“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. ”
Albert Einstein

Leaders are generally incompetent when it comes to coaching and developing talent.

Here are a few findings from some past and recent studies and surveys that may (or may not) surprise you:

1. In her 2006 doctoral research on the impact of 360 degree feedback on leadership, Nancy Rehbine found a high level of disappointment and greater opportunity to involve the leader as internal coach:

  • 62% of the respondents reported being dissatisfied or highly dissatisfied with the amount of time their manager spent helping with a development plan
  • More than 65% expressed strong interest in utilizing an online follow-up tool to measure progress toward behavior change

2. In the Blessing White 2009 study targeting 2,000 leaders and HR professionals exploring the role of leaders as coaches (The Coaching Conundrum 2009: Building a coaching culture that drives organizational success.  Blessing White Inc. Global Executive Summary) they found:

  • 84% of managers are expected to coach talent but only 52% actually do (only 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

3. The 2014/2015 DDI Global Leadership Forecast of 13,124 leaders; 1,528 global human resource executives; and 2,031 participating organizations found:

  • Developmental assignments (70%) and formal workshops (60%) were far more effective than coaching (from one’s manager–52%, peers–43% or external coaches/mentors–40%) to develop leaders
  • Only 37 percent of leaders in the current study rated their organization’s leadership development program as effective, indicating no improvement over the past seven years
  • Only 63% of leaders reported that they were “highly effective” at “coaching and developing others

Ways to Improve Leaders as Coaches

What seems clear is that leaders today might not be that competent at developing and coaching talent or do things today to keep high potential talent.

Here are a few things that could be considered to help enhance the effectiveness of leaders as coaches:

  1. Select for those with interpersonal skills and social competence that can be good performance coaches with their direct reports.
  2. Train and develop the skills to become better performance coaches.  Coaching skills and the micro-skills that underlie them are capable of being taught and developed further with deliberate practice.
  3. Help leaders recognize how generational differences play a role in learning and engagement.  The iPad generation of today prefer blended learning and coaching as the primary way to learn and grow within organizations.
  4. Recognize leaders who develop high potential talent.  You get what you recognize (and reward) so share what great leaders are doing internally as a performance coach to serve as a model to others in the organization.
  5. Use employee engagement surveys to identify leaders who retain high potential talent.  Determine who are the good leaders who are able to best retain talent and who are the bad leaders as demonstrated by turnover, customer complaints, grievances and productivity.
  6. Reward (through compensation) those who hold onto high potential talent and make it part of the performance management system.  Make performance coaching part of the performance review process and make salary increases and bonuses part of the leadership role.

I’m off to try to practice my leadership skills with my guide dog puppy in training Indy on his journey to become a guide for someone who is blind–I will let you know in about 6 months if my coaching is effective….Be well….

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 Leadership Development, Selection

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  1. Dan Heck says:

    The capabilities of leaders to coach is an issue, the availability of leadership training within companies is an issue AND how many companies have the culture that sends the message that a leaders job is to continue to figure out how to get work done through others? Emerge leadership Group cites research that shows as little as 25% of leaders operate as leaders totally dedicated to getting work done through others.
    Coaching is one skill poorly applied; I believe leaders’ ability to facilitate is also an extremely under-appreciated skill. MBA preparation and company paradigms celebrate leaders as problem solvers and hero types more than servants of team growth and individual developers. If those cultural behaviors don’t change, it will be a long, uphill battle!

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