Over the course of the last few years, coaching has gained popularity. Open up a newspaper or browse the web and you’ll find zillions of articles about the most important skill of a good leader; coaching. Besides bringing business results, managing stakeholders, and handling internal politics, leaders should also be good coaches to their reports. At Amplio Coaching, we believe that the focus of coaching has drifted away from the leaders themselves. And for the leaders to be able to be good coaches for their reports, they need to have a good coach themselves as well. Read in this article about the importance of coaching for leaders, an example from the field and the Amplio Coaching method towards coaching leaders (popularly referred to as executive coaching). But first, what do we consider to be coaching for leaders? What is our definition of executive coaching?
“We consider executive coaching to be a partnership between a coach and a leader in order to help the leader to gain perspective, achieved through challenging the leaders’ behavioural status quo and stimulating their creativity, with the purpose of amplifying their professional and leadership potential.”
Leaders need to be coached
You might have heard the overused expression: “you are born a leader or you’re no leader at all”. We don’t agree with this. Of course, there are people that have a more natural disposition towards certain leadership skills. But in the long run, everybody can grow towards becoming a great leader. The question is not if you are a leader, but: do you want to be a leader? Being a leader comes with tons of responsibilities and, unlike what a lot of people think, it is not a glamorous and victorious existence. Good leaders have a subset of skills they excel in. And you are not born with these skills, but luckily, you can develop them. Executive coaching can help leaders:
1. Increase self-awareness
Through the right executive questioning, a leader can increase their self-awareness with a coach. Without the right level of self-awareness, a leader would stubbornly keep following one track. As a result of increased self-awareness, leaders become more rounded persons that can anticipate on a scale of different business scenarios.
2. Improve self-regulation
By unravelling and understanding their emotions together with a coach, a leader can boost their self-regulation. Without the right level of self-regulation, a leader will have difficulty to control their emotions and behaviours in the vast amount of new situations they will find themselves in. Increasing self-regulation results in that leaders are better able to match their behaviour and emotions to the situation, thus boosting goal achievement and performance.
3. Become an empathetic leader
By reflecting and refining their behaviours accordingly, leaders can improve their empathy skills. Without the right level of empathy, a leader will have difficulty to connect and gain trust with their team. Some people have a natural predisposition to being empathetic where others have to be more conscious applying empathy in their lives. You can improve empathy with the right guidance and by fully accepting yourself. Rene Schuster, former CEO of Telefonica Germany, expresses the relevance of empathy in business as follows: “Empathy is not a soft nurturing value but a hard commercial tool that every business needs as part of their DNA."
4. Improve social skills
By discussing the values and drivers of a leader, the leader will better understand themselves. This will allow them to improve their social skills. Without the right level of social skills, you cannot create the right environment for your team to perform optimally. Social skills make up the fabric of a successful work culture. Leaders and teams with a high emotional intelligence are able to find a win-win in every situation. These teams work well together and will accomplish the goals set.
Coaching is of utmost importance for the development and therefore personal and professional success of leaders. How do you expect an athlete to improve? By providing them with continuous feedback. The same counts for leaders: how do you expect them to improve? By establishing an environment of trust in which constructive feedback can be shared and discussed, enabling the leader to grow accordingly.
Judith and John never could have become the leaders they are without being coached
Theory can be abstract at times. That’s why I prefer to give some practical examples allowing you to understand how Amplio Coaching supported leaders in their development and allowed them to tap into their leadership potential. The examples are anonymised for privacy reasons.
Meet Judith. Judith has been promoted to program manager and has 8 years of work experience. She has been operationally active for 2 years at her company before being promoted into leading a team of 4, having to deliver results concerning the innovation program that runs at her company. Soon, she noticed that her role as program manager did not run as smoothly as she expected. She noticed that she had difficulty getting the team on the same page and influencing them towards the desired results that she was being measured on.
Together with a coach from Amplio Coaching she worked on her interpersonal relationships within the team, focussing on listening and showing empathy. The assumption we worked with was that this was going to increase her influencing power. Though analysing some of her interactions and by deliberately requesting feedback, she managed to grow her self-awareness. This was the first step for her to work on her listening and empathy skills.
After half a year of biweekly coaching, Judith managed to connect better with her team. She could understand better what their needs were and even had the feeling of being able to grow trust in interpersonal relationships. The fact that she could relate better to the needs and ambitions of her team made her feel more confident in her role, allowing her to influence the behaviour of her team better. Delegating and directing her team accordingly was made possible by self-reflection and by increasing her self-awareness.
Meet John. John is a sales manager at a scale-up. He was one of the first sales reps on the ground and got promoted to team lead shortly after. While the company grew, being the sales employee with the most tenure and supported by working hard, he was again promoted to the role of VP of sales. As VP of sales, he has the responsibility of managing cross-regional sales teams. He has four reports from three different continents. His job comes with a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity, amplified by the different operating regions. Having been a sales rep and sales manager before, John has difficulty delegating and empowering his team. Currently, John has the tendency to be involved in everything and attempts to positively influence every detail. He soon finds out that this is unmanageable in his current role. He has the urgent need to develop new decision skills that suit his current role and responsibilities.
