Some companies give up on their leaders after the first attempt to develop them has failed. Some of them fortunately take another try.
With leadership coaching the rate of failure is much higher than, for instance, with psychotherapy. It’s true that psychotherapy involves a higher level of regulation, but the factors also involve the state of human resource atmosphere, country, industry, and, most importantly the company culture.
We should not be blaming companies that lose all interest in repairing the sower aftertaste of such failures. The shadow side of professional development is that there are times—and not rarely—when such development is far from professional.
Fortunately, some companies never give up on their teams. They endeavour to repair the rupture of distrust. Obviously, there can be many reasons for leadership coaching to fail. But there are some that are not the most obvious ones and often skip under the radar.
No contract for change
“Others cannot be changed!” This is the main premise in psychotherapy and coaching is no different.
You cannot change other people.
Be it your boss, the members of your team or your colleagues. It just doesn’t happen.
You can only change yourself. And, as a leadership coach or a therapist, you can only facilitate your client to change themselves—when they are ready, willing and brave enough to do so.
So, no contract for change means no change at all. There is no way of getting around it.
Lack of personal contact, trust and relationship
People find it uncomfortable exposing what they perceive as flaws. We are human. We don’t want to be hurt. We don’t want to be vulnerable and exposed to others—especially if we don’t trust them.
Leadership coaching is no different. If the client doesn’t trust us; if they do not feel that we are there to protect them and work with them; if they see us as a threat, we will not see an authentic working relationship develop.
Without trust and relationship, we are not able to facilitate change in the leaders we work with.
One of the main reasons people—especially corporates who are offered leadership coaching as part of their professional development—do not change is because they perceive the people they are assigned to work with as a threat. They see them as someone working for their employer, not for them as individuals.
Relational professional development rejects such views. It is actually its opposite. Relationship, trust and psychological contact are regarded as crucial for a leader’s change.
Leadership development is not fixing people
Leadership development is not fixing people we work with. Because there is nothing to fix. Leadership development is about facilitating someone to use their full potential and to use it with full awareness. That’s not fixing a person. It’s utilising their resources.
Leadership development is about investing in people. Those people that have the potential but are not using it in the way that best serves them as professionals, their teams and their companies. Some leaders don’t see what they are actually capable of. We are the ones to help them unveil it.
Leadership development is about getting the best out of people and helping them meet, not only their professional goals, but also their personal ones—such as integrating their careers and personal lives with their roles as professionals.
The coach acts as one-up
Leadership coaching relationship is that of two independent and autonomous adults. It’s a relationship of equals. A relationship that serves a purpose of furthering the client’s professional growth. It’s not a relationship of a wise man and his apprentice, but a business relationship between two independent and equal individuals. This being easier said than done.
Only a person that respects themselves will be able to respect the people they work with.
And this goes both for the leadership coaches as well as for the leaders that they coach.
A coach that overtly communicates or covertly conveys superiority, dominance, power or control is one that will not manage to get to the first stage of professional development with his or her client—the needed relationship.