Oct 112014

Dr. Earl R. Smith II

Some of my organizational coaching engagements begin with a search for the right place to start. Most often, the initial contact comes from either the CEO or Chairman of the Board. “What can we do to shake things up? Where do we start and get a high-impact initial result?” Before I respond to questions like these, I insist that we do an organizational and management assessment. After all, responding before knowing is probably one of the reasons that the company is facing the challenges that it is. One of the most frequent results of the assessments is that the leadership within the company is simply not up to the task of running it and leading the team.

Leadership coaching has become an important part of today’s business environment. We would all like to believe that we are born leaders but experience constantly reminds us that leadership – like other social skills – takes cultivating. The need to develop and improve leadership qualities is now taken as a given in the corporate world. There is great emphasis on developing qualities of leadership in managers of various levels. For everyone who is trying to get a foothold in the corporate world, leadership qualities are very important.

Many people offer leadership coaching services. Most of them have never been a successful leader. I call these the ‘do as I say, not as I do crowd’. One of the things that I have learned during my six times as a CEO and years in coaching senior executives is that leadership is not an intellectual exercise – not something that you understand then can do. Good leadership skills can take years to prefect. However, when you do perfect them, they are assets for a lifetime. While you are looking for a leadership coaching, remember to pick a coach who is experienced in the areas you are trying to master.

Rule One: Learning about leadership from a coach who has never successfully lead is like learning about tennis from somebody who has read a book on it

Leadership skills are very personal issues. By that, I mean that your tendencies toward people and situations play a big part in defining – and limiting – the kind of a leader you can become. In working with your leadership coach, you are going to have some very direct and personal conversations. You need to be able to communicate openly. The coach must have good communication skills. More often, problems in leadership coaching engagements occur not because the coach fails to see the problem but because the relationship will not bear the weight of the message.

Rule Two: You must be able to talk to your coach about virtually anything. An engagement that amounts to two people avoiding references to the 800-pound gorilla in the room is a waste of time and effort

Make sure that the leadership coach has a proven record of accomplishment. The coach must understand your requirements perfectly. The goals of the engagement should be very clear. Remember that not all successful leaders make good leadership coaches. A good coach has a record of accomplishment as a successful leader and as a successful coach.

Rule Three: Demonstrated skill as a leader is not sufficient. Some leaders are so ‘me’ centered that they have very little room in their ego-centered world for others. Demonstration of skill as a coach is important as well.

Good leadership coaching provides motivational support and establishes productive focus. Good coaches pay particular attention supporting both. They help you manage change and feel empowered. These coaches work on the interpersonal aspects of the leadership.

Rule Four: Good leadership coaching works holistically and within the present context – a good leadership coach will constantly connect the coaching to the work that the person does and the context in which they are working and living

One very important benefit of good leadership coaching is behavioral and performance enhancement. If the time, effort and money invested in the process is to be justifiable, you must improve as a leader and that improvement must be measurable. The coach should help you over-come hurdles and meet challenges that had seemed daunting. All of this progress should be measurable. Many ‘leadership coaches’ are good at keeping the client’s attention away from the lack of metrics. They produce a series of emotional highs and finesse the issue of cost-benefit. Never let this happen in your leadership coaching engagement.

Rule Five: Avoid leadership coaches who do not insist on metrics that will track the improvements in your leadership – always keep in mind that the coaching is all about making you a better leader – and is measured by the improvement in your performance as a leader

I particularly enjoy my work as a leadership coach. Watching clients face and master challenges that they once thought beyond them is a source of great satisfaction. Participating in their satisfaction is the icing on the cake. Everybody can learn to be a better leader – and that learning can make a great difference in how your life turns out. If you want to learn more about leadership coaching or may coaching services, send me an e-mail and we will arrange a time to talk.

© Dr. Earl R. Smith II


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