Over the last few years, in several leadership conferences I attended and a few I spoke in, there were a few themes that emerged powerfully as global trends in leadership development, particularly as coaching intervention. All these trends addressed the two most critical corporate leadership challenges, those of ‘people engagement’ and ‘coping with accelerating change’.
Directional solutions were discussed around the theme of systemic engagement of individuals, in the context of teams within organizations, with defined delivery parameters. Here are some of the prominent trends in these discussions.
Coaching culture to enable leadership qualities
Companies are moving away from the hierarchical, prescriptive, telling mode of ‘managing’ to interactive, empowering, asking mode of ‘leading’. This is more acceptable to today’s knowledge industry millennials. Today’s generation does not respond to commands of ‘Jump’; they want to know ‘why’, and rightly so.
This shift requires a more emotionally intelligent and more participative style of leadership. This style embodies coaching competencies of clarity in defining goals, active listening, powerful asking, honest communication and mutual awareness creation, which lead to actionable outcome. Companies realize that training their executives in coaching competencies helps develop them as leaders, and helps transform them from merely being mentors who rely only on limited experience and expertise to prescribe, to empowering their subordinates by creating inner awareness.
Developing Internal Coaches
Following the realization of the value of transforming ‘mentor managers’ into ‘coach leaders’, companies are taking the next step of training their mangers as leadership coaches and using them as internal coach mentor leaders. This is now a growing trend.
Most companies do realize that there is a boundary of confidentiality that limits openness with internal coaching. However, within this boundary, and by expanding this boundary through creation of internal transparency and use of cross-divisional coaches, companies can derive great value. Some great examples are Google and Boeing. External coaches need not despair. Most of the companies do use about 30% external coaches, mainly for senior leadership. The pie gets larger, though the slice may get smaller.
Practicing Systemic Coaching
Some years ago I realized the limitations and sometimes the futility of coaching executives individually. A work environment that had not changed resisted executives who had transformed their behavior. This led to attrition or reversal to past behavior. I now request companies to provide me teams, rather than individuals to coach.
This is now called Systemic coaching, incorporating concepts of Peter Senge and Otto Scharmer. I have developed Coacharya methodologies that incorporate these concepts with processes derived from NLP, Appreciative Inquiry and Positive Psychology. Integrating individual and group coaching has synergies producing enhanced results with lower costs. Corporate L&D managers need to embrace Systemic coaching, which can be integrated with development of internal coaches and creation of corporate coaching culture.
Companies would like to see tangible value from coaching, and righty so. Many formats are available to measure Return on Investment from coaching. Though all of them have intangible, qualitative measurement factors, they are still useful in setting a system in place, instead of going by faith.
Coaching is about outcome. It is essential that coaches set success measures for their effort, as coaches do for their clients. Marshall Goldsmith charges nothing, if no results are evidenced. More coaches need to have the courage to follow him. Companies need to demand evidence based, success based coaching results.
Industries used to be male dominated. As they became structured and hierarchical they became age dominated. Things have changed dramatically in the last decade. Younger millennial generation, and women, constitute a much larger proportion in industries, especially the information and knowledge industries. Unfortunately, corporate leadership as well as mindset is still dominated by older males with authoritative, prescriptive attitudes. This cannot last long. Companies need to address diverse population and empower them. Coaching is a powerful intervention to achieve this, especially Systemic blended coaching.
At the simplest level, more and companies now use virtual coaching deliveries through phones and audio video applications such as Zoom and Skype. I find that resistance to virtual coaching comes from L&D managers rather than client executives. In a virtual chemistry meeting, I am always able to establish the confidence in the client to move away face-to-face to virtual sessions. It is also a lot cheaper to the Company.
Emails and chats add great value between coaching sessions to follow up. 360 and psychometric assessments are mostly done online, some as mobile apps. I have done several group coaching sessions online. There is no excuse with today’s technology to continue using traditional face-to-face sessions, which are not only expensive, and often less effective (I don’t know of any coach who hasn’t been intruded upon by a overzealous colleague of the client or an impatient boss in the midst of a coaching conversation).
Other uses of technology are use of gamification as well visual ‘avatars’ to create scenarios in coaching. While this may seem futuristic, I have experimented with these and find them value added. A good part of traditional coaching may get automated in the near future. This should give coaches pause, and review what additional value they can add. As David Peterson, Chief Coach at Google said in a recent conference, ‘coaching (as you know it) is dead’.
These are global trends that are emerging in leadership development in coaching and similar interventions. Training is no longer prized, and has been replaced with group coaching combines with action learning. Both corporate senior leaders and coaches need to heed these shifts to add value to their organizations.