For those new to leadership coaching, it can be a bit surprising to hear their coach ask them about what is happening outside of the job. Yet, leadership coaching is most successful when it involves a holistic process – and that means you might find yourself discussing not only professional but also personal issues (don’t worry…you won’t feel like you are in therapy!) This was actually a topic of discussion at a leadership coaching conference I attended some years back where I heard an intriguing case study that has stayed with me. A coaching company was hired to deliver a six-month coaching assignment in the U.S. and in England. For the American clients, the coaches were only allowed to discuss topics relevant to the client’s work agenda, without touching any personal matter. In the English assignment, the coaching work was holistic; professional and personal agendas were put on the table. At the end of the assignment, the American clients found the coaching to be satisfactory, yet chose not to continue. Conversely, the English clients were significantly more positive about the results of the work – citing significant improvements in their business performance – and continued the contract for another six months.
Leadership doesn’t exist in a vacuum
So, why the need for this “all-around approach”? On a simple level, distractions in your personal life can limit your ability to focus on the demands of your leadership role. That’s something the coach should be aware to help you get back in the game. If chronic issues – like the lack of self-care – are affecting your performance, addressing them is an inevitable part of the process for the leadership coaching to yield the desired results. On a more complex level, insights from different aspects of your life provide the leadership coach with useful information. For example, some people might have handled certain challenges well in their personal life, while not being able to overcome a similar issue in the workplace. Lessons could be drawn from one situation to help with the other. This is often true in the area of conflict management. A client may employ good emotional intelligence skills at home, never letting an issue go uncommunicated with their spouse or children. Yet, they avoid initiating tough conversations as a leader at work. Recognizing they do it well and easily at home can give them confidence and the tools to handle conflict management better at work.
In most cases, keeping one’s personal and professional lives separate makes sense. However, when it comes to powerful, effective leadership coaching everything can help and is open for discussion to understand the bigger picture and work on specific goals. So, don’t be surprised if your coach wants to know how you’ve handled conflict on the home front or asks if you have met your weekly exercise goals. It’s all important. Are you considering getting leadership coaching? Contact me if you want to know more about my approach and see if it aligns with your goals.