Many organizational leaders view leadership coaching as a one-off type of investment. It’s expensive, they think, and besides, even if it might be helpful, between a global pandemic, racial reckoning, tons of people resigning, and a lower than typical number of job applicants responding to fill new vacancies, who has time for that right now?
Unfortunately, this is the wrong conclusion to support organizational success today. There are three primary reasons your return on investment (in terms of both time and money) for leadership coaching has never been higher than right now.
1. We expect leaders to behave very differently today than they did yesterday. We expect them to unlearn what their role models taught them and replace that with a whole new set of mindsets, skill sets, and behaviors. Unlike previous generations of leaders, it’s not enough to simply follow the example their role models may have set. Most were not educated or rewarded by their boss to think in terms of putting people first, identity matters, or inspiring and including.
A good analogy is that in the 20th century we taught leaders that to be great in leadership meant they needed to become excellent swimmers—so they grew fins and tails. In 2021 we are telling our leaders they need to learn how to fly, now, instead. If we don’t provide the tools and support they need to grow wings and feathers, how can we expect them to do anything other than flounder?
2. HR staff are overwhelmed and can no longer compensate for poor leadership. Much like too many hospital ICUs ran out of capacity when COVID-19 infection rates soared, so has been the experience of every one of the 200+ HR professionals I’ve talked to this past year. They have been on the front lines throughout the dual crises of the pandemic and our racial reckoning, and now are dealing with huge numbers of workers resigning and a ton of sudden job vacancies that are proving very difficult to fill.
Leaders, take this as a personal plea on their behalf. Stop delegating to your HR staff the tough announcements and conversations you aren’t sure how to have with your team members. Particularly if your go-to HR staff member happens to identify as BIPOC or LGBTQ+ and you do not. A coach can help you brainstorm different solutions and approaches, find the appropriate words to say, and rehearse a difficult conversation. And, they can help you process the outcome, learn, refine, and grow your skills.
I am not suggesting that you bypass HR, but I am suggesting that you stop using them as a leadership crutch. You, your HR staff, and your team members will all be better off (and far more likely to be promoted in the future) if you do your part to help shoulder the emotional and psychological toll that your HR staff may have been paying for you.
3. All organizations are experiencing significant change and coaches are experts in helping people change. If you had to rewire all of the electrical in your home within a week, and you had zero skills as an electrician, no access to YouTube videos or instruction manuals, would you forge ahead? Or, would you hire an electrician?
My guess is you would try to hire an electrician before going it alone, because the risk of starting a fire or electrocution due to improper procedures is serious. The same is true for organizational change. Why wouldn’t you hire a change expert to help ensure people’s safety and ultimately, organizational success?
According to Prosci International, organizational change only succeeds when individuals change. Prosci’s ADKAR Model™ illustrates the dynamics of change at the individual level, but without coaching and social support, understanding alone does not work for most people to cross the finish line for transformational change.
Your organization’s potential return on investment from one to one leadership coaching has never been higher than it is right now, but group coaching is a great alternative when you are looking to provide support to many leaders simultaneously and at scale.