Some leaders are born, and some must be made, but all leaders can learn to be better. That’s where leadership coaching comes in. Effective executives are crucial for organizational success, and leadership coaching ensures quality leadership isn’t left to chance. Mentoring can play a vital role in leadership coaching, as a personalized way to support leaders and help them develop.
What is leadership coaching?
Leadership coaching is the process of helping leaders develop the capabilities needed to work well with others and lead more effectively. Coaching helps leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses while offering training to grow their skills. Ultimately, coaching should empower leaders with the ability to lead confidently, help the people they manage to live up to their full potential and have a positive impact on the organization.
Examples of Leadership Coaching in the Workplace
Leadership coaching often focuses on the “soft skills” leaders need to be able to effectively manage people. These can include:
- Communication: Good leaders need to be able to impart important information and make sure everyone is on the same page. But it’s also vital for them to be able to listen effectively and ensure that others feel heard. Understanding the principles of good communication — and practicing them — are essential to improving this key skill.
- Coaching mindset: Having a coaching mindset means that leaders focus on helping their employees develop to their full potential. It’s a collaborative process that allows employees to learn from experience and drive their own development. The leader facilitates this process as an engaged participant, offering encouragement rather than dictating direction.
- Conflict management: Conflict is a natural part of people working together, and it can lead to positive change if it’s managed correctly. Effective leaders need to have the skills to identify and manage conflict so it doesn’t become personal or negatively impact the workplace.
- Building relationships: Great leaders understand that successful teamwork takes strong relationships that go beyond the transactional. Leaders need to be able to build relationships throughout the organization that are genuine and characterized by earned trust on both sides. Learning how to break down silos and build connections will improve a leader’s strength and effectiveness.
- Influence and motivation: Great leaders are able to influence people to work in a certain direction while staying motivated, even in challenging circumstances. This takes several different skills, including good communication, conflict management, and the ability to build relationships, along with confidence and an understanding of how to inspire others.
All of these skills — and many more — can be assessed and improved through leadership coaching.
What Are Different Leadership Coaching Styles?
Leadership coaching is not one size fits all, and coaches working with leaders to improve their skills may use a variety of different styles, depending on the circumstances and needs of the learner.
Laissez-faire coaching means a coach employs minimal intervention unless serious problems arise. In the past, many organizations used laissez-faire leadership coaching, essentially letting leaders learn on the job without much guidance or direction. Often, organizations did not deliberately choose this coaching style — rather, it became the default due to a lack of thought-out leadership training strategy. While laissez-faire coaching can be an effective leadership style for managers who have highly motivated and skilled employees, it’s probably not the best coaching style to help new and emerging executives hone their leadership skills.
When coaches use the directive style, they focus on offering strong direction to help leaders learn. This can involve verbally sharing their knowledge and experience with the learner and offering a clear learning path, which may include practical exercises and study. Often, this is a typical style that mentors use with mentees, especially at the start of a mentoring journey or when the mentor needs to pass on specific knowledge or solutions.
The non-directive coaching style is more interactive, relying more on the coach posing questions to the learner and listening to help the learner come up with their own answers. This fosters creativity, resourcefulness, problem-solving and independence. Non-directive coaching helps learners develop their own insights and internalize them for more intuitive leadership and immediate real-world impact.
When coaches use the style that works best for the circumstances at hand, they are employing situational coaching, using a specific scenario to lay out a learning opportunity.
One specific style may not always be the most effective for a given learner or a particular challenge, so a good coach should be able to adapt to the leader’s learning style with the teaching method that’s most suited to the lesson at hand.
What are the benefits of leadership coaching?
Traditionally, many organizations have left leadership to chance, neglecting to provide leadership training and using a sink-or-swim approach. But good leadership is just as important as any other essential business skill — if not more so. Leadership coaching offers organizations several long-lasting benefits by raising the leadership bar.
Leadership coaching improves employee retention in several different ways. For leaders participating in coaching, leadership training not only helps them gain crucial skills and confidence, it shows them that the organization is invested in their future. When the organization shows that it values leaders enough to give them the opportunity to further their skills, it makes them feel appreciated and improves loyalty. All of this creates strong motivation for leaders to stay with the organization rather than looking elsewhere for opportunity.
Leadership coaching also helps improve retention among the employees being managed. Better leadership translates to happier employees, who are more likely to commit to the company. And organizations with good leadership attract high-quality talent as well.
Increases productivity and performance
When leaders develop their skills through coaching, it has a positive impact on the engagement levels of the employees who report to them, a key factor in productivity and performance. Be careful, though. The opposite is true as well — management that is mediocre or worse results in disengaged employees. In fact, managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units, according to Gallup.
Leaders with well-developed leadership skills have the ability to work with individuals to help them make the most out of their potential. They also are able to help teams to collaborate effectively and inspire everyone to work together toward a common goal — all of which are crucial to high productivity and performance.
Preparation for the future
Good leadership is critical for the performance of an organization now and down the road. Without leaders who can create a vision and inspire the organization to carry it forward, it is easy for companies to get mired in the past. Leadership coaching, along with succession planning, helps to keep the leadership pipeline full of talent by identifying and preparing leaders who can drive current success and steer the organizational ship into the future.
How can a mentoring program help with leadership coaching?
Mentoring is a tested way to develop leaders with the help of others within their organization. Mentoring programs give partners the dedicated time and focus they need to work on enhancing their capabilities as leaders, as well as the opportunity to build trusting relationships with experienced senior leaders who can help them improve their management skills. These relationships foster personalized learning and feedback tailored to a leader’s strengths and needs.
Formal mentoring programs also offer essential structure, including clear goals, milestones and support for both learners and coaches. Formal programs also allow organizations to scale leadership coaching throughout the organization so that more leaders can receive the standardized coaching they need.
Just as leadership coaches can turn to different styles to meet the needs of different learners and circumstances, mentoring programs should offer different options to optimize leadership coaching. These may include:
- Virtual mentoring
- Mentoring circles
- Mentoring for an inclusive workplace culture
- Mentoring for women
An optimized mentoring program will include milestones and metrics that map to the organization’s unique needs, culture and goals.
Jumpstart Leadership Coaching at Your Organization with Mentoring Software
Mentoring software from Chronus offers organizations a way to create modern leadership development programs that provide the perfect framework for leadership coaching. Chronus uses automation to make coaching and mentoring easier, more productive and more impactful, while minimizing the administrative burden.
For example, the Chronus mentoring platform uses AI to make better mentoring matches so that mentors and mentees have a great experience from the start. It empowers you to easily track results and ROI, allowing you to constantly measure value and gain insights that can help you improve your mentoring program over time.
The Chronus platform is flexible so that you can build the program that is just right for your business, personalizing experiences at scale. And it offers built-in support for your mentors and mentees with mentorship training, learning resources and customized, step-by-step mentoring plans that map to the company’s mission.
With mentoring software in place, you can focus on making the most of your high-potential employees and future leadership pipeline by helping them learn the skills that are essential. This is the most effective and efficient way to close the gap between workforce skills and organizational needs. Meanwhile, you’ll improve loyalty and engagement and set your organization up for future success with strong leadership.