Leadership Lessons from Ajax #20: Performance Coaching

December 13, 2009 by Ken Nowack

“A leader takes people where they want to go. A great leader takes people where they don’t necessarily want to go but ought to be.”

Rosalyn Carter


Ajax, our guide dog puppy in training,  just passed his AKC Canine Good Citizens test at 9 months (a bit of a surprise because he still likes to greet dogs he meets by jumping on their heads)!  He was evaluated on a number of specific behaviors and skills by one of the professional Guide Dogs of America trainers.  It most certainly felt like the puppy raisers (my wife and I) were really the ones being evaluated.

In a way, we are really a “performance coach” to Ajax helping him develop into the future leader we hope he will be for someone who might depend on using a guide dog to do the things many of us might take for granted.

Ajax has been a wonderful reminder about the type of coaching that is required for certain situations and talent with varying levels of maturity and performance.  Those in leadership roles should also identify with the role of being a performance coach with their own talent.

Leaders as Performance Coaches

A recent survey by Blessing White (The Coaching Conundrum 2009: Building a coaching culture that drives organizational success.  Blessing White Inc. Global Executive Summary) revealed the following findings:

  • The survey of over 2,000 international employees and 60 HR leaders reported that 84% of managers are expected to coach talent but only 52% actually do (39% in Europe)
  • Only 24% of all leaders are rewarded or recognized for coaching and developing talent
  • 85% of all managers and employees see value in leaders as coaches but 32% of managers reported it takes too much time and interferes with their job

The use of a performance coaching model can provide practitioners with a framework to approach coaching assignments and maximize results. This framework helps practitioners clarify the focus of coaching, estimated duration, use of specific assessments and insight about the level of motivation and readiness to change in clients.

Coaching can be targeted to each of four different presenting issues depending on two important factors: 1) Job performance (what gets done—output)  and 2) Interpersonal competence (how things get done—process).

Each type of coaching model has specific goals, typical assessments to be used, and approaches to maximize both individual goals and organizational outcomes.

Coaching Model All

I’ve learned a lot from Ajax in the last few months we have raised him…I hope to share a bit more about approaches to developing talent using this performance coaching model that I can relate to in watching Ajax and his siblings advance on their journey to become a guide dog.

I hope you will join me in my next few Blogs and share some of your insights, learning and experiences so we can all benefit….Be well….

[tags]guide dogs, seeing eye dogs, Guide Dogs of America, leadership, executive coaching, performance, layoff, social support, mastery, expertise, kenneth nowack, ken nowack, nowack, Envisia Learning, deliberate practice[/tags]

Kenneth Nowack, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist (PSY13758) and President & Chief Research Officer/Co-Founder of Envisia Learning, is a member of the Consortium for Research on Emotional Intelligence in Organizations. Ken also serves as the Associate Editor of Consulting Psychology Journal: Practice and Research. His recent book Clueless: Coaching People Who Just Don’t Get It is available for free for a limited time by signing up for free blog updates (Learn more at our website)

Posted in Engagement, Leadership Development

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