In a survey reported in Fast Company of 48 organizations, 43% of CEOs and 71% of senior leaders had worked with a coach and 63% of organizations plan to increase their use of coaching in the next five years.

I have found that coaching invariably begins with either a learning goal (a gap between where leaders are and where they aspire to be) or a problem the leader experiences. The impact of coaching is realized by the leader when their leadership worldview evolves and their approach to their work changes. In this context as well as others, coaching helps leaders achieve their goals for the organization. In my coaching experience, I always serve the leader first, but I am always thinking about how the coaching will ultimately help the organization to become healthier and more effective. 

Benefits of Coaching

Unlike a supervisor, a coach does not have a power relationship with their client. In fact, the relationship between the coach and the leader is marked by equality and collaboration. This relationship allows the coaching conversation to include many different topics because the coach provides a place where the leader can share worries, work through problems, vent, reflect, gain insight, develop strategy, and learn. Below is a list of some interactions and conversations that can occur in a coaching relationship.

  • A point of pause and opportunity for reflection for the leader. In the fast-paced world of non-profits, it is easy to just put your head down and focus on getting through the day. This is a dangerous place for a leader of a non-profit who is working in an era of rapid change and interdependency. Focusing on the day-to-day does not provide the leader with the perspective needed to anticipate and plan for the organization’s future. Coaching conversations allow the leader to step back, make sense of the patterns, and reorient their focus.
  • Learning and insight for the leader. A good coach has access to knowledge and concepts that help the leader make sense of their world and develop a deeper understanding of what is occurring in the organization.  The coaching relationship is an intentional learning journey between two people where both bring their knowledge, experience, and insights to the focus of the coaching work.
  • Just-in-time coaching and problem-solving for immediate issues. There are always adaptive challenges or irritating struggles that occur in the day-to-day life of the leader.  The coaching work can be a place where these daily challenges can be discussed and a strategy developed.
  • Venting.  Managing emotions is critical to a leader’s leadership performance.  The coaching conversation can be a place where the leader can safely vent their frustrations, anger, hurt or other emotions and work through them so they don’t spill over onto their staff members, board, outside constituents, and stakeholders.
  • Staff development. One of the tasks of leadership is to develop human talent in the organization. To do this, a leader needs to understand human development theory and practice. A coaching conversation is where the leader can process and reflect on personnel issues and develop strategies to coach individuals and teams to higher performance. 
  • Reflection on the intersection of the personal with the professional.  Sometimes there are personal issues that must be recognized and addressed.  The process of refining and sharpening one’s leadership ability requires that a person be self-aware and understand their impact on others.  A good coaching relationship allows for working through both personal and professional issues. 
  • Development of bench strength among senior leaders.: In organization coaching, the senior managers can strengthen their leadership. This coaching support reinforces a healthy culture for the organization as a whole.

In education, the phrase teaching above the neck is often used to describe traditional teaching. 

A coaching relationship is a learning journey that involves the head, heart, and spirit.

The types of interactions in a coaching process are varied. Due to the nature of the one-on-one partnership, it has the flexibility to be designed and shaped to meet the unique needs and interests of the leader.

Outcomes of Coaching

The coaching experience focuses on what is relevant.  The leader has problems to solve and expectations to meet, often with a timeline.  Outcomes are related to both organizational and leadership development and achievement.  There are personal, emotional, structural, systemic, and intangible outcomes that are a by-product of coaching.  Some of the outcomes of coaching include:

  • Enhanced Emotional Intelligence. Enhanced emotional intelligence is often a result of the coaching experience for the individual leader. It helps the leader to apply emotional intelligence to their work with others.  Enhanced emotional intelligence always increases leadership effectiveness.   
  • Leadership Development. This is an outcome where the leader modifies their style and mode in working with stakeholders, their board, organizational culture, and/or their strategic agenda.  The leader has greater capacity and uses this as a means to improve performance and unlock human and organizational potential.
  • Leadership Self Confidence. When working with a coach, the leader becomes more aware of their strengths and therefore feels more confident in what they bring to their organization. Having an authentic and trustworthy coaching relationship in one’s life has a powerful effect on the confidence of the positional leader.  The impact of this experience causes the leader to increase the transparency between themselves and the organizational stakeholders. 
  • Improved Organizational Performance. Coaching becomes a catalyst for trying new methodologies.  The organizational culture responds differently because the leader is interacting with the environment in new and often exciting ways.  Therefore, mistakes are corrected, and successes are celebrated and institutionalized.   
  • Interdependence. Coaching highlights the stakeholder role of everyone in the organization.  There is an interdependent relationship between the leader and staff, board, and organizational growth. Leaders learn that it is impossible to be effective as autonomous agents in an interdependent world. 

The outcomes of effective coaching have a direct and significant impact on the individual leader, the board, and the organization. Given the benefits of coaching and the changing environment in which many leaders work, coaching becomes a valuable and necessary investment for both the individual and the organization.