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Six Principles of Leadership Coaching
I came across an article entitled Six Principles of Leadership Coaching in the July 2006 newsletter for the Center for Creative Leadership.

I found it interesting because I have always thought of leadership coaching as the trade of professional consultants and coaches. However, leadership coaching can and should also occur in an organization where leaders have an opportunity to develop leadership in their direct reports and peers.

Internal organizational coaching requires a different approach and perspective - and also offers different challenges — than external, professional leadership coaches. As the article points out, internal leader coaches should follow the same "rules of engagement" as the pros to create a foundation for effective coaching. The following six principles will “help you establish new coaching relationships, adapt your coaching style to meet different needs and work through challenges and struggles that may arise.”

"When a coaching relationship isn't going well, go back to the basics," says CCL's Douglas Riddle. "Whether the frustration lies on the part of the coach or the coachee, the beginning of a solution can often be found by looking to these six core principles."

Principle 1: Create a safe and challenging environment. It is the coach's responsibility to create a safe environment in which the coachee can take risks and learn. Creating a sense of safety can be a real challenge for leader coaches. Your role as boss or manager may cause the coachee always to wonder if and how information he shares will be used outside the coaching discussion. To counter this, aspire to hold an open and nonjudgmental attitude. Find a balance between challenging and supporting the coachee.

Principle 2: Work with the coachee's agenda. The learning experience is not about you. The coachee decides which goals to work on and how to go about this work. While it is ideal when there is alignment between the coachee's learning agenda and organizational goals, your priorities should not be imposed on the coaching relationship. When you do need to push your agenda, shift into the managerial role to avoid making the coachee feel manipulated or to avoid damaging the coaching relationship.

Principle 3: Facilitate and collaborate. Coaches do not give answers, make recommendations or act like "the expert." They focus on the coachee's needs and avoid disclosing personal reactions, telling their own stories, or advocating their preferred theories and techniques. And although the coach may suggest options, the ultimate decision about what action to take rests with the coachee. If you have a high investment in the desired outcomes, you should share in the responsibility for achieving them.

Principle 4: Advocate self-awareness. Knowing one's strengths and development needs is a prerequisite for developing as a leader. As a coach, it is important to recognize your own behaviors and understand the impact they may have on others. You are then better able to analyze or predict the outcomes of your interactions with others and take steps to achieve desired results. Demonstrating this awareness and fostering self-awareness in your coachee are crucial steps for development.

Principle 5: Promote learning from experience. Most people have the capacity to learn, grow and change, given that they encounter the right set of experiences and are ready to learn. Reflecting on past experiences is a powerful method for identifying personal strengths and development needs, as well as opportunities and obstacles. As a leader coach, help your coachee think about events from the perspective of what worked well and what did not. What can be learned from these experiences? How can the coachee take that awareness and put it to use in the present?

Principle 6: Model what you coach. It is the coach's responsibility to exhibit the leadership and emotional competencies that the coachee is trying to develop. Ideally, you will have sufficient self-awareness to know if you have the capacity and skill to coach on a particular issue or if the coachee would be better served by receiving coaching from someone else.

The CCL article was adapted from the book, The Center for Creative Leadership Handbook of Coaching (Jossey-Bass, 2006).

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