Often I hear of frustration and disappointment that managers and leaders who have been on a coaching skills workshop do very little with it on their return to the workplace. It seems, from my experience, that the introducing managers to the skills and models applicable in coaching is a realtively easy task, they are bright people and intellectually the content is not that challenging. What appears to be much more of a challenge is implementing the ‘coach approach’ in their everyday business life. The approach and effective conversations of a ‘leader / coach’ are often very different to what they learned in the past, not least because it demands a shift from the problem solving behaviours that so many managers have found successful, and have been rewarded for in their organisations. The legacy role of ‘manager as problem solver’ can be deep routed in corporate / professional cultures.
Training has an important role in introducing new constructs, behaviours and propositions for future business success, it’s in implementation that the challenges arise. So how can we go about sustaining the momentum in building a coach apporach to leadership?
I would recommend a structured approach over time. Following an inital say 2 day workshop bring the managers back together regulary in ‘practice and build’ sessions where they co-coach each other on real business issues and/or their challenges / experiences of integrating a coaching style into their leadership. This way they get to experience first hand on how coaching can be used in e.g. issue / problem resolution, and are encouraged to use this approach with their people. These sessions also give the opportunity for us to give more input to them, according to the challenges they are facing, e.g. coach approach to development, or coach approach to performance management, or coach approach to delegation. If you can’t get them back together face to face every time, run some 90 min telecalls where they come and share what’s working / not working and encourage them to coach each other so others can listen, give feedback etc. I’ve learned the hard way over some 15 years of bringing coaching skills to business leaders – Always contract follow up sessions, Never leave them with just a (for example), 2 day coaching skills workshop, This will rarely be successful, Stay with them over a 6 to 9 month period, keep the dialogue going on how coaching is helping the business, get them to publish success, encourage their managers and support each other.