Why Coaching is the “Secret Sauce” of Leadership
“On Raglan Road” by Van Morrison and the Chieftains has these lines about hidden, subtle ideas:
I gave her gifts of the mind,
I gave her the secret signs,
That’s known to the artists who have known
The true gods of sound and stone.
With the rapid pace of life and change in the modern world, there isn’t time for not revealing any secrets today. Too many managers fail unnecessarily. I hope they all succeed. While there are other important leadership skills, the lack of coaching is one of the main reasons for leadership derailment. Poor leaders don’t seem to care. I have seen too many managers in too many companies short circuit their results, careers and employees’ potential because of this. Coaching is not an inborn trait. It’s about learning a process and applying all the emotional intelligence skillsrequired for good relationships. If you are a manager or you want to be a manager you can learn it. You have to become a lifelong student.
Why don’t managers coach?
Managers don’t coach because of these reasons:
- They don’t know what to do–this is the lack of knowledge.
- They don’t how to do it–this is the lack of skill.
- They don’t want to do it–this is the lack of valuing people.
- They can’t do it–a rare situation.
Jerry called me and said, “Rick, my numbers are declining, I am in meetings all the time, and I have a ton of paperwork to do. I don’t have time to coach my people!” I told him that he didn’t have time, then, to be a leader either. While he didn’t like that feedback, we talked, met, and designed a plan for him to change it around. He coached his team, and results began to improve almost immediately. The ‘time’ excuse is what I hear most of all. Behind this is their unwillingness to put in the time to learn how to coach.
Just a note to those managers who think they are coaching but aren’t. What you really are doing is yelling, telling, abdicating, coercing or intimidating people. It’s not helping. That’s one reason employee engagement is so dismal almost everywhere.
Why does coaching work?
Coaching works simply because people need help to be their best. With expert guidance, support and encouragement they will try harder, do more, and learn to apply their latent potential.
I think of a manager that I coached. He had great talent but he lacked focus. As a result he made dumb mistakes. With feedback, learning, and my mentorship, he learned to excel. Ultimately, he ended up receiving a promotion. Left on his own, he would have failed, in spite of his exceptional talent. It’s like having a prime vintage wine that you never decant–it’s not much good to you if left sealed and in the bottle.
There is hard evidence for a bottom-line to coaching. A study by the Personnel Management Associationcompared training alone to coaching and training. They found that training alone increased productivity by 22.4%. Training plus coaching increased productivity by 88%! Another study found a return on investment of coaching to be 529%! My own consulting and coaching experience proves it works. The evidence shows that exemplary coaching produces excellent results. For any leader who wants to do better, or is struggling, when all else fails-coach.
Why is coaching the ‘secret sauce of leadership’?
So few managers do it well. Too many don’t believe in it. If you learn to coach well or even in an exemplary fashion, you will quickly separate yourself from all others. You will learn how bring out the best in your team. You will discover the key to achieving outstanding results as a leader. You will take a giant step to accelerating your career. CNN stated, “Coaching is the universal language of change and learning.”
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