To fill the skills gap, embrace a new approach to middle and senior-level leadership development – one that provides all levels of management with the ability to define goals, accept responsibility, create and implement viable plans for the desired outcomes, in real time and on the job.
by Ashley Dugger, Victor Aluise
December 12, 2022
Coaching has for too long been reserved primarily for senior leaders and executive level positions within many organizations. While a robust learning and development menu may be available for other employees, learn how to embed coaching as a critical talent development skill for employees at all levels of positions within your organization. A coaching approach to skills development helps employees feel valued and respected and helps them see the return on the organizational investment in their professional growth. This in turn can lead to better retention, clearer career paths and higher employee engagement and satisfaction.
What weighs most heavily on the minds of today’s business leaders? Global inflation, supply chain disruption, cyber threats? Surprisingly data reveals that worries about the lack of leadership skills and talent development within organizations top the list. In fact, the gap between leadership position requirements and the skills of existing employees is widening and impacting company profitability and employee retention.
As the new economy workplace transforms, we must enable workers to transform with it. The “Future of Jobs Report 2020” predicts that half of all employees worldwide will need upskilling or reskilling by 2025 to stay competitive in the changing business landscape. Because of the transformation in business, it’s no surprise that job-posting site Indeed lists critical thinking, root cause analysis, problem-solving, action planning, collaboration and adaptability among the current most in-demand skills.
Today’s businesses need team-oriented employees who can help organizations innovate and stay ahead of change. CNBC notes that employers need professionals who can build relationships, dive deep into business data, produce business insights, influence others, communicate complex information visually and assert innovative ideas in today’s remote business environment.
To fill the skills gap, it is time to embrace a new approach to middle and senior-level leadership development – one that provides all levels of management with the ability to define goals, accept responsibility, create viable plans and implement those plans for the desired outcome, in real time and on the job.
The new model is job-embedded leadership coaching, which transforms managers into true leaders and innovators. The model, based on the real-time needs of the leader, is grounded in day-to-day business practice, and is designed to build a shared, supportive and interactive relationship between leaders and their teams. The manager or leader owns this process and is responsible for delivering organic growth in self-knowledge, performance, interactive skills and leadership. The primary differentiator between this and conventional management approaches is real-time feedback and hand’s off guidance from leaders and managers. Change and innovation become commonplace and part of the job experience.
Job-embedded leadership coaching redefines the relationship between leaders and their teams. It provides guidelines to synchronize and codify departmental and company-wide goals, then facilitates individual and team goals achievement through a coaching methodology. The methodology is rooted in an environment that supports and facilitates data-driven decision making, creative problem-solving and innovation in response to real operational challenges, all in a psychologically safe space. This type of leadership coaching is progressive in nature, enabling practitioners to leverage and build on existing strengths that are often unused, misused or misunderstood. Working relationships grow and deepen as individuals, working together, achieve what they want and need. This is an essential component and a powerful catalyst to career success.
The leader-coach helps their leaders and individual contributors (coachees) clarify their objectives, set their success markers, and most importantly, develop an action plan for achieving their goals. The coachee is in the driver’s seat; they own the vision and action plan as the leader-coach asks critical questions, supports them and holds them accountable.
Action planning offers the opportunity to focus on an objective and determine the proper steps that must be taken to achieve it. It’s meant to clearly define what a coachee wants and how they plan to achieve it. Action plans are the backbone of coaching and the proper development of a plan is essential to the success of the experience.
The key to the coaching process is holding oneself and others accountable to the action plan. Sure, plans change because of obstacles or accelerators along the way. So, the leader-coach continuously engages in a diagnostic process – facilitating check-ins against objectives, actions and limitations that are non-judgmental and foster ownership, accountability, self-agency and innovation. Individuals and teams need a safe sounding board where they can share struggles with and get support from their leaders. The initial diagnostic process might go something like this:
|“What do you think the problem is?”||Help surface a problem, barrier, or struggle that may be happening in his/her professional world.|
|“How do you think that can be resolved?”||Help uncover blind spots and think through solutions.|
|“How will you handle this?||Dig into individual’s or team’s role in the solution. Prompt creation of an action or plan.|
|“What is your plan to handle this?”||Facilitate commitment to action or plan.|
|On a scale of 1-10, how confident are you that it will happen?||Reality-check the action or plan.|
|What can you do (what actions can you take) to make you more confident?||Reality-check the action or plan.|
|Come to me with solutions (don’t direct them)|
– Best efforts (they use)
The byproduct of coaching is growth – towards becoming a solutions-based leader who gets the job done. It fosters innovation and increases self-esteem for all involved in the process. It replaces conventional and often archaic styles of management with a malleable model that easily fits the needs of individuals and organizations at the same time because goals are shared and aligned. Coaching impacts the bottom line of a business. It is the surgical accuracy of coaching that turns a leader into a catalyst for change and progress.
A focused, targeted approach to embedding coaching skills into on the job/just in time training and development as part of your talent management strategy also leads to more than just productivity improvements, profitability and an upskilled workforce (all important things).
At the foundation of a strategic and effective coaching approach should be relationship building and strengthening between the coach or leader and the coachee. Authenticity in caring for your employees’ growth and development cannot be faked – if the coaching relationship is not genuine, employees may tune out the critical advice they receive during coaching sessions. A strong coaching approach should aim to stimulate increased collaboration, clearer communication and improved morale for all parties involved.
When feedback is meaningful, actionable, and clear, combined with an authentic openness for the coach to also receive feedback from their coachee, this can strengthen the bonds not just within the coach/coachee relationship, but in the broader team and organization as well. Stronger bonds pave the way for increased creativity, resiliency when mistakes are inevitably made and adaptability to changing workplace priorities.
Recognize that a shift from a “consultant” type of role to a more direct coaching partner and guide will take some time for your HR team to adapt to and feel confident executing. Clarifying the potential returns on investment, the resources for support and the objectives of a coaching approach can help with the change management and buy-in you need from your HR team to executive a transition to a coaching talent management strategy.
As Bamboo HR noted, “…coaching can help leaders manage stress, improve conflict resolution, and achieve personal or business goals” which in turn can assist with HR professionals’ workload and responsibilities if the leaders and employees are better trained in how to resolve issues effectively as a result of their coaching sessions. Consider assigning one or more on your HR team the role of change champion to help assist with the transition and to remind others on the team of the benefits related to the shift of a coaching approach to your workforce.