Most of us have had “bosses from Hell”, and we’ve seen the results of poor leadership - low morale, high staff turnover and unhappy employees. But no-one sets out to be an ineffective, unloved leader; in most cases, it’s simply a case of executives failing to learn how to lead.
Bosses are human beings too: they’re not infallible, they want to be effective, and they even like to be liked. If leaders are given the coaching they need to become stronger, more decisive and empathetic, these qualities will filter through the organisation and become embedded in the company’s culture.
The domino effectGood leadership is good business: it doesn’t just affect employees’ happiness and productivity, but enhances the organisation’s reputation and relationships. Look at Uber: one of the most important tasks in the new CEO’s in-tray is how to remodel a company that has become better known for institutional sexism, bullying, and attempts to smear journalists than for its disruptive business model.
The struggles at Uber and the White House both bear out the old Russian saying: the fish rots from the head. With leaders setting the tone, any hint of corruption or dysfunction spreads throughout the body of the organisation. This is the “domino effect”, and it highlights the enormous value that coaching can bring not just to leaders, but to the whole organisation.
You can’t fake leadership. Employees know the difference between a boss who’s always got your back, and one who’ll stab it; between those who display insincerity, and those who are truly empathetic.
And people don’t just sniff out inauthenticity in their leaders - they tell others. Three quarters of employees have admitted to voicing a negative opinion about their employer online, and this can do immense damage to a company’s reputation.
On the other hand, good leaders who demonstrate authenticity, transparency, emotional intelligence and empathy will have their employees singing their praises. What’s more, because they lead by example, they help instil these positive values throughout the company, creating a culture of good leadership at all levels. But can you coach this authenticity?
We know you can, because we do it every day. But it takes a little more than effort than putting the boss in a room with a coach and a whiteboard.
- Secure buy-in - Leadership is, above all, about setting an example. True transformation won’t happen if the message coming from the Chief Domino is “Do as I say, not as I do.”So it’s crucial that leaders at the CxO level and HR show their commitment towards personal development by hiring an executive coach. This teaches the invaluable lesson that no-one is too senior or too experienced to learn and improve. It sets an example that line managers and other leaders throughout the organisation can follow.
- Setting targets - This is probably the hardest element of coaching to get right, but also one of the most important. Coaching programmes must have a goal in mind; one that is specific, measurable and achievable. Leaders must therefore decide how they will measure success, whether it is improved employee feedback, more enrolment in training programmes, fewer sick days or lower staff turnover.To be successful, coaching should define and strive towards objectives that are focused on both business and personal goals.
- Trust and transparency - Having said that, not all outcomes can be measured empirically. Judging employees’ happiness and job satisfaction isn’t a numbers game: it requires leaders to have great (self-) awareness and a good ear for the buzz around the office.
A good coach will help leaders to foster a culture where employees at all levels are encouraged to express their concerns and ideas for further improvements in the organisation and its style of leadership. If the boss can hear employees’ complaints and concerns, it means they’re developing the trust and transparency on which the domino effect depends.