By Sara Shondrick, PhD | Director, Leadership & Culture
The best athletes in the world have professional coaches to help them perform at their athletic peak – and yet many corporate leaders are thrust into stressful situations where they’re expected to just know how to lead through increasingly complex, volatile, uncertain, and ambiguous situations – all while boosting their team’s engagement, maximizing business impact, keeping their cool, avoiding burnout, and (hopefully) ensuring their personal lives don’t catch on fire. Easy, right?
Our society still frequently – though wrongly – suggests leaders are born, not made, which further perpetuates the notion that I should know how to perfectly handle this highly stressful situation and if I don’t, I must not be a real leader.
And then, when leaders still manage to be successful, they’re promoted to higher-yet levels where there are fewer peers to confide in, challenge their thinking, and problem solve with. Meanwhile, as they climb up the ladder, their own managers tend to be increasingly busy, thus limiting the extent of quality coaching from above. Add to this that so many people with high potential don’t see leaders within their organizations who look, act, or think like them, and reasonably conclude they’re not cut out for leadership. It’s no wonder that many organizations are struggling to identify a strong and diverse bench of future leaders who can successfully navigate transitions and growing complexity.
Through research, we know many things about leadership. It involves a set of skills that can be further developed at every stage of life and an identity that can be cultivated and that develops and evolves over time. We also know that leadership coaching results in positive outcomes for leaders, which can include increased personal and leadership skills, higher quality social interactions, and enhanced performance and productivity.
So how do we help leaders get unstuck and successfully navigate changes?
Meet Leadership Coaching
Coaching, as defined by the International Coaching Federation, involves “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.”
Leadership coaching, then, applies this approach to help clients uncover their leadership potential (and frequently, as the study cited above illustrates, it can also positively impact one’s life beyond the workplace). With a trusted coach, it provides a nonjudgmental and courageous space for leaders to come as they are, reflect, experiment, grow, and transform into more authentic, purpose-driven versions of themselves.
Because their roles are so challenging and impactful, leaders can and (ideally) should enlist multiple resources to support their development. Compared to other types of support, coaching assumes the answers lie within the client – coaches do not provide solutions or advice, but rather use active inquiry to help clients connect with their values, see the bigger picture, and solve their own challenges in a way that builds resilience.
In other words, coaches don’t fish for you and they don’t teach you how to fish – they listen deeply and ask laser-focused questions to help you figure out what equipment to use, where to fish next, what blind spots might be impacting your effectiveness, and how to move forward if you don’t catch any fish today.
The end result is clients may even learn how to coach themselves in the face of the situations that matter most to them. The table below shares more about how coaching is distinct from other common types of support and, importantly, how coaching is distinct from therapy.
Interested in experiencing coaching?
At Mix Talent, our ICF-trained coaches have PhDs in I/O Psychology and are dedicated to changing lives. We integrate the science of leadership and the art of coaching to help leaders increase their self-awareness, connect with their why, lead from their values, and ultimately achieve transformative results. Like all things we do, our coaching is highly tailored and customized based on our clients’ goals.
Don’t take it from me – here’s one of our inspiring, amazing clients describing the impact my coaching had on her: