What can I gain from a leadership coach?

by Sam on April 29, 2009

Analysis: Peter Drucker often said that management is too big a job for one person. You’re a candidate for leadership coaching the minute you agree with Drucker. It’s time to look for help outside your organization once you acknowledge that you have challenges in your leadership role that are beyond your experience, abilities, and temperament.

Eight indicators for coaching stand out. One, your boss insists that you improve some aspect of your leadership style. Two, you have colleagues with whom you need to get better results. Three, your goal to build your team into a unified force is not yet achieved. Four, you have been assigned targets that you’re not confident your group can reach without a major transfusion. Five, you’re in a crisis situation that looks hopeless. Six, you need help building bench strength and finding succession candidates. Seven, a current project needs a shot in the arm. Or, eight, you simply want to be the best possible leader.

The duration of coaching relationships is typically six months to two years, with one-on-one touch points every two to four weeks. A number of C-level executives seek counsel for even longer. In these instances their coaches may transform to focusing more lightly on them and more heavily on interventions within their areas of responsibility.

Answer: Three criteria are vital in selecting a coach. The first is that the person has a track record of success in situations such as yours. The second is that, after the initial meetings, you feel good about the chemistry between the two of you. The third is that the coach outlines the process the two of you will follow, and you like that process.

Here’s one ten-stage course that works. It will help you to judge whether leadership coaching can benefit you.

Agreement. This happens once you consent to work with your coach, and agree to abide by the terms of the proposed coaching process. If the chemistry isn’t there, this is the time to say, “No thanks.”

Awareness. The feedback that you receive from others and from your coach on the priorities for your changed behavior accomplishes this stage. This may include a performance improvement letter from your boss, copies of recent performance reviews, personality assessment findings, results of 360 degree surveys, and other forms of relevant feedback.

Acknowledgment and Acceptance. You’ve passed through this stage when you agree that the bulk of the feedback is relevant and forms a foundation for the change you need to make, even though you may not yet agree with all of it or its relative importance.

Agony and Anger. This is a key stage! Unless you are experiencing pain directly connected to the behavior you have targeted for change, and unless you can absolutely vow to change or eliminate that behavior, this will not be a helpful coaching process for you. Intent to change won’t help. Commitment to change won’t cut it either. Only an absolute vow will bring success. Can you muster such dedication?

Analysis. Now you’re ready to get down to business. Search for all the barriers that have historically stood in the way of achieving the transformations you vow to make. It may take a few days to do this, coming back a number of times to discover all the obstacles. Once you’re convinced you have identified the relevant barriers, prioritize the list so that you can focus your attention on the top few that explain most of why you have been displaying unhelpful behavior.

Action Plan. What specific actions will you take to hurdle or eliminate the key barriers? By what date will you take each action?

Apology. Apart from the barriers you’ll overcome with the action plan, identify those people who may have been harmed, even unintentionally, by your past behavior. Tell them you are sorry for any hurt you have caused, and share your vows to create a new future. The best way to apologize is to say, “Will you forgive me for _______ ?”

Advertise. Many people will not notice that you’re changing; others will continue to stereotype you in your old behavior long after you have changed. It will aid both you and them to advertise your specific vows to get better. It will also help to prevent any confusion or suspicion that some may have in response to unexpected changes in your leadership or communication styles.

Accountability Partner. Deep change is difficult. Deep change without help is
foolhardy. Your coach can certainly be counted as one of your accountability partners, but you need someone with more access to you that can play a similar role. That “in-house” accountability partner performs several functions: (1) may help you with stages 5 and 6; (2) will give you critical feedback on your progress with your action plan; and (3) will be your cheerleader and champion.

Assimilation. The “21-day rule” says that it takes 21 days, or 21 repetitions, to form a new habit. Whether the number is 21 or something else isn’t so important. Think of this idea as “fake it ’til you make it.” In other words, if you begin practicing new behavior (with reinforcement and support from your accountability partner) even without necessarily believing in it, that behavior will soon invade your core values and will naturally take over as an element of your behavioral repertoire.


I look at you and I see two men–the man you are and the man you ought to be. One of these days these two men are going to meet, and I want to be there to see it happen.

~Coach Jimmy McGinty (Played by Gene Hackman in the movie “The Replacements.”)

Action (yours)

Do you have an Ask for Sam about leadership, team building or communications? Email that question to him at sam@asksamdeep.com. He will respond to you either by email or telephone. Please include your telephone number with your Ask.

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