Together with an Amplio coach he worked on letting go, embracing the uncertainty and empowering his cross-regional teams to perform well. We did this by highlighting and understanding his person in relation to the team. How does he want his team to perceive him? Who does he want the members of his team to be? After understanding who he wants to be to his team, we focussed on developing the areas which he tends to control compulsively. This was because he had difficulty with the inevitable uncertainty that was part of certain areas of his job. Through in-depth conversation, we surfaced the uncertainties he had difficulty to cope with. By understanding himself better in relation to those uncertainties, he understood his unproductive coping strategies better.
After an intense coaching trajectory of three months, John could catch himself using his unproductive coping strategies. He was able to delegate more and empower his four teams accordingly. While time evolved, he managed to embrace the responsibilities of his new job better. Now, John’s teams are operating well while he keeps the long term goals in mind for his organisation commercially. He does not have bi-weekly coaching anymore. However, we do have quarterly check-in in which we recalibrate and refine his leadership skills.
The Amplio Executive Coaching Model that sets leaders up for success
What makes leaders want to invest in coaching? They are aiming to achieve certain results and want to accelerate this process through coaching. At Amplio Coaching, we do not believe that achieving these certain results are fully within your circle of influence. Nonetheless, you can influence the outcome significantly by approaching the journey towards your goal constructively. Be that as it may, it’s of essential importance to understand a person’s leadership worth within an organisation first. Once you understand this, you’ll be able to understand where your gaps are and what you need to do to endeavour towards the envisioned result.
In order to let leaders endeavour rapidly and accurately towards their goals, we are using the Miller leadership framework. A question that could be asked is whether we need a framework. Why not just talk, think, and plan together? A framework is not required, but is helpful for organising one’s thoughts, to frame important questions and issues. We believe performance can not be controlled entirely, but can be influenced significantly by focussing on the right areas of the framework. The Amplio Coaching holistic approach helps leaders endeavour smoothly and constructively towards their set leadership goals.
It’s important that before looking at how to achieve the aspired accomplishments, to first focus on the self. In our approach, we’ll focus on discovering five types of assets or capabilities that create value for the person and the company. Each of these capabilities is an area that can be discussed, evaluated and improved. By discussing how each of the characteristics applies to the aspired goal, specific things can be identified that he or she can do to improve personal performance and thereby improve business performance. These five assets to identify and to drive are:
Miller's leadership coaching framework incorporates the idea of the five forms of capital and the system within which the executive operates. In addition to managing the organisation, the executive manages their own personal system, the people and things that impact how they think, feel and behave.
It is important to mention that this model looks more at a macro-level of developing one individual. Let’s have a look at the grey outer layer of this model. All companies are subsystems of a large system. That larger system is the economy of countries and industries. It involves the social system that provides human resources and shapes markets. It includes the ever-changing technological environment. In addition, the political environment has an increasing impact on the behaviour of leaders. Healthy individuals and companies recognize the elements of the larger environment that they cannot change and to which they must adapt. Successful leaders recognize the “real world” in which they live and hence are constantly evaluating that world. Consequently, they develop strategies that fit the ever-changing world around them. At Amplio Coaching, we support the leader to think through these realities and test their adaptive strategies.
Looking at the darker blue inner circles of the model, the organisation is constantly interacting with the behaviour of the leaders. No one behaves with complete independence of the culture. And, it is a primary function of leaders to manage their internal strategy, the culture of the organisation, as well as their external or market strategy. At Amplio Coaching we have experience in changing organisational culture and helping leaders think through how they may impact the culture.
The leadership team is the first level of influence for leaders. A great leadership team is an indication of a great leader and the greatest asset to a leader. Amplio Executive Coaching involves seeking input, feedback and “feed-forward”, that may guide the leaders in adapting their own behaviour. Feed-forward, rather than focusing on how a team member feels about how the leader has behaved in the past, simply states how the leader can best perform in the future.
In accordance with the CTFAR model, we believe that by supporting leaders with their internal thoughts and feelings, we can support them to aim for their desired results. Through genuine interactions, we help leaders to gain insights regarding their own thoughts, feelings and behaviours that may contribute to performance or may inhibit performance. Once the leader recognises their thoughts and feelings that influence their performance, deliberate decisions can be shaped to change current behaviour towards the desired results.
Amplio’s Executive Coaching allows you to research your leadership net value thoroughly from where your leadership goals can be determined. Once these leadership goals are set, an actionable path can be determined, to endeavour towards them in the wider macro system leaders are operating in. We believe leadership goals can be achieved by understanding your thoughts, feelings and behaviours that eventually will determine your personal and hence company performance. The Amplio coach will work with the leader as a partner in creating the ideal set of leadership assets that will result in improved personal and organisational performance.