How to create high performance through coaching

Leadership development coaching concept

How to create high performance through coaching

Leadership development coaching is on the rise as organisations look to ensure their leaders have the skills to help create high performance. It is a goal shared by talent too who want quicker development and see coaching as a route to achieving this.

So, providing coaching is surely a win-win. But what’s the best approach to take and which leaders, employees or teams should be offered coaching?

What’s the best coaching model or approach?

Coaching often begins with agreeing a starting point (a future goal) and the rest of the session/s are then geared to establishing the required skills or knowledge to achieve that ambition. Along the way they may also address more innate and unhelpful emotional traits or other possible barriers to that individual’s development.

Traditional coaching, with its roots in counselling, is marked out by its supportive approach to development; the coach aims to build a rapport with their subject, focusing on particular goals and outcomes and taking a non-directive approach.

Some argue though that traditional coaching focusing solely on a subject’s own personal agenda offers limited value. The rationale is that there’s a risk that the coach colludes with their subject, only asking questions in a supportive way. The result is that the coaching focuses just on the ‘self’ and becomes detached from the wider business needs and priorities. An alternative to this is ‘high challenge, high support’ coaching.

The GROW model

A commonly-favoured approach uses the GROW model, which is based on the concept of interferences. The basic premise is that there’s a gap between an individual’s potential and their actual performance, and that ‘interference’ creeps in and becomes a blocker between the two.
The GROW model overcomes this by structuring the coaching as set out below:

GROW leadership coaching model

This model allows the subject to tell their story, whilst the coach can offer guidance, challenge and help make sense of the flow. Aside from the wrap up, the rest of the model can be used fluidly, making it ideal for complex situations. For example, the subject of the coaching may start with their reality one session as they vent about something that happened that day; that may lead them to create the goal and then look at the options. This approach could work well for the ‘high potentials’ group who are known to respond best to a combination of challenge and support.

The ‘high challenge, high support’ approach

A high challenge, high support model of coaching pretty well does what it says on the tin; namely, has the coach pushing and challenging the subject to a greater degree, while also offering great support too. This is perhaps best-suited to prompting the subject to make a more fundamental change of direction or to pursue a new goal that will help them achieve high performance.

The FACTS model outlined below is an example of such an approach:

FACTS learning model

Advocates of this approach argue that it helps to maximise growth and development to the benefit of both the individual and the organisation.

Which populations should you coach?

Given the availability and cost of hiring leaders, a prime group to consider for coaching is ‘high potential’ leadership talent. These people have, in most cases, been identified has having particular attributes which make them ideal candidates to develop as future leaders. Naturally, this makes them ideal candidates to benefit from coaching to help build the necessary traits and prepare them for leadership.
Recent research from the Harvard Business Review backs up the importance of this group. It suggests that many organisations are struggling to effectively develop their next generation of leaders, so it is all the more important to ensure that the right development initiatives and support are in place at all levels.

Existing top performers are another group you might consider. While it may not be immediately obvious that they need coaching support, most will probably want it. The profile of coach they respond to may differ though. These are people who may have already achieved great career success but who are driven to reach new heights. They’ll therefore benefit most from having a coach who is willing and able to challenge their thinking in a constructive way to help, to squeeze more out of existing strengths and help them really hone their skills.

Current business leaders mustn’t be overlooked either amid the clamour to nurture next generation talent. Existing leaders may face challenges around leadership style and deep-rooted behaviours that have traditionally been useful but, in a changing business landscape, may no longer be so effective. In such instances, coaching can be invaluable in helping leaders to evolve their leadership style and become more effective in the short and medium term.

Sarah Deadman

Sarah is a hugely experienced consultant and executive coach, who heads up our business psychology team. She specialises in leadership development, talent selection and assessment. Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn