Author: Laura Ford
Organizations need strong leadership as they look to attract and retain top talent in an increasingly complex talent market. Leaders across all industries face new challenges in engaging and retaining employees in hybrid and remote-work environments. Further, economic, social, political and other stressors create an increasing need to provide emotional wellbeing support in the workplace.
Formal leadership coaching is a powerful tool for organizations working to engage and retain their top talent. While formal leadership coaching has been around for decades, previous coaching models that focused on failing or underperforming leaders are now — or should be — retired, like fax machines. Progressive organizations have shifted their approach to coaching. They have made it a valued tool to accelerate development for new leaders, high potential employees, and those for whom focused improvement can yield quick results.
Leadership success stories from Gallagher's Leadership Advisors team
Read on for recent examples of how Gallagher's Leadership Advisors team helped emerging leaders to develop their skills and drive results for their organizations.
Ron, a nonprofit leader
Ron rose to a management position early in his career. Without the years of experience typical to his role, Ron worked to develop a strategic approach and engage an experienced team accustomed to a previous leader's vastly different leadership style. His Gallagher leadership coach used personality and behavioral assessments to discover Ron's strengths and development areas, exploring ways to use the team's knowledge and experience, while helping Ron practice new skills in a safe environment.
Ron experienced discomfort in letting go of areas in which he excelled to make way for projects requiring his new competencies. His Gallagher coach partnered with Ron to test new communication strategies tailored to the different communication styles among his direct reports. Ron and his coach designed the strategies to achieve well-defined expectations and progress on high priority outcomes for his team. Finally, forging a trusting relationship with his demanding CEO challenged Ron to discern the right balance between agreeing to projects or pushing back, based on his expertise and experience.
Jennifer, a public sector leader
Jennifer brings outstanding technical skills and enjoys the high regard of her team. However, she consistently avoids dealing with performance issues among her direct reports and sidesteps delegating.
Her Gallagher coach helped Jennifer understand how to maintain strong working relationships while providing constructive feedback. Role playing using real-life scenarios helped Jennifer build confidence and look for signals of understanding. Through use of a work log and readings about common pitfalls, Jennifer identified her roadblocks to delegating, which included a desire for control and the satisfaction of completing tactical work. Naming these issues and testing strategies to address them allowed Jennifer to become a more effective leader.
Pat, a health care leader
New to the organization, Pat inherited a team known as tough to manage and resistant to change. Pat's early coaching focused on establishing strong relationships with colleagues and direct reports, as well as prioritizing team changes.
Gallagher coaches used a behavioral assessment to understand Pat's natural working style and those of his direct reports. Exploring relationship building with his particular cast of characters while working through successes and misfires, Pat built trust with his team in his new role. Using that foundation, Pat could then focus on sharing change initiatives on a timeline that the team could embrace. As resistance emerged, the discussions with his Gallagher coach focused on where to hold firm and where to adapt to foster a collaborative team dynamic.
Five factors for successful leadership training
Not every development situation responds to coaching — setting the stage for success is crucial. As you think about engaging a leadership coach, consider these five factors:
- Growth mindset. The leader must demonstrate a desire for growth. Coaching works best when welcomed within clear and agreed-upon outcomes for both the leader and the organization.
- Trust and rapport. Selecting from among several potential coaches gives the leader agency and helps ensure a good fit. Reviewing biographies of coaches or an introductory meeting can help ensure a trusting environment for productive coaching discussions.
- Expectation of confidentiality. Unlike training or other interventions, coaching relies on a safe space for exploration and problem solving. Organizations should trust the coach to provide updates on engagement and progress, not on specific topics or setbacks.
- Ample time. While coaching can accelerate results, change doesn't occur overnight. A typical leadership coaching engagement should span at least six months, with two or more meetings per month to allow for exploration, application and new habits to emerge.
- Expertise. Coaches come in all shapes and sizes, and many can be quick to step over the low bar to advertise oneself as a "coach." While life coaches and relationship coaches offer expertise, a professional leadership coach must bring experience and demonstrate knowledge of common issues within your work setting. Certification from the International Coaching Federation and training from an accredited coaching program indicate capability and commitment to ethical standards and coaching best practices.