Personal and professional development is critical to the ongoing success and growth for any leader. There are many aspects that will make this development even more effective and sustainable, particularly when participating in coaching.
High on this list of attributes is the support the person being coached receives from their immediate leader.
Support of people as they participate in development programs really does matter. I recently met with a very senior leader in an organisation – let’s call him Jack. Our discussion covered many areas of relevance, including the fact that I had been coaching various members of Jack’s team for different periods over the last 2 years. During the conversation we were reviewing the traits, potential and attitudes of several of his leaders. At one stage he asked if I knew one of his leadership team in particular? The answer is yes…in fact, quite well, as I had just finished a coaching program of 8 months with him!
I couldn’t help but be disappointed that this was not known to Jack.
To be fair, a recent structural change meant that the coachee/leader I have been working with was previously reporting directly to another manager, who reported to Jack. However, even a 1-over manager should have some awareness, if not involvement throughout this process. The CoachStation Coaching and Mentoring process includes the inclusion of the coachee’s immediate manager. This is important, if not critical to the success of the coaching relationship.
Sadly, not every immediate leader is that interested in providing leadership support during the coaching process!
Why is this? Why would a manager not have a deep and committed interest in the ongoing development of one of their leaders? To be honest, this makes little sense to me, although experience is educating me why this is all too common an occurrence and attitude, even if I don’t like or respect the reasons.
- Ego and pride: the immediate leader may be threatened by someone else working with their team member.
- Fear: this can be about their own misgivings and self-doubt; the potential fallout or need for support during the coaching program; or previous experiences and history.
- Little or no experience of coaching: related to fear, few people are comfortable to place themselves in a seemingly vulnerable position unless they have to. Development is about being comfortable in challenging yourself. This takes self-awareness, honesty and self-acceptance. Coaching is a skill that requires focus, deliberate learning and practice. For many newer managers, it is easier to not ask the question, therefore they don’t have to acknowledge the answer.
- Not an organisational cultural or strategic goal: if the coaching goes against the actual cultural norms or expectations of the organisation, it takes a brave and rare leader to persist with it or ‘go against the grain’.
So, what’s the number one sign that someone isn’t a great leader?
Unfortunately, in the same way that CEO support and involvement can help companies nurture leaders, CEO arrogance can have the opposite effect. When your boss acts like he or she is perfect and tells everyone else they need to improve this is a sure sign that the leader isn’t great. Worse yet, this behavior can be copied at every level of management. Every level then points out how the level below it needs to change. The end result: No one gets much better.
The principle of leadership development by personal example doesn’t apply just to CEO’s. It applies to all levels of management. All good leaders want their people to grow and develop on the job. Who knows? If we work hard to improve ourselves, we might even encourage the people around us to do the same thing! (1)
We are responsible for our own development. However, great and effective organisations develop leaders who support their team members. In fact, the best leaders take the view that one of their core roles is to develop more leaders. Is this an aspect of your role that is worth revisiting?
(1) The #1 Sign that Someone Isn’t a Great Leader; Marshall Goldsmith: http://www.marshallgoldsmithfeedforward.com/marshallgoldsmithblog/?p=1183