Leadership Coaching – How to Accelerate Your Success

Smiling Man with Arms CrossedProfessional coaching isn’t a new concept. Businesses have been relying on external coaches for quite some time to support their team members, often managers, in developing skills that will allow them to get ahead.

When it comes to types of coaches, there are a variety to choose from. Many coaches specialize in niches – communication, executive leadership, and career development. These focused areas are great for individuals seeking to home in on a specific skill they need for their next level of success.

But what about when individuals seek a holistic development to their career growth? This is where leadership coaching comes in, which is different than executive coaching.

What is Leadership Coaching?

Two Women Speaking at an Office Conference Room TableLeadership coaching is an emerging field available for professionals at any level or stage in their career. It’s also available for both managers and individual contributors.

The idea that leadership coaching is accessible for any professional is often surprising. This is because management and leadership are often treated as if they’re the same thing – a manager is a leader and vice versa. But this isn’t true. Management and leadership are two different concepts.

A manager holds a specific place on an organization chart and is responsible for things – processes, procedures, budgets, and timelines. A leader is something different – leadership is about people. Leadership skills are centered on building greater self-awareness and strengthening interpersonal relationships.

In a leadership coaching program, individuals can expect to learn competencies that enhance their ability to influence outcomes and inspire others, which can include skills like:

  • Building trust
  • Strengthening their credibility
  • Demonstrating and promoting accountability
  • Expressing confidence
  • Building a growth mindset
  • Making difficult decisions
  • Delivering feedback
  • Recognizing blind spots
  • Managing conflict
  • Problem solving
  • Developing their strategic perspective
  • Leading organizational change
  • Communicating with clarity

Therefore, these are skills both valuable and relevant for anyone in an organization – from the CEO all the way to a frontline worker. 

How Leadership Coaching Works

Two Colleagues at a LaptopMost professionals who enter into a leadership coaching program have some sense of what skills they’re seeking to develop in order for them to grow in their careers.

Yet, what’s often interesting is that when they search for a coach, and begin to engage a coach, they discover new ways of thinking and working, as well as new approaches, that they didn’t realize would be valuable and important for them to focus on.

Coaches traditionally follow a process and start with an intake so they can learn about the person who they’re coaching. This intake allows the coachee to reflect and identify what they want out of their program, as well as allows the coach to learn more about the individual they’re working with.

During this stage, a coaching “fit” is established. What this means is that the coach and their prospective client determine if they can work well together. Sometimes styles don’t mesh together … and that’s okay!

Selecting a Leadership Coach

When you’re evaluating a coach, here are a few things to ask yourself.

  1. Can their career and life experiences add value to me?
  2. Are they experts in their field?
  3. Do they have leadership coaching certificates or a strong track record of success?
  4. Do I feel comfortable when I talk with them?

If all signs point to “yes,” then it’s reasonable to assume a fit is established and you should proceed onto next steps.

Working with a Coach

Smiling Woman Standing in an OfficeMost coaches use assessments at the early stages of coaching to help clients gain broader self-awareness on their natural leadership style. Leadership assessments help the coachee understand their strengths, preferences, and tendencies, as well as expose areas for development. Assessments can explore your personality style, thinking style, communication, or behavior preferences.

A good coach builds trust quickly within their first sessions and is consistently focused on strengthening their relationship with their coaching client.

This is important because both parties will be working closely with one another and when the relationship is grounded in trust and mutual respect, results are achieved faster.

A coaching conversation often consists of:

  • A check in to see how the coaching client is doing
  • Discussion of any real-world challenges that popped up in recent days
  • A progress update on how the individual is advancing towards the goals they established for themselves at the beginning of the coaching program
  • The sharing of new knowledge, best practices, and competencies that support growth for the client

It’s common, too, for coaching conversations to be a place where the coachee thinks out loud – i.e., verbalizes their challenges and talks through different ways they can solve the problem they’re encountering. A good coach isn’t just adept at practicing active listening; they’re also a guide who asks questions that draw out ideas and different solutions that may not be top of mind for their coaching client.

Understanding the Cost

Man at LaptopThe cost of leadership coaching varies. Leadership coaches also bill in different ways. Common ways pricing might be structured, and average prices, include:

  • Hourly rates: Quality coaches range from $250-$850 per coaching hour
  • Monthly rates: Coaching billed monthly can cost on average $700-$2500 per month
  • Annual programs: Often the most cost effective way to engage a coach, you can expect annual coaching experiences to range in cost from $12,000-$50,000 per year

There are multiple factors that influence a coaching program’s cost:

  1. The coach’s level of experience and credentials.
  2. How prominent or well known the coach is. For example, are they a best-selling author, leading researcher, or successful executive?
  3. What’s included in the coaching fee. Coaches often use assessments and other learning aids to support the development of their clients. It can be wise to seek a program that includes all program resources.
  4. The duration of the coaching engagement and how many coaching sessions you’ll receive during the program.

