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Pauline Muldoon


Head of Coaching

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Why your leadership development programme must include coaching

Leaders need coaching now more than ever to adapt in the face of unrelenting change.

“Coaching is unlocking people’s potential to maximize their own performance. It is more often helping them to learn rather than teaching them,” said John Whitmore, Founder of the GROW model of coaching.

We have long lauded the benefits of coaching, and discussed why it’s vital for true leadership development – and in today’s current climate there seems like no better time to emphasise its value.  

For businesses to train and establish leaders that will future-proof the organisation we’re making the case for a more blended approach.  

Why we need effective leaders more than ever

Organisations of all sizes, and across all sectors, need effective leaders more than ever before. What do we mean by effective leaders? Those who are able to harness their skillset, grow as needed to lead the business and adapt to ever-changing situations – much like the one we currently find ourselves in. 

In 2020, many businesses had to adapt to remote working for the very first time – a huge shift from the standard 9-5 office culture many of us have become used to. As we bed into the 'living with Covid' era of work many challenges will arise for organisations – balancing the needs of a hybrid team, the different expectations of multiple generations within the workplace, or even managing long-lasting changes to the business brought on by the pandemic. 

To navigate these hurdles, businesses need leaders who steer clear from traditional top-down strategies in favour of collaborative approaches. Accelerated by the pandemic, the ways employees communicate and have access to their leaders has changed. 

Organisations will need to build leaders who can establish and maintain solid relationships with employees whether they are based in the office, at home or a mixture of both. The only way a business can future-proof itself is by creating leaders who inspire those they work with to develop as well. 

So, how can businesses achieve this? 

Leadership development needs coaching 

All organisations want to boost the skills, quality and impact of their leaders. The majority of these organisations will implement leadership development programmes to do this – involving training, seminars and study all designed to teach leaders necessary skills, behaviours and mindsets. 

However, how can you ensure that an investment in leadership development makes lasting changes to leadership culture? In short, how can you make sure the lessons learned are actually put into practice?

There’s often a disconnect between the promise of leadership development and what actually happens in practice. There are many reasons for this, one of which being company culture. Each organisation has its own unique culture and way of operating – and the principles learnt in a leadership training programme might not align – thus making it difficult for leaders to implement the skills they have learned. A much more holistic approach is needed. 

Including coaching with leadership development programmes immediately gives leaders the opportunity to practice what’s been preached.

Another factor is that of continued learning. There are many studies that show that adults' chances of retaining information increase if they learn by doing alongside continued study. However many leadership development programmes are not designed with this approach.

In the past, leadership and coaching have very much been handled in silo – as separate entities. However, for businesses to train and establish leaders that will future-proof the organisation we’re making the case for a more blended approach. 

How coaching improves leadership development

Coaching is an essential component of any effective leadership development initiative. Coaching can take the skills, behaviours and mindsets that form the curriculum in a classroom or group learning experience and turn them into personal, customised solutions that help leaders learn more, quicker, and retain that knowledge for longer.

Including coaching with leadership development programmes immediately gives leaders the opportunity to practice what’s been preached and explore how it fits with their approach – to apply what’s been learned in real-life scenarios. Coaching also allows for a more individualistic approach – making it more beneficial for the recipient. In fact, according to the International Coaching Federation coaching can deliver a productivity average of 86% compared to 22% for training alone.

We’ve highlighted the specifics of just how the two approaches can work together:

1. Confronting leadership challenges

Leadership development programmes allow individuals to discuss the challenges they face in leadership – and coaching allows those leaders to confront these specific challenges and explore behaviours that can work for them. 

2. Career goals

Leadership development helps participants gain insight into the expectations they face as a developing leader – coaching helps them contextualise these expectations and turn them into clear and specific career goals.

3. Key skills

Leadership development supports leaders to learn skills like strategic networking, stakeholder management and strategic thinking – coaching empowers leaders to apply those new skills in specific, real-world situations.

It comes down to organisational survival

As our ways of working continue to be put through their paces, effective leadership will be vital to the survival of an organisation. Leadership development programmes that include coaching are the best way to ensure business leaders are challenged and taught new skills, behaviours and mindsets.

Even more importantly, we need to be giving leaders the opportunity to practice what they have learned and explore what works for their organisation, by applying new knowledge and skills to real-life scenarios. A blended approach to training and coaching is ultimately what’s needed to future-proof an organisation.

Author Profile Picture
Pauline Muldoon

Head of Coaching

Read more from Pauline Muldoon

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