Building Strength And Confidence In Leaders

by Jim Walter

I’m not a new leader. For the past 21 years, I’ve served in schools in leadership roles. For the past 7 years, I’ve served as a superintendent. Though professional development is highly valued in education, it’s not always effectively executed. It’s through my own role as a coach that I’ve learned just how powerful it can be to truly develop leaders. Let’s talk about what works – and what doesn’t – when it comes to raising up leaders within your organization.

Time And Monday Don’t Equal Quality

During my career, I have been exposed to training that both educates and inspires. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen lots of ineffective educational techniques. Companies and school districts can spend billions a year on the development of their leaders, but often without any real improvement in outcomes

Leadership development requires a tailored response. Too often, training is planned on a macro level, assuming that we’re all the same and will benefit from the same learning. These models produce limited success.

A Tailored Approach Works Best

What do leaders need to grow? They require development that’s tailored to their individual challenges, personalities, and goals. They need consistent check-ins and even day-to-day monitoring to improve.

In education, there’s an unfortunate stigma attached to executive coaching…but I’ve seen far more effective results from this model. Though there is some value in a large, “one-size-fits-all” course, it’s generally not very helpful. I’ve personally grown as a leader through mentors and wise colleagues who have often served as my coaches. Our educators would benefit from dollars being allocated to this form of development. 

Why Does Coaching Work?

Coaching is a unique endeavor – it’s both psychological and introspective.  When you’re paired with an exceptional coach, you spend your energies identifying and processing challenging situations so that you can avoid “heat of the moment” decisions and ground your thinking.  Perhaps we can’t change all our stripes, but we can develop and become more self-aware, share ideas we’ve been hesitant to turn loose, and grow our talents by viewing the world through many different lenses.

Coaching improves your ability to reflect critically, increases self-awareness, and therefore adds to your effectiveness.  Individual performance and team performance increases exponentially.  If you’re willing to improve yourself personally and professionally, a coach can impact your relationships throughout the organization and among your clients.

What Should You Look For In A Coach?

Coaches connect goals, beliefs, behaviors, and your gifts. Your calling happens where your great gifts meet the world’s great needs.  A coach will help you discover this. The best coaches will also occasionally make you uncomfortable.  If they’re unwilling to, they’re also unlikely to elicit your best thinking and ultimate growth.  You should always be psychologically safe in the coaching relationship, but pushing boundaries is part of growth.  

You may be wondering if you need to find a coach who exactly matches your experience. Actually, I’d encourage you to be willing to look beyond your industry for help. There is great wisdom found in looking beyond our traditional silos. Leaders in other areas bring fresh perspectives and skills, and they have the potential to strengthen your gifts.

Push Past Your Hesitations

For much of my adult life, I believed that asking for help or guidance would be seen as a weakness. Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to truly grow, I had to shed that view.  “Muscling” through sometimes overwhelming challenges hurt my performance, my family, and sometimes even my own health. Reaching out for assistance is always a good idea.

Ultimately, your efforts with exceptional coaches will help you become the best version of your leadership self, and lead to better workplaces and working relationships. You’ll learn how to empathize with others, elicit great effort, navigate conflict, structure growth plans for your team, and more. However, to take advantage of a good coach, you also have to accept some uncertainty and vulnerability.  Coaching is like any valuable relationship…it only works when you’re ready to accept all it entails.

Coaching pays dividends beyond the executive level. Once you know your path, you can more effectively scale your business and grow the leaders on your own team. 

We’re Here To Help

We’re ready to have a conversation about how coaching could change the course of your personal and professional life. Reach out today.

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