Leadership Coaching Programs for Women and Minorities

Women Speaking with ColleaguesMany organizations value diversity and recognize their diverse talent – women and minorities – needs additional support to advance. Because diversity adds value to business operations, many companies choose to empower diverse team members with coaching opportunities.

Coaches themselves often specialize in coaching women, minorities, and other underrepresented professionals.

Coaching can be offered through affinity networks, employee resource groups, and human resources. Since leadership coaching is an opportunity for professionals to recognize and develop their authentic leadership style, it can be an excellent development choice for minority employees.

Effective coaching provides a place for a high-potential leader, manager, or frontline team member to openly discuss workplace challenges and opportunities with a focus on resolution and success. Coaching programs can also support preparing a participant for promotion. That’s why they can be a popular choice for organizations committed to achieving diversity within their management ranks.

How Long Do Leadership Coaching Programs Take?

Smiling Team at WorkMost coaching programs last at least several months.

This is an important point. Leadership development takes time because, essentially, what a coachee is doing is changing behavior. Behavior change is challenging yet can enhance performance for the long-term. A good coach sets expectations with their coachee on how change happens and that lasting, sustainable change is achieved incrementally.

Also, some leadership development skills take more time to develop. For example, time management and organization skills are relatively easy to build. They’re both easy to understand and, with a small period of time, quick to implement.

On the other hand, effective communication and presentation skills take more time to develop. While communication guidance is also simple to understand, developing these skills takes practice – a lot of practice! 

The great news, though, is working alongside a coach, when a skill is built intentionally, the development of that skill is accelerated.

Coaching vs. Training

When considering a development experience, it’s helpful to understand the difference between coaching and training.

Here are key comparisons:

  • Coaching provides a one-on-one, custom, learning experience.
  • Training is typically a group learning experience with topics selected for relevance to a range of learners.
  • Coaching is about growth, holistic development, and supportive implementation.
  • Training is often about improving a skill and covers the “how-to” or the “why” yet isn’t about point-by-point guidance specific to an individual demonstrating the skill.
  • Coaching is a process designed to support an individual’s growth and contribution to the teams they are a part of.
  • Training is an event or series of events connected to meeting organizational goals.
  • Coaching is informal in nature and flexible in design to include just in time learning for individual needs.
  • Training is often structured and presented in a formal manner.
  • Coaching is a personal development experience that connects an expert with someone who is seeking to develop. The coach tailors guidance and insight specifically to the goals of the learner.
  • A key goal of training is to scale the transfer of knowledge.

What Can Professionals Expect from Leadership Coaching

Before most individuals go into coaching programs, they wonder what type of return on their time investment they’ll get – or, in other words, what types of results can they see if they build their leadership skills.

The following list helps share a few outcomes of a successful coaching program:

  • Develop their self-awareness
  • Gain support in navigating through uncertainty
  • Build career development strategies to help them advance
  • Get exposure to blind spots that, left unchecked, could derail their career
  • Help them build up their team’s skills
  • Improve their decision-making skills
  • Learn communication tactics that help them manage difficult relationships
  • Develop the skills that allow them to be more impactful and influential in their role

Leadership Coaching is an Investment

Woman Presenting to Her ColleaguesLeadership coaching is an investment that offers you unique and continuous returns.

While you might be used to investing in traditional education, consider coaching as a customized educational experience where you get one-on-one guidance tailored to your unique development needs. It’s also a safe space where you can expect to get the support you need to level up, which produces its own host of rewards – monetary and otherwise. 

If you feel like “now’s not the time,” know that sentiment probably means now is exactly the time. You’ll always be busy … but will you always be busy ensuring that your activities are aligned with the goals you’d like to achieve?

A good coach helps you prioritize to ensure that your development makes you less busy and better off for the experience. Most importantly, the results continue to compound long after your formal program is complete as you consistently put to use the best practices that accelerate your success.

Lead Star is a leadership development consulting firm that specializes in leadership coaching. It was created by Angie Morgan and Courtney Lynch, New York Times best-selling authors of the business books Leading from the Front, SPARK, and Bet on You. Learn more about the Year to Rise Coaching Program – 6 and 12-month transformative journeys designed to accelerate your success in ways meaningful and valuable to you and your employer.