As a leadership coach, I see great value in the impact that coaching provides—when the problem is accurately identified and coaching is the right solution. Just like any other business problem, it is important that the leader receiving coaching understands the issue, agrees with the issue, and agrees to engage in the coaching process. The caveat is, however, that it may not always be only the individual who needs to evolve, and that the solution must fit the issue!
I worked with a very talented leader who was encouraged to get coaching because of some challenges in his organization. While he certainly benefited from an outside perspective and additional tools to enhance his leadership, coaching was not a solution to the organization’s key issues because the problems were structural in nature. So, regardless of how long and to what extent the leader was coached, the issue was systemic. He was affected by it, but wasn’t the root of the issue.
Employees circumvented the leader when they did not like what he said or did, and complained about his effectiveness. When the leader’s boss allowed this to happen on a regular basis, he undermined the leader’s authority with the staff. When staff later failed to deliver results, the leader was seen as a failed leader.
Had the leader’s boss been willing to work with the leader to address employee issues and had both of them worked with the coach to stop staff from going around the leader, the organization would have produced much higher results. By labeling the leader as a low performer, the organization lost a great deal of productivity from the leader and staff—yet the core issues still remain unresolved.
How do you avoid this and other energy-wasting pitfalls?
- Engage the leader and his boss in the coaching process
- Diagnose the “bigger” issues—both individual and organizational
- Remain curious about how to improve overall organizational effectiveness
- Look for other symptoms of structural issues. Is this leader the first to show signs that have the potential to become pervasive?
- Treat leaders who have the courage to improve themselves and their organizations with the respect they deserve—it’s hard work!
As our organizations feel ongoing pressure from tightened budgets, the necessity of staying current with technology, and increased competition, we will see more signs of breakdown.
These often look like “leadership problems.” Upon deeper examination, they may be a combination of a need for the leader to grow and the organization to change to meet evolving demands. Coaching and transformation is most effective when both the leader and the organization change concurrently.
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