“Yes, my boss fully supports the idea of my receiving executive coaching,” a prospective client answers. “And the company will pay for it – they see it as an investment!”
Those are great words to hear from a client as she or he begins the exciting journey of executive coaching. Such a message provides a sense of the support the client is receiving from the company and from the individual to whom they report – their boss.
As we set the stage for coaching engagements, the boss, who usually serves as the “sponsor” for the coaching, is a critical part of the process. Oftentimes, though, I sense that while the boss is a strong supporter of the idea, the role of sponsorship might be so new to him that he is not able to fulfill this critical role in a manner that will best facilitate the coaching for the client.
So what is the role of a sponsor in executive coaching? Essentially it is about building a platform for learning.
Think back to the people in your life who you’ve advised, whose potential you’ve recognized, and whose talents you’ve used to help you discover and shape your own.
Didn’t that process feel good?
According to research, coaching others has positive psychophysiological effects that restore the body’s natural healing processes and improve stamina. “When we care enough to invest time in developing others, we become less preoccupied with ourselves, which balances the toxic effects of stress and burnout.”
Businesses today are investing significantly in developing leadership and management talent, and leader coaching is increasingly becoming a core component of development programs. If you are making decisions about how to leverage coaching for leader development, there are lots of variables to consider. And there is a lot at stake – what leaders learn and achieve through a leader development program can impact hundreds, perhaps thousands of others in your organization.
Today, most leader coaching is targeted at developing the capabilities of high-potential performers. Having built leadership coaching programs in two organizations, and being a practicing executive coach, I want to share some observations and advice with those responsible for facilitating leader developing programs, specifically around selecting and using coaches.
Leaders serve in many roles. Yes, they must do the mundane but necessary chores of managing assets and balance sheets, but their most important work is to inspire others. And that involves the leader serving as a teacher, as a mentor, and as a coach.
Often we know how to teach others. And we routinely provide mentoring by setting an example and being available to nurture those around us. In my experience in industry, though, I have found the coaching piece to be the most difficult role for leaders to assume.