Coaching Leaders: Preparing Talent for Higher Leadership Levels

More organizations are coaching leaders to become better at their jobs. The focus today is on coaching for performance and less on teaching management concepts. The reason is simple: Organizations have seen positive results from executive coaching. Now, companies are doubling down on such programs and expanding coaching to a broader population of leaders. More organizations are coaching leaders at all levels, not just at the top.

Over half of HR leaders who participated in IMPACT Group’s 2022 Leadership Study said their organizations plan to expand the use of coaches to develop individuals and teams – especially those working virtually.

The Growth in Coaching Leaders

PwC and the Association Resource Center reported in 2011 that the average return on an investment in executive coaching was seven times the organization’s initial investment. Corporate America went from spending about $1 billion annually on coaching in 2010 to $2.85 billion by 2020, according to SHRM.*

ICF membership has seen 140% growth in the last decade – from 17,648 members in 2010 to nearly 43,000 members in 2020.

Investments in Coaching Leaders Produce Results

What’s behind the big boost? Some telling statistics.

According to the ICF study, Building a Coaching Culture with Millennial Leaders, “Organizations with strong coaching cultures report that 61% of their employees are “highly engaged,” compared to 53% from organizations without strong coaching cultures.” In terms of financial impact, “46% of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures report their 2016 revenue to be above their peer group, compared to 39% from all other organizations.”

A professional coach guides leaders – not only in learning new skills – but in putting those teachings into practice. Coaches orchestrate a hyper-personalized experience using several tools such as leadership assessments, curated content, and structured coaching sessions. Coaching is also hyper-relevant because the coach and coachee focus on real-time issues, problems, and opportunities the coachees face in their day-to-day roles.

The Value to the Organization is Best Achieved Through Scale

A successful coaching program improves a leader’s performance. That means everyone on the leader’s team benefits by having a more effective leader. Often, colleagues will also report improvements in their ability to engage, trust, collaborate with colleagues who’ve been coached. The positive effects of coaching cascade through the organization. That’s why organizations are now scaling their programs to reach more coachees. More people coached tend to produce more real, sustainable value.

Maybe you’re sold on the powers of coaching leaders, and it’s just a matter of scaling your program to affect more leaders. Here’s the good news. As more coaches have entered the market and tech platforms have automated some of the administrative aspects of coaching, you can now find a wide range of affordable programs.

As an example, while a yearlong coaching engagement for an executive may cost upwards of $30,000, you can expect to pay as little as $2,500 to $5,000 for a coaching program that addresses the needs of an emerging leader. The costs vary depending upon the coaching program components, coaching talent, and the number of sessions.

Scaling Your Coaching Program with Internal & External Resources

Large organizations will often develop a team of internal coaches. Whether the coaches you choose are in-house or found outside your organization’s walls, the primary goal of these professionals is to support your company’s leaders. This means guiding them through transitions and giving them a sounding board when handling employees, the business, and any other challenges they face.

Would your talent work best with an in-house coach, an external coach, or even a mix of the two?  Here are some considerations to guide your decision when it comes to coaching leaders and your other talent.

Will your coachees feel they can be open and honest? Do you want your coachees to know they can speak freely and feel unencumbered by office politics? With an internal coach, a coachee may worry about their privacy. External coaches can ensure confidentiality so your talent feels more comfortable.

Does your organization need a fresh perspective? An external coach can be the best bet when it comes to pointing out your blind spots.

A pair of “fresh eyes” can notice something that might have been overlooked and assumed to be “normal” inside the organization. As SHRM advises, “An external coach is not burdened with preconceptions about either the coachee or the organization. This means that they can often see things that are not obvious to the coachee’s manager or people embedded in the organization’s culture and processes.”

Do you need results in a short time? An external coach doesn’t have the responsibilities of an internal manager. This means the coach can give their undivided attention to coaching leaders. Again, SHRM weighs in, retaining an external coaching “can lead to an intensive, high-energy form of coaching that can produce significant results in a short time.”

Do you need bilingual coaches? Or speak another language? Language requirements may cause you to seek out an external coach as well.

At what level in the organization is the coachee? Internal coaches may be sufficient when working with junior employees. However, it’s tough for an in-house coach to work with more senior leaders. Why? An internal coach may not feel comfortable challenging a senior leader. A power imbalance inherent in the relationship between an internal resource and a member of the top leadership team will doom the success of most coaching sessions.

The coach’s problem is twofold:  First, it is tough to speak truth to power in many organizations – and keep your job. And second, the internal coach may lack credibility in the eyes of the senior C-suite leader.

Does your talent need help to navigate internal processes?  An external coach is a solid choice when it comes to providing industry knowledge. But suppose a coachee is having a tough time assimilating into a new organization. In that case, an internal coach might be more effective to make the new leader more aware of cultural or organizational “landmines” and advise accordingly.

External Versus Internal Coaching: The Commonalities

Whether coaching leaders or another talent, both internal and external coaches should act with a high level of responsiveness and emotional intelligence. They should be able to listen, give actionable feedback and urge people toward positive change – sometimes in their attitude as well as behaviors.

Most importantly, professional coaches don’t just “wing it.” Qualified leadership coaches follow a coaching method or model. They also act according to established policies and procedures around confidentiality, billable time, and any potential conflicts of interest.

According to IFC, “Organizations continue to seek coaches who exude necessary qualities, such as listening actively, establishing trust and maintaining high professional standards. Additionally, organizations must ensure that internal and external coach practitioners and managers/leaders using coaching skills have received the appropriate amount of training. Of course, the company must also actively evaluate the coaching program to determine its effectiveness and return on investment (ROI) to maintain continued support and investment.”

Coaching and Leadership Development Programs

Some companies prefer to conduct an internal leadership program for a cohort of emerging leaders and assign each cohort member with a coach to further their development through private, highly customized, one-to-one sessions. At IMPACT Group, we call this additional layer of development wraparound coaching.

IMPACT Group’s seasoned and dedicated coaches guide leaders to set and achieve meaningful development goals while leaving a legacy of learning. Scalable coaching programs can help your organization develop a new cohort of emerging leaders each year.

Employee Development Program, IMPACT Group

Find out more about IMPACT Group’s leadership development programs now. Or, check out this case study revealing how Veolia addressed their future business needs.