Friday, July 3, 2009

What Do You Mean, Leadership Development?

Before engaging a coach for 'leadership development', you had better get a grip on what exactly leadership development is in the context of how you want to use it.

To book yourself or sponsor staff for leadership development coaching doesn't mean much by itself. What is it you wish to accomplish?

  • Adjust a career limiting behavior

  • Improve communication skills

  • Learn how to develop and articulate vision

  • Create connections both inside and outside the organization

  • Handle conflict better

... and any number of other things that would impact the daily life of a leader.

I think Steve Roesler gives some very cogent advice in his recent post, Leadership: Coaching Clarity Needed,

When it comes to coaching--or any kind of consulting activity--90% of the success or failure lies in the contracting phase. So:

a. Get clear about who initiated the coaching request. If it was a boss, make sure to understand what that person is looking for and why. Which means asking, "Who really set this process in motion?"

b. What are the specific results desired from the coaching engagement? While Leadership is a sexy catch-all phrase, maybe the real issues are managing team performance, running better meetings, or initiating conversations with colleagues in other corporate locations. (All three of those have emerged after probing underneath the Leadership umbrella during contracting).

c. Is coaching the best way to get at the desired growth? The fact of the matter is that some things are skills that can be learned in other ways. And if you ask yourself how you best learned Leadership, the thoughtful answer will probably be "from leading." Be prepared to suggest expanded responsibility. People grow by being lifted up and then stepping up.

Clarity rules! If you can name it, you can do something about it. If you wish to establish new skills, change a particular attitude or adjust the way you go about whatever ... write it down clearly and then make focused effort to work on it.

If you want to achieve specific goals with coaching, fuzzy ideas and articulation about leadership development may not get you there. Zero in.

Here are sample statements from executives we have coached. Each of them started out as 'leadership development' type requests. But they had something more specific in mind. Notice how their statements are becoming more refined.

  • "Develop some benchmarks for the company and understand how to use them best"

  • "To get away from the edge of burnout"

  • "I need assistance in relating to the board."

  • "I need help in making a smooth transition of leadership."

  • "Become someone who deals better with staff performance problems"

This means that the coaching can be more targeted. We can more quickly zero in and get to work on those things that matter.

And even for your own personal and professional development work ... be crisp and clear and you will better be able to develop your own personal development plan. You will have specific topics to work on. You will be able to set realistic targets because you will know what you are talking about.

Clarity rules!

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