Coaching isn’t Enough to Develop Effective Tech Leaders

By Tiffany Lau and Kalyna Miletic

September 28, 2020

While the coaching process can help leaders achieve their goals, become a more effective leader, and uncover the leader’s potential, coaches are there as a support to leaders. The leaders themselves must work toward their vision and the goals that they have set for themselves with their coach. Many companies are resorting to coaching because it is "the thing to do" or they want to try something aside from training sessions that get forgotten and overpriced speakers that don't deliver lasting results.
Coaching is an effective intervention when transparent groundwork is set before the relationship begins. It also requires a willing participant. This article intends to shed light on why coaching is just one of the many elements you need to develop a strong leader.

The three areas where coaching needs to be supplemented with further support are:

        1. Set the Stage: Clarify expectations of coaching, what it is and what it isn't, intended outcomes and the purpose of the engagement.

        2. Coaching sessions often do not link to the OKRs of the organization, thus creating potential for misalignment of vision and objectives.

        3. Daily Accountability: Unrealistic expectations of coaching as the all encompassing fix for performance challenges or skill development.

Set The Stage: What is Coaching and What's the Intended Outcome?

There are often unclear expectations with little quantified results of the coaching sessions themselves. Most people often have this preconceived notion that coaching is training or mentoring.

Unfortunately, this is one reason why most don’t stick with coaching – because they are disappointed with their experience that they thought they were going to have. Most people who get assigned a coach and use a coaching platform would describe their results as “fine” or “meh” because the coaching relationship is not clarified from the beginning.

What Coaching is NOT:

    1. It is not training, mentoring or consulting – it's not about getting advice.The coach is not there to tell you what to do.

    2. Coaching is not training or a traditional classroom setting with a teacher and student.

    3. Coaching is not cheerleading. A coach isn't there to motivate you, in a traditional sense of saying everything you do is amazing and to keep it up, champ. 

What can you expect from a Coach:

  • An accountability partner.
  • ​Someone to help you consider new ideas, solution, and ways to be an effective leader.
  • ​A planning partner on goals and your vision for yourself in your role at your company. 
  • ​An impartial third party who holds space for you to consider all options and paths available in each goal or scenario for you to personally decide on what is the next best course of action.

You may wonder - why and how are daily habits essential to becoming a successful leader?

Well, success is a process. Success is something that is cultivated over time through your day to day life and actions. Therefore, the answer to the question lies within the creation of habits that back your success through which you build valuable skills.
Habit building is about putting something front and centre focus within your daily routine. 99% of time on the job outside of coaching sessions is not addressed. Habits not only grow stronger over time, but they also become more automatic in the process. The book to be referenced throughout this blog post is Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear. Clear speaks about how tiny changes can lead to remarkable results. 

So why does building small habits make a big difference in the long run?

As Clear writes, "Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. The same way that money multiplies through compound interest, the effects of your habits multiply as you repeat them. They seem to make the little difference on any given day and yet the impact they deliver over the months and years can be enormous. It is only when looking back two, five, or perhaps ten years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent". Your habits can either compound for you (positive compounding) or compound against you (negative compounding). Even if it's just getting 1 percent better every day, it counts a lot in the long run. That is why you need to know how to build and design good habits that work for you and avoid dangerous ones that can cut you down.  

Too often, we overestimate the importance of an earth-shattering sudden improvement and underestimate the small improvements that we are making every day of our lives. We need to be patient and wait until we cross that critical threshold where we can see the differences that these small changes made. Clear explains how "a slight change in your daily habits can guide your life to a very different destination", and adds that "making a choice that is 1 percent better or 1 percent worse seems insignificant in the moment, but over the span of moments that make up a lifetime these choices determine the difference between who you are and who you could be." All in all, many great leaders recognize that success is the product of daily habits and not exactly magical once-in-a-lifetime transformations.  
Many L&D Departments in companies are focused on delivering riveting e-learning programs. That's one of the biggest trends. However it fails to address the root of the problem: we are what we do every single day. In order to develop great leaders, you need interventions on the job, in real life scenarios all day long.

Similar to how you're prompted to check your email notifications every minute, we need a system to consistently throughout a leader's day remind them of the positive leadership habits they need to be building that slip through the cracks. 

Relationship to OKRs - Unstructured Goal Setting and Tracking

Objectives and Key Results (OKR) helps companies align everyone’s goals on various levels and ensure that they are working together collaboratively on goals that matter the most. That being said, coaching mainly focuses on the individual themselves and is not typically OKR-based. This means that coaching does not conventionally tie into and align with the organizational goals. This critical thinking framework and goal setting methodology structure is often not tied to learning and development initiatives.  
Chiefly - OKR, Goal setting methodology structure oftent ied to learning and development initiatives
Although coaching can help individuals become effective leaders, never underestimate the power of building habits, setting goals, and tracking daily when learning to become a successful leader. I will now conclude with this quote from Clear - "An atomic habit is a little habit that is part of a larger system. Just as atoms are the building blocks of molecules, atomic habits are the building blocks of remarkable results."

You don't need to try to become an amazing leader alone

Schedule a call with our experienced team and let's discuss how we can help set up your leadership development program for success.
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