(Almost) all leaders need a coach

(Almost) all leaders need a coach

I have enjoyed significant personal transformation over the past two years.  I am often asked how I have changed, but that’s just it, I haven’t.  I did stop being things that I am not.  About a year ago I found myself sitting in front of 50 coaches.  I had volunteered to be coached and wanted to discuss being comfortable showing up as the ‘real you’ in all situations, after several years of playing other roles and characters.  

My coach asked me about the changes I had experienced.  I explained that when you have a robust daily practice and focus on intense personal development work you uncover leadership powers you didn’t know you had.  She interrupted me.  She asked why I spoke about this development work using the third person.  Hmm, not sure.  She asked me to explain it again using personal pronouns.  I couldn’t.  It was as if she asked me to tell the story in Mandarin.  From that moment, I truly appreciated the power of coaching.

Who needs a coach?

In short, I think all leaders do.  Leaders who work with executive coaches note improved self-confidence, improved work/life balance and the benefit of an unbiased perspective.  These experiences line up with my client feedback.  People usually find tremendous benefit in simply having a safe, dedicated space to explore topics on a deeper level.  The coach supports that exploration with subtle prompts and powerful questions.  If I replaced the word ‘coach’, I’d ask you “who needs a capable, compassionate human being who listens intently, provokes thought and is 100% focused on helping them create deeper awareness and make clearer decisions?”  Who doesn’t?

Strong leaders make excellent coachees

Coaching is a partnership between a coach and a coachee.  Coachees require vulnerability, self-awareness and a learning mindset to truly benefit from coaching.  These traits also underpin effective leadership.  If a leader is unwilling to be vulnerable, has limited self-awareness and is firmly set in their ways it will be difficult to provide coaching.  Frankly, I am also curious about how effective they are as a leader.  Leaders who are not open to coaching should save their time and money.  ‘Almost’ all leaders need a coach.  

Coaching really helps in transitions

Navigating periods of transition effectively is a challenging aspect of a leader’s journey. Whether it’s a new promotion, a new assignment or a new company.  Perhaps it’s a major organizational change or significant shift in market reality.   While transition often creates anxiety, it also provides fertile ground for coaching and development.  As a Chief Operating Officer and internal coach, a primary area of focus is supporting employees in the transition to Director or Vice President.  This requires a major shift from directly managing or contributing to tactical execution, to leading people and developing strategies for the team.  The skills that supported tactical execution are less relevant as a leader.  The transition intensifies as leaders enter the C-suite for the first time.  A capable coach with relevant experience is an incredible ally in your leadership journey.

So, what’s different today from when I was sitting in front of the 50 coaches?

My coach was able to stop me in my tracks, provoke thought and ask a powerful question from a place of support.  That is what great coaches do.  As I reflected on this experience, conducted research and sought the counsel of my teachers, it became clear that my development work had expanded my sense of self.  When I speak from a contemplative or philosophical space, I use a broader definition of self that includes others.  As a leader, it has been incredibly helpful to gain awareness of a deepened capacity for empathy and compassion.  Thanks coach!

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