What does Leadership Development actually mean?
The folks at CO2 Partners completed a survey some time back of 3,447 individuals, about 90 percent of whom are middle-to-senior-level managers. They asked this question:
“If you were to receive coaching at work, what focus would be of the greatest benefits to you? (Please select all that apply.)”
- Leadership development: 59.8 percent
- Communication skills: 47.8 percent
- Organizational and political savvy: 31.5 percent
- Job performance: 28.3 percent
- Business acumen: 27.2 percent
- Career planning: 26.1 percent
- Life/balance: 21.7 percent
- Health/fitness: 6.5 percent
Gary Cohen, President of CO2 Partners, makes a good point, though, in his interview with Chief Learning Officer magazine. While Leadership Development emerges at the top of the coaching wish list:
"Actually defining leadership development. . . isn’t quite as popular. . .many people do not fully understand what leadership development coaching is or what it entails."
"Leadership is a captivating objective for most managers,” he said. “So individuals feel obligated to choose leadership development, even if they have no clear sense of what it’s all about. Despite this lack of awareness, leadership ranks first on any survey of coaching needs.”
Cohen said, though, that leadership coaching is not well-defined and that it makes sense many people do not fully comprehend exactly what it is.
Get Clear About These
I agree with Gary about the fuzziness that surrounds leadership coaching. There is an equal amount of fuzziness when it comes to Leadership Development. As a result, the coaching issue can get blurred. So here are some suggestions after a lot of years wrestling with the issue:
When it comes to coaching--or any kind of consulting activity--90% of the success or failure lies in the contracting phase. So:
a. Get clear about who initiated the coaching request. If it was a boss, make sure to understand what that person is looking for and why. Which means asking "Who really set this process in motion?"
b. What are the specific results desired from the coaching engagement? While Leadership is a sexy catch-all phrase, maybe the real issues are managing team performance, running better meetings, or initiating conversations with colleagues in other corporate locations. (All three of those have emerged after probing underneath the Leadership umbrella during contracting).
c. Is coaching the best way to get at the desired
growth? The fact of the matter is that some things are skills that can
be learned in other ways. And if you ask yourself how you best
learned Leadership, the thoughtful answer will probably be "from
leading." Be prepared to suggest expanded responsibility. People grow
by being lifted up and then stepping up.