A learning & development (L&D) function in an organisation with mature HR practices spends a lot of time and effort to empower senior leaders with skills to lead the teams to achieve results. Such a senior leader spends vast amount of time in classrooms.Often, learning solutions are created for such a leader—be it film-based reflection, strategy workshops or fire-walking—all with the hope of making the leader a better people’s manager.
The question to ask here, rhetorically though, is, “Is training the only way a leader can become more people-oriented? Will his/her decision-making really improve by attending business simulation exercises?” At the same time, it has been seen that interventions play an important role in developing skills. For example, a leader may realise that he/she can bring about a major change in an organisation, or lead teams effectively, but is unable to make a beginning. This is where a scientific L&D tool can be useful—leadership coaching, also called executive coaching, life coaching.
Leadership coaching has been shown to transform thinking at all levels, creating confident leaders who have the ability to think and to unlock insight, take action, and bring about positive changes both in routine work or the boardroom.
So, what makes leadership coaching different from people development interventions?
Coaching is self-directed: A coach in a navigator’s seat facilitates thinking, does not advise, but allows the client to make powerful choices after thinking through about an issue. A coach does not brainstorm, but encourages the client to explore his/her internal landscape.
Coaching is solution-oriented: A coach does not spend time on the past, on root-cause analysis or on issue-fixing. A client is capable of doing that. A coach makes the client focused on the solution that is best in a given circumstance.
Coaching relies on positive psychology: Positive psychology has greatly influenced the development of coaching. Its focus is on ‘what works’, rather than ‘what doesn’t work’.
Coaching is autonomous: A coach is merely a facilitator who observes, listens, asks questions and is non-judgemental. A coach create a space for the client to share and think.
Coaching needs to be learnt: Coaching is a skill that follows a process and structure. There’s a non-profit called the International Coach Federation (ICF) that certifies good coaches for leadership development.
The author is director, Edify Consultants Pvt Ltd, a people development organisation