Companies often consider employee performance and the range of options available to them. Coaching, mentoring and training form a blended approach. We tend to use terms interchangeably. So it gets confusing since all three approaches seek to take an employee and the business to the next level, developing a pipeline of suitable people for a variety of roles, including leadership roles.

In constructing leadership development programmes, developing a continuous improvement plan with regular touch points is most effective. In this blog, I will highlight the main characteristics of coaching, mentoring and training. I will discuss the specific benefits of coaching in leadership development. This will allow you to choose the appropriate approach when considering employee development.

Training as a way to impart knowledge

Training focuses on giving a person new knowledge, skills, or instilling new behaviours. It is a structured process involving the transfer of learning and is often seen as “traditional” education. Like the school days, someone tells and shows trainees what to do. Then they are allowed to try it for themselves. Training can be passive: the trainee attends a course or series of courses. Then there’s a test to prove their knowledge. It often feels inflexible to the learner, or even frustrating if they don’t learn in a mainstream way.

Mentoring is a way of sharing specific advice or skills

Mentoring is a process of sharing specific knowledge usually in a one-to-one setting. The Mentor is generally regarded as an expert in his or her field. Their relationship with the Mentee is well-defined and generally part of a mentoring program. The mentor imparts knowledge, advice and supports the mentee. This may be task-specific and so quite short-lived. Or, it could be more open-ended where the mentee’s role is more complex.

Coaching as a way to collaboratively develop and drive personal growth

In contrast, coaching focuses more on enabling an individual to grow and develop.

Coaching helps the ‘coachee’ identify their own needs. Such needs may not be clear at the start and as a result, different needs may emerge over time. A good coach works with their coachee to define an approach for addressing these needs. It’s a collaborative and flexible process requiring the full engagement and participation from the coachee. The coach supports the coachee to design their own way forward.

This self-discovery and development of solutions allow the coachee to pinpoint their route to growth. Thus, there is a far greater sense of ownership, buy-in and commitment. As the coachee is ultimately responsible for their own progress, this often leads to rapid, dramatic and persistent change.

For the coachee, the sense of self-propelled development and growth is almost infectious. It can affect change in all aspects of their work-life. This transformation can lead to new ‘light-bulb moments’ allowing the coachee to flourish further, often far beyond the original scope of the coaching arrangement.

Coaching often helps to develop soft-skills, where training efficacy can be dubious and hard to measure:

  • Building confidence, creativity, or general performance
  • Managing workloads, planning, and stress
  • Critical thinking and decision making
  • Interpersonal skills, including conflict management

The workplace environment is welcoming of coaching. Staff perceive it as genuine and a true demonstration that their employee cares about their personal development. As a result, coaching can increase staff satisfaction, loyalty and commitment thus reducing staff turnover and improving engagement. Companies used to reserve coaching for the most senior leaders. But these days, coaching is being used at all levels because the benefits are wide-ranging. Coaching has a positive ripple-effect both within teams and across departments.

In summary:

  • Coaching teases-out and identifies individual needs
  • Coaching allows for self-realisation and growth
  • Coaching is person-specific to provide tailored support
  • Coaching develops the person over time, allowing them to flourish
  • Coaching is collaborative, participative, flexible and is an active process
  • Coaching signals personal investment and creates a positive ripple-effect

Coaching as a tool for leadership development

As leaders look for more ways to gain a competitive advantage in today’s fast-paced world, many are adopting coaching as a way to gain pace and clarity. It’s important to recognise that leaders can be at any level within the organisation – they don’t have to have ‘grey hair’! In fact, there is a serious push to move away from just developing those nearer the C-suite.

There’s also growing frustration in the leadership training since it doesn’t seem to be generating the skillsets needed. In fact, many lessons are not transferred to the workplace. There may be a complete mismatch between the skills learned and the skills needed.

Why? Because leadership is a complex, multi-faceted, practical skill that gets better with experiential learning and coaching. 90% of employees in 2018 believe that coaching is highly effective for learning.

According to The Future of Leadership Development, there’s a growing recognition that leadership development should not be restricted to just the C-suite or staff that are close to being at an executive level.

Indeed, leaders exist throughout the organisation and therefore across generations from Baby Boomers to Millennials. They are in teams, influencing projects and creating impact. Coaching should be a universal and effective method of developing leaders at all stages in their career.

In summary, there are many benefits of coaching. The Institute of Coaching states that over 70% of employees who receive coaching benefited from improved work performance and enhanced communication skills. It also highlighted benefits such as renewed in-team and cross-team relationships. Moreover, 86% of employers reported that they could measure the impact of their coaching investment. Other studies show a further positive impact:

  • Reduced procrastination
  • Enhanced goal achievement
  • Increased attainment

Imagine if your leaders – current and future – could benefit from each of these dimensions. Imagine the impact on your business. Indeed, coaching provides a very different and highly effective approach. It provides a raft of varied benefits over more traditional leadership training.

Is coaching a key part of leadership development in your business?

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