Leadership is a contact sport
by Marshall Goldsmith and Howard Morgan
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Assessment of Learning initiatives within organisation is done through many ways. Here’s what a set of companies did differently when reviewed for “leadership development programs “
Rather than just evaluating “participant happiness” at the end of a program, each of these companies measured the participants’ perceived increase in leadership effectiveness over time.
“Increased effectiveness” was not determined by the participants in the development effort; it was assessed by preselected co-workers and stakeholders.
Time and again, one variable emerged as central to the achievement of positive long-term change: the participants’ ongoing interaction and follow-up with colleagues.
Leaders who discussed their own improvement priorities with their co-workers, and then regularly followed up with these co-workers, showed striking improvement.
Leaders who did not have ongoing dialogue with colleagues showed improvement that barely exceeded random chance.
This was true whether the leader had an external coach, an internal coach, or no coach. It was also true whether the participants went to a training program for five days, went for one day, or did not attend a training program at all.
The development of leaders, we have concluded, is a contact sport.
The executive coach is, in many ways, like a personal trainer.
The trainer’s role is to “remind” the person being trained to do what he or she knows should be done.
Good personal trainers spend far more time on execution than on theory. The same seems to be true for leadership development. Most leaders already know what to do. They have read the same books and listened to the same gurus giving the same speeches.
Hence, our core conclusion from this research:
For most leaders, the great challenge is not understanding the practice of leadership: It is practicing their understanding of leadership.
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