Does your organisation have destructive leaders?

Or do you have pockets of evangelists?

Champion LeaderIt never fails to amaze me in my conversations with HR and L&D Professionals how many of them absolutely agree with me, that coaching is a desired leadership behaviour, but under examination, it is not one particularly evident or valued in their own organisation. Of course, there is always one ‘good person’ on the senior management team who is a champion, but can’t seem to get traction. Or some middle managers, who are pushing the cause. However, it is so rare to find a ‘real’ energised coaching culture in any organisation. The best you can hope for are pockets of evangelists, who fly the flag for coaching and have partial success until their ‘ring leader’ leaves, or is deposed or fired! 

Where’s the coaching culture?

Coaching Headache

This all tends to be swept under the carpet and in many places the prevailing culture espouses coaching leaders, but the theory in practice is very different. This has been on my mind recently for several reasons. My dear friend David Megginson gave me a copy of his new book: ‘Building and Sustaining a Coaching Culture’ (2016) written in conjunction with my colleague David Clutterbuck and Agnieszka Bajer. Packed full of case studies and advice it has focussed my mind on what can be achieved through organisational coaching. I read also a fascinating article in Harvard Business Review by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic on ‘What Science Tells Us about Leadership Behaviour’. He brings out some staggering statistics about the US leadership situation. I am quite sure the UK would not fare any better:

  • 82% of individuals don’t trust their boss
  • Over 50% of people quit their jobs because of their managers
  • 30 to 60% of leaders act destructively

This study goes on to make the point that not everyone is cut out for leadership and it is difficult to predict who will make a leader. However, individuals who are more adjusted, sociable, ambitious and curious tend to become better leaders. Chamorro-Premuzic has also found that the best leaders show high levels of integrity, emotional intelligence and have better people skills. This is probably not a surprise to most of us!

A Coaching Style of Leadership

Coaching Leadership StyleClutterbuck, Megginson and Bajer talk about a ‘coaching leadership style’ as described by Blanchard (1968) and Goleman (2000), the characteristics of which echo Chamorro-Premuzic’s description of a better leader. So why is this link between a coaching approach and leadership/organisational effectiveness not made more forcibly in current practice? In fact, here appears to be a distancing of making this case or playing it down in many organisations.

Generally coaching is talked about as part of the performance management or appraisal process, but there is a lack of investment in really developing the skills of managers and leaders to coach. Coaching training really needs to be aligned with the leadership development strategy and to be an integral part of the process, not a bolt on. I believe that a coaching style of leading needs to be encouraged, developed and rewarded in order to develop organisational effectiveness and negate some of those appalling statistics illustrated by the Chamorro-Premuzic research. Developing leaders who coach should be tailored for each specific organisation, delivered over a period of time to really embed it with the individuals, supported by supervision, offered with safe practice opportunities and evaluated throughly.

So what do you think? If you are curious about what is going on in your organisation, then come and discuss our latest ideas of using coaching in organisations and to develop your next generation of leaders. Join us in York on the 20th October to discuss our experience of developing coaching cultures, together with the latest research and practice, or get in touch now to talk about this further. It is time a few more organisations took a real look at what is going on, or not, in the name of coaching!

Lis Merrick

Hersey, P. and Blanchard, K.H. (1969) Life cycle theory of leadership. Training & Development Journal, 23(5), pp26-34

Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2016) What Science tells us about leadership potential, Boston: Harvard Business Review.

Clutterbuck, D. Megginson, D. and Bajer, A. (2016) ‘Building and Sustaining a Coaching Culture’, CIPD London.

Goleman, D. (2000) Leadership that gets results. Boston: Harvard Business Review.

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