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At 1-DEGREE/Shift, our coaches have over 15 years of experience coaching high potential leaders and teams working in environments undergoing change – be it fast-growing companies, or those undergoing significant culture change.

Coaching can accelerate leadership development, and contribute to powerful behaviour shifts, benefitting both the individual and the organization. Coachees in these programs often unpack life-long beliefs in their coaching session, and uncover insight and tactics that they are motivated to bring back to the business. Unfortunately, we often see this get derailed – despite the best of intentions – as urgent business priorities emerge and old habits and ways of working return. The new insights can then easily get shelved and forgotten.

For coaching insight to “stick”, it needs to be supported, practiced, and reflected on. In our experience, engaging the coachee’s manager in the leadership learning process is critical. Here, we’re sharing our three best practices to put this in place:

1. Engage the manager in the program

Ideally, the coachee is supported by their manager in their effort to integrate their learning in real time. A great way to do this is through a triad conversation with the coachee, their manager and the leadership coach to create alignment on what the participant is working on, why, and what support they will need through the program.

For the coachee, these kinds of coaching conversations are vulnerable. That’s because for the leadership development effort to be truly worthwhile they will have to reveal what they are learning about themselves, such as their strengths, weaknesses, limiting assumptions they hold, habits they are changing and where they struggle with the program. The high potential, high performing participants in leadership development programs are not naturally disposed to ask for help. They are used to making things happen. Since this is unfamiliar territory for both the coachee and their manager, having the coach there to facilitate this conversation and set the tone can increase everyone’s comfort level with the process and expectations.

2. Teach the manager to coach on leadership

A development coaching conversation is vulnerable for the manager as well. For example, it’s a more servant-style of coaching where the manager needs to ask questions to which they genuinely don’t know the answers and then ask how they can support the coachee. This is different than the business coaching style where managers dive in with solutions. Managers will need some training on the difference between leadership coaching and business coaching, and how to let go of their standard advice-giving approach.

3. Share accountability for the ongoing development work

Ideally, the coachee will formalize their leadership development plan with their manager. We encourage the coachee to be creative and include some real on-the-job projects where they can apply their learning and stretch themselves. Ideally, the manager should be accountable to the HR department for the leadership development outcomes of their employees. A good way to do this is to weave the coachee’s commitments into their performance reviews, as well as in the manager’s reviews. The follow-up then becomes a shared responsibility with the HR department.

There are a number of other creative and effective ways to embed coaching insight to shift behaviour. For example, we use Peer Action Learning (PAL) sessions to help coachees sustain momentum. This is great for organizations investing in a leadership program with a number of high potential leaders. PAL sessions are facilitated peer-group coaching conversations that bring together participants from the same leadership development program to connect and share their successes, learnings and struggles. If done well, they are powerful forums that allow for real and safe dialogue. The participants return to work with energy and clarity.

If you’re interested in learning more about high-potential leadership coaching programs, 360 leadership assessments or team coaching programs, book your complimentary discovery call for a conversation.