7 Familiar Leadership Pitfalls That Coaching Can Help You Overcome

Many of the clients I am privileged to work with are in one of three places when it comes to leader development.

  • Some are just now entering the yearly planning stage of what development will look like for  the rest of 2015 and the first half of 2016.
  • Others have been in the cycle for two quarters and are in the midst of assessing progress.
  • Still others have no formal development plan, nor any accountability for development.

No matter which of these situations you find yourself in, assessing the trajectory of the needed development is a valid metric.

Your process for assessing development is vital.


Accountability is important for any type of development plan.  If you do not have an anchor to hold you steady you are likely to be in a constant state of sway with your development. Here are seven reasons why organizations (or individuals) invest in coaching for the development of leaders. Which ones resonate most with you?

Why Organizations Invest In Coaching for Leader Development

  1. Top Talent: Coaching is often thought of as a “fix" for something the leader needs to change in order to be more successful in the organization. However, in medicine we know that a vaccine is a valuable investment to prevent diseases from occurring. The same is true in leader development. Why not identify top talent in your organization and prepare them for the next role instead of waiting for a mistake to occur?
  2. Core Leadership Values: According to Pamela McLean, PhD CEO at the Hudson Institute, “Too often we lock ourselves into the passions and values of our young adult years and burn them out during the middle.” I have seen this across the spectrum of my work in organizations. Examples range from pastors in churches who start their ministry with a zeal for the Lord and become conflicted when achievement or proving oneself becomes more prominent. This is true for engineers as well who are enamored by the science they love and the creativity it brings, only to have a clamoring for personal power and self-regard as they mature. A coach can be a valuable asset in assisting organizational leaders in sorting out and assimilating core leadership values.
  3. Individual Contributor to Leader: This is not an easy transition for anyone. Organizations who promote from within usually give people small assignments and then measure success. As the person proves they can do small tasks well, more responsibility is added. With continued success, leading a team becomes inevitable. This is a monumental shift in paradigm. Until this transition moment, the person's success has been measured by their own personal achievement. Now their accomplishments will be tracked based upon how they lead and inspire others. Some intentional coaching on what needs to transpire in the first 90 days of leadership (not management) is key to attaining this transformation.
  4. Leadership Presence: Sylvia Ann Hewlett, President of the Center For Talent Innovation, says in her book Executive Presence that “no man or woman attains a top job, lands an extraordinary deal, or develops a significant role, without this heady combination of confidence, poise, and authenticity that convinces the rest of us we’re in the presence of someone who is the real deal.” Many of the leaders I work with are experts in the fields of finance, engineering, information technology, ministry, and sales. Their industry success has given them tremendous credibility, but something is missing. Consider the sales leader who is so focused on driving sales that he misses other organizational priorities such as customer satisfaction in times of product outages. The poise to understand broader organizational issues is often an issue of a leader stepping outside of themselves and letting go of winning the battle to fight a better war. A coach can be extremely valuable in getting a leader to look around to see bigger issues and to provide context.
  5. Skills: Just because a leader has technical expertise in an area does not mean they have developed a full range of skills to be successful. Consider the person who has been rewarded consistently for having the best idea, who is now told by the organization that they need to show more empathy. Skills such as empathy are not easy to learn in the heat of the organizational battle. Leaders will default to what has made them successful in the past, and take their chances that the lack of skill is not a deficiency that will be career limiting. Coaches can help leaders develop valuable skills in the moment, resulting in changing needed behavior.
  6. Follower Relationship: At times it seems like some leaders are not connecting with followers. Many times they have connected well in the past, but something is amiss in the current role. Edgar Schein in his book Humble Inquiry says that “what is missing….is a climate in which lower-level employees feel safe to bring up issues that need to be addressed, information that would reduce the likelihood of accidents, and in healthcare, mistakes that harm patients.” Whether the leader is a micro-manager, leads by positional power, or even by raw intimidation, a coach is one who can expose this in an a zone of safety so that changes can be made to build a more trusting environment.
  7. Rapid Change: My good friend and colleague Joe Laipple, Ph.D., wrote a book I highly recommend called Rapid Change: Immediate Action for the Impatient Leader. His research and experience shows that when a need for change is recognized, we want it NOW! Joe says if you want rapid change you need to have brief but very frequent touch points with the agents of change. You can not identify rapid changes that are needed and then cover the topic at a monthly staff meeting. It just won’t work. Many of the clients I work with see the need for rapid change but are overwhelmed with the tyranny of the moment. A coach can provide focus, a constant reminder of the change that is needed, and the personal support and encouragement to make change happen at the necessary pace.
[reminder]Do these seven places fit your model for using a coach? Are there any other places where you see coaching would be valuable in your organization? Why not leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts on using coaching in your organization? [/reminder]

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