Leadership development tops the list of training manager, coaching managers and executives say they prefer, according to a survey by CO2 Partners, an executive coaching and leadership development firm based in Minnesota.
Actually defining leadership development, however, isn’t quite as popular. Gary Cohen, CO2 Partners president, said many people do not fully understand what leadership development coaching is or what it entails.
“Leadership is a captivating objective for most executives and managers,” he said. “So individuals feel obligated to choose leadership development, even if they have no clear sense of what it’s all about. Despite this lack of awareness, leadership ranks first on any survey of coaching needs.”
Cohen said, though, that leadership coaching is not well-defined and that it makes sense many people do not fully comprehend exactly what it is.
“This is the most ill-defined segment of coaching, or training, for that matter,” he said. “To some degree, leadership is a component of any type of executive-coaching intervention.”
Cohen also said there is not an industrywide consensus in regard to leadership coaching’s definition.
“On the other hand, there are so many different approaches and so little agreement on the core elements of leadership coaching,” he said.
People often think a good jumping-off point for leadership coaching is to think of a leader who inspired them, someone whose leadership style they would want to emulate.
This is not necessarily the case, however — Cohen said people who want to be good leaders must be honest with themselves in regard to their strengths and weaknesses, and they shouldn’t strive to be someone they are not.
“People usually start out wanting to be like a leader they already know and can identify with, when the focus really needs to be on how to be authentically you as a leader,” he said. “An honest assessment must be done, and then a custom plan can be formed.”
Further, although managers and senior executives often think they need to hone their leadership skills, Cohen said they sometimes would be better off focusing on a different area in regard to the type of coaching that would most benefit them or another skill set to which they should devote more time.
“Sometimes a top executive will spend months seeking to improve his or her leadership skills, when they ought really to be improving job performance,” he said. “The desired coaching can be introspective, as well as highly focused on business issues and problem solving.”
Additionally, Cohen said a good, effective coach should not be afraid to ask tough questions in order to get to the root of what needs to be addressed.
“A coach with perspective, if asked to provide leadership development, should also be willing to ask some clarifying questions to make sure he or she doesn’t miss the trees in the forest,” Cohen said.
In regard to the actual survey, respondents were asked: “If you were to receive coaching at work, what focus would be of the greatest benefits to you? (Please select all that apply.)”
The results of the survey of 3,447 individuals, about 90 percent of whom are middle- to senior-level managers, are as follows:
- Leadership development: 59.8 percent
- Communication skills: 47.8 percent
- Organizational and political savvy: 31.5 percent
- Job performance: 28.3 percent
- Business acumen: 27.2 percent
- Career planning: 26.1 percent
- Live/balance: 21.7 percent
- Health/fitness: 6.5 percent