I’m a coach and trainer of coaches, so it’s no surprise to anyone that I think coaching is great. Of course, I think pretty much anyone could benefit from working with a coach. But there’s one group of people I think benefits more than most: leaders.
Why do leaders benefit from coaching? Here are three reasons you MIGHT think they’d benefit more than the average person:
1. Leaders are important. Leaders are important, but they are no more important than anyone else. And a person’s importance isn’t that significant when it comes to determining the importance of coaching for them.
2. Leadership is complex. While it’s true that coaching can create clarity for leaders who are facing complex challenges, this is not the biggest reason they benefit so much from coaching.
3. Leaders are stressed. Again, while this is true for many leaders, it’s not the reason they benefit so much from coaching. Working with a coach can improve productivity and decision-making and lots of other functions that reduce stress, but that’s true for leaders and non-leaders alike.
While each of these reasons bears some truth, none of them is the biggest reason. So what’s the real reason why leaders need a coach most of all? Drumroll please…
Leaders are lonely. That’s right; it’s lonely at the top. Everybody else in the company, the church, the school, or whatever has peers in the organization with whom they can relate and teammates with whom they can bounce ideas around and get feedback. But leaders are isolated from this kind of interaction. Everyone in the organization is a stakeholder in the leader’s success, which means none of them can be truly neutral in conversations with the leader.
Coaching is not a way to rent a friend so you don’t have to be lonely, but it is a great way to get a trusted ally with whom you can process your thoughts, feelings, and decisions. Humans do our best thinking when we’re in a safe context. But leaders have very few safe places or safe people. Everyone in the organization is looking to the leader for answers, security, and vision, which means the leader has to be guarded in every conversation and cannot be truly transparent with anyone in the organization. That’s one of the prices leaders pay for being a leader.
Leaders need coaches. So if you coach leaders, be sure to follow some of these best practices:
1. Push them. Oftentimes, nobody else in the organization feels the freedom to challenge, to prod, to play devil’s advocate. The leader needs this kind of interaction in order to be their absolute best, so step up.
2. Serve them. Many times the leader is the one from whom everybody wants something. It can be taxing to always be needed. As a coach, you don’t need anything from the leader, which means you are free to serve, to add value, to make the leader’s success your first priority.
3. Celebrate with them. Leaders celebrate the accomplishments of others in the organization, but it’s not really kosher for the leader to celebrate him or herself. As a coach you can invite the leader to notice accomplishments and to party accordingly.
What about you? If you coach leaders, what have you found to be important when it comes to coaching them? From what you’ve seen, what’s it like to be a leader? For what other reasons can leaders benefit from coaching?