Succession planning has become a key initiative listed in many organizations strategic planning process. Organizations are asking themselves: How do we develop the next generation of leaders? How do we make sure they are ready to take over when the current leaders retire, or leave? Which roles should we focus on first? Who are the key people that we believe have the potential to run our business in the future? In order to develop future leaders, there are a number of tactics an organization can use. The most important one is making sure that leaders have an opportunity to develop their skills managing people, they get exposure to strategic decision making, and they get an opportunity to build their network with highly influential people on the current executive team. Once you can check these items on the list, coaching is another best practice which can help them to refine their leadership style and build the core capabilities necessary for success.
Many successful companies recognize that leaders need one on one attention to refine their leadership style and improve their capabilities, especially in those areas which have been empirically shown to improve leadership effectiveness. Personalized attention can help leaders to inspire a common purpose, build a high performing team, hold steady during conflict, and navigate corporate politics. Although many leaders know what they need to do, they find it difficult to implement these practices on a day to day bases. Having a coach can significantly help them, especially when the coach has business experience and an understanding of organizational dynamics. A coach with these skills can be a “thinking partner” to the leader, helping them to determine the best way to approach challenging day to day situations.
If a coaching engagement is structured properly and there are clear goals and objectives, companies are realizing there is a strong ROI which surpasses that of workshops. Although workshops can be great for inspiring new ideas, it seems that most leaders take them and build their knowledge, but they don’t actually apply the concepts unless the course includes follow up coaching to ensure that new behaviours and information are actually implemented.
If you are considering using an executive coach, a key to success is knowing what you want to accomplish. I have found that when the coaching involves just “talking” about your daily challenges, it is not as effective as a coaching engagement where you are trying to solve a certain business challenge or develop a specific leadership behaviour. The best executive coaching engagements also include feedback from your direct manager and peers, and typically help you to be more effective in your current organizational context. ROI for a coaching engagement is usually determined by using some kind of scorecard and ensuring tangible business and behavioural outcomes are defined up front and measured at the end of the engagement.