Upon first meeting someone, people generally follow this line of questioning: What is your name? Where are you from? What do you do? ….When I answer that last question with “I am a leadership coach” most people’s next question is “what exactly is that?”
Many people have heard of an executive coach or leadership coach but have never met one in the flesh. I liken the look on people’s faces when I tell them my profession to that of a person that has just seen a unicorn. Still, the question remains “What exactly is a leadership coach?” Well, the answer to that question is both simple and complex all at once. Put simply, a leadership coach is a person that coaches people on being a better leader. Ground breaking definition it is not but that is the simple answer.
The more convoluted answer is in how the individual coach approaches that objective of making the person a better leader. Most often, the best leadership coaches have a strong understanding of behavior. Therefore, someone trained in psychology is best suited for this role. However, experience in leadership roles can definitely augment and sometimes take the place of that academic training. But just because a person was a top performer doesn’t make them a good leadership coach. Leadership involves enlisting and enrolling others to accomplish a goal or set of objectives not just enlisting one’s own skills and capabilities. Similarly, if a person can’t tell you why or how they were effective then its not likely they can tell you why you are or are not effective. Still, what maketh a great leadership coach is as variable as the answer to the question of what maketh a great leader — it depends. But once you have found a coach you feel you can trust and that demonstrates a deep understanding of behavior, the next step is defining why you need a coach?
There is no one reason why people get a coach? Similarly, the types of coaches (leadership, executive, business, life, relationship/marriage, etc.) create more specificity and directional focus on the answer to this question. Still, if you desire coaching as it relates to your job or career, here are just a few reasons why a person might get a coach?
- My boss tells me I have untapped potential but he or she has given me little to no guidance on just what that means.
- I know I have barriers blocking me from doing better in my current role but I would like more guidance on codifying what those opportunity areas are.
- For some reason, I cannot get past a certain role or level; I just can’t make director/partner/VP/SVP/CEO
- I am in a leadership role and sense that I could be doing better if I had more understanding of how to create change in others.
- I am a first time leader and know I need help.
- I feel like I would be better starting my own company than working “here.”
- I don’t know why my job is making me unhappy.
- I don’t know what my passion is? Am I in the wrong career?
- I want to make a cross-functional move but fear it could be career suicide.
- Am I as good as my functional peers?
- Am I as strong of a leader as I think I am?
- My team is not delivering the results I know they can deliver – is it me, them, or both?
- I am not leading my life in the way I want to?
Most importantly, I advocate people getting coaches if they a) want to gain better awareness as to why they are not creating the impact they want, and b) most importantly if you actually are willing to change to get to your desired result or destination. In short, do not seek coaching if you are not open to change. Because what I know for sure is that if after answering the questions “What do you do?” and “What is a leadership coach,” and the person’s next question is “do you think you can help me?;” I think the person asking me that last question is already halfway there on their way to the results they desire.