my improved listening and collaborative efforts
- The building of positive coalitions
- What stands out personally for me is stakeholder identification and management
- Appropriate delegation allowing me to be more strategic with a better opportunity for my own growth
- Improved individual and group productivity
- Appropriate delegation allowing me to be more strategic with a better opportunity for my own growth
- I continue to challenge myself to expand my comfort zone and take risks in the areas that are not my natural strengths
- Helped me focus on developing a new strategy for the company which has been taken up and now used as part of the business plan throughout the company
- I have become a more confident speaker and presenter in a variety of forums. This has enabled me to represent our firm as an effective leader
- Improved presentations to my superior(s)
What Are the Different Types of Leadership Coaching?
- The emphasis in business coaching is strategy and tactics, hard skills such as finance, operations, etc. and overall performance
- Executive coaching focuses on business behavior, soft skills development, and overall personal development.
- Development-focused Coaching. Broadening individual capabilities beyond the current role for potential future roles
- 360-degree & Assessment Tools. Providing feedback for individuals to better understand their own behaviors and the perceptions of those around them
- Performance-focused Coaching. Changing an individual’s behaviors or building new skills to improve performance in current role.
- Transition Coaching. Accelerating an individual’s transition into a new internal role (i.e., changing geography, lines of business, function)
- Career Coaching. Transitioning leaders to a new career laterally or horizontally that provides personal or professional growth
- Onboarding coaching. Accelerating individual’s onboarding from the outside into a new organization (i.e., from a different industry, firm size, nonprofit to profit, etc.)
- Team Coaching. Coaching focused on improving productivity, communication, and level of functioning of an intact team, and not just a few individuals
- Group Coaching. Coaching focused on improving the capabilities or skills of a peer group, and not an intact team
- Diversity and Inclusion Coaching. Advancing and supporting individuals from under-represented and other at-risk groups
What Can Individuals Do to Become Better Leaders?
- Listen first to others before offering your own thoughts and opinions. When you listen carefully, you build rapport and show others that their opinions are important to you.
- Watch this explainer video on emotional intelligence to understand the five components of emotional intelligence and how to improve each one.
- Ask colleagues for feedback and reflect on the input given. E.g., Ask your direct reports for suggestions on how to better support them individually and collectively as a team; solicit feedback on a presentation you’ve given or a meeting you led or in which you participated.
- Strengthen your communication skills by studying the leaders you admire. TedTalks are great places to observe and gain inspiration.
- Take online courses through Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, or MindTools.
- Get a Coach! Check out our resources on What to Expect from Executive Coaching, which includes information on choosing a coach, and getting the most out of coaching.
- Become a Coach (See “The Coaching Habit” recommended reading).
What Can Organizations Do?
- Interview leaders to find out the soft skills your organization needs to succeed. To see what skills your top performers share consider LinkedIn Skills Insights which can also give you information on where your employees excel or fall short.
- Identify and develop your leaders early. Ensure there are processes in place to promote from within.
- Ensure that soft skills criteria are baked into selection requirements for external hiring and promotions, with resources to help assess these skills.
- Create or strengthen your coaching and mentoring programs.
- Leverage "Personal Learning Clouds" to ensure that learning is personalized, social, contextualized, and tracked.
Recommended Reading & References
- Rising to Power: The Journey of Exceptional Executives by Ron A. Carucci and Eric C. Hansen
- The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever (2016) by Michael Bungay Stanier
- What Makes a Leader? Daniel Goleman Books, Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence (2019) by Daniel Goleman. The Harvard Business Review chose his article ‘What Makes a Leader’ as one of the 10 ‘must-read’ articles from its pages. Republished in his new collection of works, Goleman takes us through the fundamentals of leadership. See also, the original What Makes a Leader (2004) by Daniel Goleman
- 14th Annual Sherpa Executive Coaching Survey, 2019
- Conference Board Global Executive Coaching Survey 2018
- Google Spent a Decade Researching What Makes a Great Boss. It Came Up With These 10 Things by Justin Bariso
- Great managers still matter: the evolution of Google’s Project Oxygen by Melissa Harrell and Lauren Barbato, Google, February 27, 2018