So there might appear to be a theme here given the topic of our last blog (sack your mentor), but actually the intent is completely different.
The world of leadership development has taken an interesting turn in recent years to the ever-increasing use of professional coaches, usually brought in from external sources to support individual development. Whilst in many respects this is a positive development as it has moved coaching from a remedial activity, i.e. addressing problems almost as a last resort, to the more positive perspective that coaching can improve all our capabilities and do so on a pre-emptive basis before any problems arise. Moreover, coaching enables continuous improvement rather than being about problems.
However, the actual problem with all of this, is that no sensible organisation can afford a personal external coach for all their employees who would benefit from it. After all, every employee would benefit from coaching. And hence this is why we suggest you need to sack your external coaches and replace them with a new model. Which is, ironically, actually an old model. And, in a world of virtual work, this model becomes even more important and relevant because the impact is so much more immediate.
Our point is that considerable leadership theory and knowledge supports the view that effective leadership requires the ability to use the skill of coaching within that leadership practice. It is just one of many skills, but one that is critical especially as it is seen to enhance motivation and empowerment thereby achieving a more successful outcome for all. And hence we need to stop this reliance on external professional coaches and change the model to one in which we develop the coaching skills of our leaders. We do not need these people to achieve the level of professional coaches, although we would argue that with careful focus and practice, as with any other leadership skill, many practitioners will be capable of achieving that same level. And, more importantly, a much greater level of impact given the immediacy of their interactions.
Gone will be the days when a leader thinks that a member of their team could do with some coaching on an issue and it is booked to be addressed in several weeks’ time when the professional coach next visits. Rather the leader will address the issue in the normal course of events, gradually through their work interactions and through their discussions. There’s no need to declare ‘I’m coaching you now’ all the time, rather the leader draws on relevant coaching skills when necessary. And, right now, this will predominantly be by telephone or video conference. And likely to be happening every day as colleagues check in with each other regularly to avoid being ‘left alone’ in the virtual office world.
Professional coaches will, of course, remain an important tool as occasionally there will be issues best addressed by others. The most obvious example would be continuing support and development for the CEO, the board and senior executives whose own line managers cannot really perform this role constantly through lack of time, combined with the confidentiality of subject matters. That said, in an organisation in which all leaders have the capability to draw on coaching skills then these skills can be applied peer-to-peer and also upwards. Hence people will know who they can turn to if they need absolute confidentiality in their coaching.
So now is the time to change your focus, to shift your investment and develop your own leadership skills. Rather than relying on somebody else’s. And in case you’ve missed it, we (the authors of this blog) are professional coaches. We are indeed turkeys calling for Christmas…
Go on. Sack those coaches!
About the Authors: Opinion Piece
Dr Phil Renshaw and Jenny Robinson are academics, entrepreneurs, teachers, and both have extensive private coaching businesses. Both deliver workshops for Cranfield Executive Development and Cranfield School of Management. Phil and Jenny met on the first day of their PhDs and immediately realised that they shared a depth of business experience from around the world that, combined with coaching, provided a unique perspective on leaders and their leadership. They are the authors of Coaching on the Go (Pearson, 2019), which offers a unique perspective on coaching skills for leaders and the power of coaching by focusing on everyday life situations. To learn more and to respond to their views please contact them at www.coachingonthego.co.uk
- Download a free chapter from Coaching On the Go
- Watch our video What is Coaching as a Leadership Skill?
- This blog was motivated by our recent academic paper in Coaching Today ('This article appeared in the April 2020 issue of Coaching Today, which is published by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy © BACP').