Leadership Coaching: Is It For You?

Once dismissed as a fad, leadership coaching has been embraced, and the academic evidence for its efficacy has surged.

Have you experienced the benefits of leadership coaching? Years ago, U.K. business leaders appeared to just see it as an American business fad (for a culture that has also embraced the benefits of therapists and given us great TV like "In Treatment"). However, over the last decade, more and more U.K. businesses have embraced executive coaching, and the academic evidence for efficacy has grown substantially. Even in 2005, 88% of U.K. organizations reported using coaching and, by 2009, 93% of U.S. organizations. The next revolution in coaching for businesses is the expansion of coaching to a wider leadership population. Once the preserve of CEOs or main board members, leadership coaching is now being expanded at progressive businesses to include all directors, talent pipeline candidates or, in some cases, the wider organization through team coaching. My personal interest is in the benefits of coaching for the rising stars who are today's customer insight leaders. There is a growing trend to create customer insight director or chief knowledge officer roles, often for individuals who have never held C-suite responsibilities. Such leaders are ideal candidates for coaching, not because of any deficits, but rather to ensure that they perform as well as possible and achieve the challenging goals for their new strategic focus. So, what does coaching entail? Very briefly, the term covers a multitude of approaches and has many possible definitions. But experts now agree that executive coaching can be defined as: "a relationship-based intervention. Its focus is on the enhancement of personal performance at work through behavioral, cognitive and motivational interventions used by the coach, which provide change in the client." That more academic definition hints at the fact of multiple models or techniques that can be used, where helpful, to facilitate sessions. The qualification that I'm completing on executive coaching includes learning coaching models: goal-oriented; cognitive behavioral; positive psychology; and neurolinguistic programming. My own experience of coaching executives has taught me that different models can be appropriate at different times, with different clients, in different organizational contexts. The most important skill is still genuine active listening, but frameworks to help guide sessions and clear goals to be achieved do both help. I'm encouraged by the positive messages being given by a number of organizations with regard to the importance of coaching (see "Coaching at Work" magazine). However, I have not yet seen this commitment applied to the customer insight leadership population. I hope that change will come, and I am focusing part of my business on helping to meet that need. Have you seen the benefits of coaching or mentoring in your leadership role? I'd love to hear more about your experience of this emerging profession.

Paul Laughlin

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Paul Laughlin

Paul Laughlin is the founder of Laughlin Consultancy, which helps companies generate sustainable value from their customer insight. This includes growing their bottom line, improving customer retention and demonstrating to regulators that they treat customers fairly.


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