De-Mystifying Leadership Coaching: Five Clear Steps to Growth

Coaching can seem mysterious. No one wants to sink time and money into vague, meandering conversations with the elusive hope of becoming a better leader. What does it look like to have a meaningful coaching engagement that measurably grows your leadership capability?

Let’s break it down.

Step 1: Get stakeholder feedback.

The higher you rise in leadership the less likely people are to give you honest, direct feedback. This creates blind spots that are glaringly obvious to others.

The best coaching engagements start with gathering perspectives from key stakeholders. A 360 is an incredible tool because it’s anonymous and the questions are stable and objective. Raters answer the same questions with a defined rating scale. But a coach can also do stakeholder interviews to get this information.

Typically, your key stakeholders include your boss, direct reports, and peers. Stakeholders may also include external customers or colleagues.

The goal of a 360 is to discover how people experience your leadership. What would they like to see more of? Less of?

In my work with leaders over the years I’ve found the 360 to be a gold mine for those who want to increase their effectiveness and influence.

I know, asking for honest feedback can make you feel vulnerable.

But honestly, doesn’t true growth almost always require vulnerability?

Step 2: Discover key themes and decide what to focus on

Here’s where your coach comes alongside to look at your 360 or stakeholder interview results. What resonates? What are you surprised by? What blind spots are illuminated? What do you want to tackle?

Themes will become evident, and that will lead you to a few things you should stop or start doing. Your coach can be a big help here. It’s important to zero in on a limited number of changes that will make the biggest difference.

At this point your coach will help you consider what decisions and actions you want to take. Get specific. What does change look like in the next days and weeks? What are you willing to try? What help do you need? Create an action plan.

Step 3: Build in accountability

I believe it’s important to thank your raters for taking the time to give you feedback. It’s easy to forget this.

But beyond that, there’s something powerful you need to do: Tell your stakeholders what you’ve learned and what you want to do to improve. And then invite them to speak up when they see you not acting in accord with your new commitments.

Yes, vulnerability again. But trust me on this.

Showing vulnerability, declaring new things you want to try, and inviting ongoing feedback is a phenomenal way to build trust.

Step 4: Gain momentum in on-going coaching sessions

Now that you’ve identified key things you want to do on your action plan, and shared with your stakeholders what changes you are working on, it’s time to practice the new behaviors. In this phase of the coaching engagement, you have regular sessions with your coach to discuss progress, try ideas, and get feedback. You can also use your coach to role play conversations or practice presentations.

You may want to have your coach observe you at work. For example, if your action plan includes running meetings more effectively, you might have your coach help you plan the meeting, then have the coach observe the meeting and give feedback afterwards.

I know, I know…vulnerability again. I didn’t say this was easy, did I? You can do hard things!

Step 5: Measure results

Somewhere in the six to twelve-month range it’s time to re-survey (or re-interview) your stakeholders. It’s important to know where you’ve moved the needle. Where have you made progress? How are your stakeholders experiencing it? What difference is it making in the business?

And then…celebrate your wins! Make adjustments. Stick with the changes that are working.

Behavior change takes time. It’s not easy. But it’s a whole lot more likely to be successful when you engage a coach and use stakeholder input along the way.

Questions about coaching? Let me know. I’d love to talk with you.

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