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What is leadership coaching and development?

February 22, 2022
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A question that often comes up in interviews is: How do you like to be managed or what kind of manager are you? It’s an interesting question that many people don’t spend a lot of time considering outside of bad experiences with leaders who leave out key details or don’t give clear direction. This sort of hands-off approach to leadership can often make for teams that lack camaraderie and employees who feel detached from their job and who will easily move on to another company.

Leadership coaching, on the other hand, is a style of management that can be a powerful tool for employee engagement. The traits of coaching: encouraging problem solving, modeling behavior, facilitating discussions and collaboration, all lead to a thriving workplace culture. Employees who are trusted to think for themselves and adapt to the culture, in turn, become leaders within the organization. Leadership coaching, or leadership development, is often conducted by internal or external consultants or companies specializing in this field. As a practice, it’s most effective and will have a longer-lasting impact if adapted internally.

How leadership coaching works

Giving and receiving feedback

One of the core features of leadership coaching is the manner in which feedback or advice is given. Management scholars Ibarra and Scoular, in the Harvard Business Review, provide a matrix explaining differences between leadership styles.3

Styles of Coaching

More info put in1. Directive4. Situational
Less info put in2. Laissez-faire3. Nondirective
Less energy pulled outMore energy pulled out

  1. Directive coaching: This style of coaching is the more traditional style of giving clear instructions on how to proceed in a given situation. The key trait of this style is in telling an employee what to do, thereby putting more information into the situation and requiring less of the employee to digest and proceed with that information. While it’s sometimes the quickest way to resolve a situation, it doesn’t enhance an employee’s problem-solving skills.
  2. Laissez-faire coaching: When a team is collaborating well, producing quality work and surmounting challenges on its own, sometimes it’s best to not interfere. This coaching style leaves room for capable employees to manage their work and take care of issues by themselves.
  3. Nondirective coaching: While this style of coaching isn’t the most natural for most managers, it can be a really productive method of employee (and future leader) development. Nondirective coaching requires active listening, asking open-ended questions and withholding judgment while the person seeking help starts to find their own solutions to problems without direct instruction from their supervisor.
  4. Situational coaching: Considered by Ibarra and Scoular as the “sweet spot” of the matrix, this style is essentially the ideal version of leadership. Leaders who’ve mastered the idea of coaching are able to switch between directive and nondirective styles depending on the needs of a given scenario thereby effectively navigating difficult situations while also developing the skills of the team members around them.

Trust and respect in leadership

When you break it down, leadership coaching is really all about building trust and respect in the workplace. Many of us have firsthand experience of times when we were motivated to complete work or discouraged from making a decision based on the amount of trust we had with another person whether they’re a partner, teammate or supervisor. In the leadership coaching framework, leaders trust that with their guidance, their employees have the skills, judgment and knowledge to make good decisions for themselves and the organization. Employees who have been empowered by their leadership team to make decisions can gain confidence that their supervisors believe they are capable and intelligent. Trust is also extremely valuable in the long term. Coaching with trust the first time a challenge arises might enable an employee to get to a solution quicker when a similar situation arises. In a study conducted by the Trust Edge Leadership Institute, one-third of working-age adults surveyed said that they would stay longer with an employer if its leaders kept their promises, and 28 percent said they would extend their tenure if transparency was practiced at all levels.1

The benefits of leadership coaching

Increased trust between employees and managers can bring a lot of added positive energy to a workplace but it isn’t the only benefit of leadership coaching. Leading so that employees learn lessons while also making their own decisions empowers them as individuals to become leaders themselves, enacting their values through their decision-making and leadership to build a more just and humane world. Further, the collaborative and open nature of leadership coaching helps both managers and employees start to see challenges as growth opportunities instead of obstacles. Between the built-up trust and improved teamwork that can come from leadership development, teams can learn to stop dreading an interruption in a plan and instead work together to overcome it. Leadership coaching can also enhance the coach’s understanding of their own communication style as well as those of their employees. A Gallup poll found that employees who work in an environment where communication is open, timely and accurate are more engaged and demonstrate a greater intent to stay with the organization.2

At Marquette University, the online Master in Management program, and courses on leadership specifically, are constructed with Jesuit values in mind that overlap with the practice of leadership coaching. The Jesuit value of discernment asks individuals to consider the impact of actions from diverse angles, in other words, approaching situations with openness and empathy and spending time reflecting before acting. Collaboration, working in service of others, curiosity and lifelong learning are all built into the curriculum and reflect the open-mindedness required for successful leadership coaching.

Step into a style of leadership that encompasses your values.

You can learn to become a trustworthy, dynamic leader. The online Master in Management (MiM) from Marquette University is centered around positive people management skills that anyone can use to take the lead at their organization. Its curriculum includes courses in Leadership Coaching and Development, Diversity and Inclusion in Global Organizations, Teambuilding Skills to hone your ability to motivate, inspire and direct others. At Marquette, we believe that the success of an organization and its individuals should not be measured solely in dollars and cents. In the online MiM you’ll learn principled leadership skills through a lens of ethics and corporate responsibility so you’re prepared to not only advance your career but also to lift up those around you. Apply today.

  1. Retrieved on February 7, 2022, from shrm.org/hr-today/news/hr-magazine/0618/pages/why-trust-matters-at-work.aspx
  2. Retrieved on February 13, 2022, from gallup.com/workplace/351644/communicate-better-employees-regardless-work.aspx