As a coach, you know that coaching is different from training or just consulting. Coaching is about facilitating positive thinking in the individual who’s being coached, developing individual skills, steering them to self-learn, diagnosing obstacles and finding solutions that boost overall performance.
And this is even more relevant when, as an executive coach, you are imparting leadership coaching to your clients who may range from junior managers to top management – including CEOs.
Effective coaching requires more than just a certification or leadership acumen; it requires you as a coach to discover hidden skills and behaviors that can bring the client’s leadership qualities to the fore and bring about a definitive change in the client and their organization.
Here are 6 core principles of leadership coaching that will leave a maximum impact and produce measurable outcomes for your client.
1. Understand your client
The basic fundamental of coaching is to understand that each client is a unique individual, with specific personality traits, skills, strengths, vulnerabilities, career challenges and goals. So, to ensure that your client gets the best out of the coaching engagement, it is necessary for you as a coach to interact with the client, find out more about their temperament, likes, dislikes, etc.
Once your client is assured that you are on their side and understand them, it will help them open up more about their challenges and ambitions. Building a comfortable rapport between the coach and coachee creates mutual trust and a safe yet stimulating environment that can further motivate their thought-process.
2. Employ multiple coaching tools
As a leadership coach, your clientele may consist of individuals who are on different levels of experience, position, challenges and goals. So, although the broader principles of coaching will remain the same, every individual will require a subtle but distinct approach, roadmap, monitoring, evaluation and feedback.
Leadership coaching cannot be one dimensional, and as a coach you will need to access diverse coaching tools from your toolkit such as periodic behavioral assessments, SMART goals, appreciative enquiry, 360 ° feedback, and more to offer your client the most effective coaching experience.
You need to be well-armed with reliable data, possess in-depth knowledge of behavioral patterns & evaluation, understand the client’s basic motives, and then come up with a coaching process that can produce quantifiable results.
3. Promote self-discovery
How big a role should a coach play in the process? Well, the ideal ratio would be 70:30, where 70% input should come from your client regarding identifying problem areas, establishing goals, finding solutions etc., and the remaining 30% should be your involvement as a coach of facilitating discussion, drawing out responses and generally steering the session towards set goals and objectives.
As a coach you need to ask powerful questions to be able to assist and collaborate with your client, but ultimately you have to let your client understand how to identify their own strengths and weaknesses, address their problems and search for answers and lay out the path for improvements.
Remember, coaching is about the client; you can guide them, but steer clear of imposing your perspectives on situations.
4. Focus on the cause
One of your key roles as a leadership coach is to help your client figure out which area or problem they wish to address and focus on.
For instance, your client is a senior manager who has not been able to achieve the quarterly target of increasing profit margins. Asking them relevant questions such as – “Was the team working cohesively to complete projects?” “Was the delay due to internal or external factors?” “What are the changes, resource or skills that need to be implemented that can deliver better results for the upcoming quarter?” – will help them focus on the actual cause.
Once they have identified the cause, guide them towards drawing a roadmap using which they can set specific objectives, introduce work changes, motivate team members and build up morale. The skills of self-discovery will help your client overcome the problem and find the solution by themselves.
5. Encourage practical learning from experience
As the saying goes, leaders are made, not born. And generally, most leaders are shaped by the learnings they receive as part of their work, be it success or failure. And one of the vital leadership coaching skills is to let your client tap into their own experiences (both personal & professional) to lead them towards what is growth & improvement in their eyes.
The best leaders learn from their experiences in a thoughtful, strategic manner using their triumphs and disasters as a springboard to leap further. Through the coaching engagement focus on enhancing your client’s self-awareness, communication skills and learning agility, as these factors are most closely related to effective leadership, not just for top managers but also for junior leads.
Having a good coaching process is all well and good in theory but it needs to be implemented practically for any definitive success. So, help your clients reflect on their past experiences and provide insights on how to use those past events to improve their present and future.
6. Keep it simple!
At the end of the day, coaching should be a simple but effective process. Don’t weigh down your client with too much information, activities, or expectations. Get your client to list out a few areas that will have the maximum impact on their career. Guide them to work on those areas and chances are, a few other issues may get work out alongside as well.
Don’t just coach by rote as coaching is not about quantity but quality. Coaching a client for a certain number of times in a month is not enough – there has to be some form of measurable results after each session. Ask yourself if the coaching session truly achieved the objectives that you and your client set out to do in the beginning.
Setting short term goals for yourself as a coach to assess the effectivity of your coaching process is a good place to start. By all means let your client set objectives and goals but make sure you run the session to ensure that those goals are achieved.
Remember you are coaching knowledgeable clients in positions of management with wide-ranging skillsets across industries. Make sure to upgrade your own skills regularly to keep up with the latest leadership coaching techniques to be able to show up for your clients in the best possible way.
Following these six core principles of leadership coaching skills can help your client realize that leadership is about understanding the importance of knowledge and development of skillsets. As a leadership coach guide your client in a manner where they nurture talent within their team and become mentors to team members who will then imbibe these core leadership qualities in time to come.
- How does leadership coaching differ from executive coaching?
An executive coach generally coaches senior managers or leaders within an organization, such as directors, vice presidents, presidents, C-suite executives, etc. The executive coach acts as an all-in-one advisor, sounding board, manager, strategist and guide who helps the top executives with development planning, assessing their objectives & challenges, setting goals, offerings valuable opinions and feedback that facilitates continuous improvement.
Leadership coaching also has similar areas of focus as executive coaching, which could also be termed as a subset of leadership coaching. In addition to the responsibilities of an executive coach, a leadership coach also needs to guide their client on building strong communication and oratory skills in order to become a more motivating and impactful leader.
A leadership coach also encourages their client to act as a mentor to their team members to take on future leadership roles within the organization.