EXPERT BRIEFING – From Command-And-Control to Empowerment: decoding the business-wide benefits of leadership coaching by Professor Julia Milner

Companies are increasingly aware of the positive impact that coaching can have on their leaders, often in the form of an external coach coming into the organization to work with executives. In recent…
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8 Jul 2020


Companies are increasingly aware of the positive impact that coaching can have on their leaders, often in the form of an external coach coming into the organization to work with executives. In recent times the impact of leaders using themselves coaching skills with their own team members is gaining traction. Professor Julia Milner, Professor of Leadership at EDHEC Business School identifies the key business benefits that a coaching strategy can have on your organisation. 


In this age of disruption, the hierarchical command-and-control style of leadership is becoming increasingly outdated, generally because it does not offer problem-solving solutions to teams that work increasingly transversally. So, what do you do if your business needs to rethink its management style? One solution is to invest in leadership coaching, that is leaders using coaching skills with their team members. A coaching approach empowers employees to come up with their own answers as illustrated in a recent Tedx talk on ‘The surprising truth in how to be a great leader’.

Where once coaching was considered as a ‘remedial’ method of fixing behavioural problems, coaching has grown in popularity over the years to become an effective technique for developing talent. However, what a lot of companies don’t realise is the positive impact that leadership coaching can have on overall business performance, and on staff retention, team productivity, and ultimately on your bottom-line results.


Hiring and Retaining Good People

High personnel turnover rates can greatly impact business profits, and in fact, replacing a skilled employee can cost a company up to twice his or her annual salary. Not only that, a study by Gallup found that a lot of workers are not engaged in their job. Hence it makes sense to invest in developing the existing workforce and also to invest in a positive leadership style. After all many employees quit their job due to a ‘bad’ boss. Fostering a leadership and work culture that values developing people is a vital way to retain key staff and implementing a coaching strategy can be an important part of that.


Building a Work Climate where Everyone Can Thrive

Leadership coaching can have a cascade-effect that means more people than the person receiving the coaching can feel the benefits. It can also impact on the team level, teaching managers the value of maintaining open channels of communication and ensuring that teams are aligned towards their goals. In fact, once a ‘coaching culture’ is implemented in the workplace we find that managers who once employed a ‘command and control’ style of leadership become more personally engaged as they see the benefits that their change in management style has on their team.


Creating a Solution-Orientated Workforce

How many of us working in a hierarchical business have witnessed a situation where a team felt powerless to come up with - and collectively implement - a solution? Leadership coaching can help break down the silo way of working, which in turn unblocks team capacity and frees-up the leaders themselves to work on more strategic projects. Teams that are then more solution-focussed and open to working collaboratively, become more agile and robust in terms of effectively solving problems.


Learning how to Coach

Companies who want to reap the benefits of coaching should support their leaders in acquiring a coaching skill set. Furthermore, additional support and strategies for challenges that can be encountered when applying coaching need to made available. Learning how to use coaching skills effectively requires leaders to invest time, although they can improve their skill level relatively quickly as we showed in one study published in Harvard Business Review. The best results are always achieved when leadership coaching is integrated into the corporate culture, instead of individual leaders having to go it alone.

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