To genuinely succeed in business, leaders must know their role, continuously develop their skills and be constantly supported to achieve the best they can as a leader and employee.
Finding your own development pathway takes ownership, effort and clarity. However, it is not something you need to do on your own. Whether it is developing yourself or your team, coaching and mentoring can be a powerful tool to enable change and growth, both personally and professionally. When it comes to leadership development, however, one of the keys to success is to start developing deliberately and early.
It is problematic to concern yourself with focusing on developing leadership skills after they are needed.
Setting up leaders to thrive through a development program both prior to and during their tenure is key to the success of your leadership team and business. Training in itself is one source of development, however this learning must be supported and reinforced in practice based on individual situations, needs, understanding and capability. Ongoing support ‘makes the learning real’ within the work environment, reinforcing the content and context provided during training.
As referenced on my CoachStation website, there are many reasons why organisations and people seek coaching and mentoring solutions, with a variety of benefits and outcomes accessed depending on individual needs.
Coaching and mentoring are increasingly sought after tools, accessed by business leaders and organisations eager to dedicate development time and resources at an individual level. Organisations are finding that this form of development is both good for business and employees.
Benefit and improvement is seen in areas such as: improved work performance; better client and customer service; increased confidence; effective leadership; enhanced relationships; more robust succession planning and increased goal achievement. Additionally, personal development improves self-esteem, self-awareness and other attributes which provides a stronger platform for you to succeed at work and at home.
When I am coaching and mentoring, the coachee and I work together on both a professional and personal level. It is virtually impossible to delineate between the ‘home’ and ‘work’ person, with situations, personalities, values and other traits being a consistent influence on coaching success. The benefits and rewards are often significant, however being coached and mentored takes effort and accountability. I recently read an excellent blog by Joanna Maynard which highlights the importance of ownership and accountability in self-development:
I like Ben Franklin’s idea about not giving others advice: “Wise men don’t need advice. Fools won’t take it.” I think this highlights a cornerstone of coaching. Unlike consulting, where the consultant is an expert who gathers information and then gives advice, the coach is more of a facilitator. A large part of a coach’s role is to draw out wisdom already inside the client so that the client may discover solutions for themselves.
I often hear people talk about what to consider when shopping for a coach. They may want a coach who has worked in their industry, or in a similar role to theirs, or at their level of management. I don’t think these should be the only—or even the top—criteria.
In fact, one of the most important factors in whether a coaching experience is successful centers on a quality that must be present not in the coach but in the client. Some call it coachability: the client’s willingness to discover their own wisdom and, once found, to act on it.
Effective coaches employ strong skills to facilitate client-discovered wisdom. Coaches help clients focus on their most important area of concern, define what they want, and determine what that looks like. Coaches ask questions that aid the client’s own discovery—questions that expand the client’s perspective and inspire them to take risks. To accomplish this, effective coaches create a safe, trusting environment in which their clients can do this important work. But the client also has a major role in creating this environment. They need to be coachable. Here are just a few ways you can enhance your own coachability:
- Be willing to think and act differently in the future, even if your current ways of doing things have resulted in success.
- Don’t hesitate to break free from old habits.
- Take the time, and make the effort, to clarify your values and the parts of yourself you would like to develop.
Trust yourself enough to take action—sometimes bold action—as a result of your newly discovered knowledge. Since being coachable means being willing to be vulnerable, it must be noted that coaching is not the same as therapy. A coach is not going to ask a client to delve deeply into their past personal life. There is a real possibility that this concern stops some people from hiring a coach or using one fully.
Also noteworthy: in coaching, the client not the coach drives the agenda. This means the client doesn’t have to talk about anything they don’t want to talk about. They must, however, be coachable—willing to explore, discover their own wisdom, think differently, and stretch themselves. If they do this, most of the time the reward will far outweigh the effort.
So when interviewing a coach, think less about the coach’s track record and more about whether you want to take this person with you on your journey of growth and discovery.You might be thinking I’m not planning to hire a coach anytime soon—how does this apply to me? Allow me to challenge your question with a few questions of my own:
- In terms of your own growth, are you actively creating an effective learning environment?
- Are you open to expanding your thinking, clarifying your values, and taking bold action?
- If you answered no, what are you going to do about it? (1)
There is a genuine need for the person being coached and mentored to take ownership of their own development. Interestingly, this can sometimes be a bit of a surprise to some coachees. There is no ‘silver bullet’ or fast-tracking, but the benefits can be very worthwhile when accountability and effort become part of the coaching and mentoring process.
There are a few discernible differences between coaching and mentoring, however the core development and outcomes remain consistent. In coaching it is primarily about understanding the coachees situation and then facilitating and guiding to discover potential actions and goals, mostly derived from the coachee. When mentoring, it is often about the mentor providing advice and using their own experiences to help the person being mentored. Slightly different skills and inputs, yet in both cases the focus is on the future aspirations, goals and actions of the person being assisted. In my experience, the most successful coaching and mentoring environments are created when a person:
- is committed to the program
- is willing and able to develop trust between the coach/mentor and themselves
- is committed and works on the content in practice between sessions
- has a leader who actively supports them in their development
- recognises that there are no short-cuts
- understands that coaching and mentoring are just part of the story or journey.
One of the additional paybacks is that as a participant, your own coaching and mentoring skills develop along the way. This improved skillset provides an excellent resource for you to help others in a similar way, whether they are your direct reports, peers or others within or external to the organisation. When applied well, coaching and mentoring can:
- Inspire shared learning: Leadership can be lonely. Leaders often feel isolated, unable or unwilling to share information with team members and they feel as though they need to have all the answers, which can be quite stressful.
- Encourage people to understand themselves: The CoachStation Coaching model works through the coachees situation, identifying development areas and opportunities for growth and improvement. We use many different tools and resources, all designed as triggers for self-awareness, discussion-points and clarity – targeted and individualised programs focus on the ‘right’ area that will provide the most benefit.
- Inspire and enable honesty: In the workplace, employees are often allowed to avoid confrontation. They sidestep challenges, procrastinate and sometimes actively or passively refuse to address things that matter the most – few people like confrontation, but when avoided, problems continue to build.
- Support change: During inductions, for newly promoted staff and other business needs, change can be supported through coaching and mentoring – the commitment to develop each persons skills and competencies.
- Create opportunity for self-development: Leading to confidence and strength in developing others, a critical step in a leaders development.
When I am coaching the focus of the program is quite often leadership development, however each client has their own unique situation, personality, challenges and other elements to be considered in the process. Experience has shown me that through a structured coaching and mentoring program you will see and feel a difference…and so will those around you.
It is a great time to consider whether you or one of your team would benefit from participation in our coaching and mentoring program.
I am more than happy to be contacted if you wish to discuss how I can assist you, your organisation or members of your team. In the meantime, reflecting on your own development opportunities and accountability is a great place to start. After all, self-development can only happen because you care enough to take the first (or next) steps.
- Are You Coachable? 3 Questions to Consider: Joanna Maynard, Blanchard Leaderchat