I will be the first to admit that I am not a guru when it comes to leadership coaching, but I have been around the block a few times. I have been coaching since the year 2,000, and through the school of hard knocks and trial and error, I have finally come to the conclusion that there are 3 strategies that I must use if I want the leaders I coach to be successful. Today, I would like to share those three strategies with you.
1. Design your coaching strategy around what the followers want to see change or improve…not necessarily around what the client thinks she needs. Leadership coaching is so very different from life coaching or coaching a solo business owner for this one reason: The leaders you coach have people who are following them, and as a leader, you must be willing to shift your leadership style, communication style or even the way you walk based on what your followers say they most need and want. Below, I will go into detail about the one month needs assessment, and I just want to caution you about this: Simply because a leader calls you and tells you she wants to work on her time management or organizing her office does not mean this is what her followers want to see. The most successful leaders understand their followers needs and desires and they will do anything to get the majority of their followers’ needs met. As a leader, if your client does not care what the followers think, then she is simply not a leader…enough said!
2. Begin your actual coaching only after one solid month of assessment. Assessing a leader in a company is a great deal like a physician trying to diagnose a patient’s illness. A doctor would never walk in and just start writing prescriptions without asking multiple questions of you (and maybe of your family members) to find out what is really going on. During the first month of leadership coaching, I invest my time conducting a very thorough needs assessment which includes the following:
- An oral 360 degree feedback review. With my approach, I interview at least 12 people who are around the leader. The list of people I interview include direct reports, bosses, peers and even family members. While I am certified to run the online 360 degree assessments with the Center for Creative Leadership, I have found that by asking 12 simple questions of 12 different people, I get much better responses. I not only hear the answers, but I hear the sighs, the laughs, the “ughs” and I can see eyes rolling, deep thinking and smiles or frowns on faces.
- The DiSC Assessment. Most leadership coaches have their favorite tools to use. Mine is by far the DiSC assessment. The tool has been used for over 30 years by over 40 million users and is one of the most trusted learning assessments in the personal and professional development industry. With the DiSC, you will quickly learn if the leader you are coaching is a strong-willed, bottom line risk taker or a leader who loves to entertain and motivate others. The communication style of your leader is critical to her approach with her followers, and this tool will help you bring out the best in your clients.
- The Strengths Finder Profile. I truly believe that using a leader’s key strengths to help shore up weaknesses is one of the best ways to approach your clients. It is critical to know upfront what your leader’s strong suits are, and this assessment can help you refine your coaching and hone in on those strengths from the first coaching session to the end of the coaching engagement.
- A two hour relaxed “get to know you” meeting with your new client. I always invest at least two hours in the early stages of the needs assessment with my new clients to find out what makes them tick and what ticks them off. I want to know about the music they listen to, their favorite foods and colors and a bit about their personal life. This relaxed conversation builds trust and also helps fill in some of the gaps that will more than likely be missing with the formal assessments.
3. Once you have completed the needs assessment, pick one goal ONLY to work with your client on for at least six months. I have observed coaches who pile goals on top of goals on top of more goals and “things to do”. This is a big mistake (in my opinion). I have learned that when coaching a leader, we have to agree to work on the one leadership skill that needs the most work, and work a system so that improvement starts to happen as quickly as possible. Improvement in one area will often help in other areas of leadership, so I just want to encourage you to keep hammering home points around that one critical skill that needs work. Doing a little bit of work on a long list of leadership skills will get your client to move an inch. Working on one goal and seeing a leadership skill turn 180 degrees is much easier for your client to swallow and others will notice improvement quickly if you are really targeting one area that is of greatest concern for the people who are trying to follow the leader.
If you or someone you know is interested in discussing leadership coaching, please feel free to contact me, Bea Fields, at 910-692-6118. I am happy to spend some time discussing your leadership needs.