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Coaching Mastery: The Art and Practice of Developing Others

Guest Post by Kevin Cashman

I’ve been a fan of Kevin Cashman since first reading The Pause Principle nearly five years ago and have followed his work since. Kevin is a leadership luminary and Korn Ferry’s Global Leader of CEO & Executive Development. His most recent effort Leadership from the Inside Out: Becoming a Leader for Life, Third Edition, is an exploration of eight powerful ‘mastery areas’ that will support leaders at all levels of the organization. I’m delighted host this guest post from Kevin!

Leadership is more than a job. It is a sacred calling with sacred responsibility. That calling is best honored when a leader sets the highest example of personal and professional behavior and then enlists others to take this challenging path as well. To accomplish both these tasks nothing is more vital than coaching. Effective coaching to bring out the strengths and talents of all the people in the group or organization, serves a dual role. It is a generous contribution to each individual’s growth and fulfillment. At the same time, it is one of the most practical strategies for maximizing the effectiveness and success of the group. The more capable and fully developed each individual in your group, the stronger the group.

We know from global research that most people rate “coaching and developing others” among the top three most important leadership competencies, according to 360° assessments. However, despite the rated importance of this critical competency, it actually scores as the lowest practiced competency. No other leadership competency has such a wide gap between importance and practice. Why? Leaders often tell us that they do not have enough time; they do not know a proven process; and/or they feel it will slow down their immediate performance. Regardless of the reasons, learning a pragmatic, straightforward methodology to coach and develop yourself and others is extremely critical to high-performing leadership.

For coaching to have a lasting, transformative impact, three interrelated foundations need to be constructed:

  • Building Awareness to bring new information into our field of view.
  • Building Commitment in order to fully understand consequences.
  • Building Practice to consistently engage in new behaviors to enrich out lives.

If all three are present and operating, breakthroughs will occur, and growth will be sustained. If any one of the three is absent, the results will dissipate over time. You may learn the best techniques and disciplines to practice, but if you lack commitment, you won’t continue your efforts. Similarly, all the enthusiasm and commitment in the world won’t get you far if you don’t adhere to the right practices. And without awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, how will you know what to commit to or what you need to do?

The following are some guiding principles for Building Awareness, Commitment and Practice:

Building Awareness

  • Stay open, and bring clarity.
  • Use questions to help the person sort out a situation.
  • Be courageous.
  • Practice speaking directly but with caring.
  • Help coaches explore the difference between their intentions and other people’s expectations.
  • Build awareness by example.
  • Help people uncover and align with what is meaningful and important to them.

Build Commitment

  • Help people sort out consequences.
  • Allow your commitment to catalyze their commitment.
  • Look for openings.
  • Make sure that commitment leads to practice.
  • Be patient.
  • Use the power of why to uncover underlying issues.

Building Practice

  • Co-create the practice with the person.
  • Hold the person accountable.
  • Avoid intellectualizing.
  • Just do it…or do something else.

Coaching may be the most important of all leadership skills, because helping foster the growth of those around us gives sustainability to our leadership and perpetuates optimal, ongoing value creation.

Kevin is Global Partner, CEO and Executive Development, at Korn Ferry. For the last 30+ years, he has coached CEOs and executives to develop deep self-awareness in order to become more effective leaders.


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