Working one-on-one with a coach helps you fine-tune your leadership in a way consulting projects can’t. The regular cadence of meetings over a longer period of time can often lead to more lasting changes in the way you approach your work as a leader, rather than only addressing a specific problem or issue in the organization. That said, there are distinctively different types of coaching out there, so you should know what you’re looking for.
The broadest category is leadership coaching (or executive coaching). Each coach in this category will have their own approach to leadership, and that’s going to drive how they work with you. Here’s how one association coach (Marshall Brown) describes what he calls “Executive Coaching to Improve Performance”:
“Develop leadership skills, increase operational efficiency, and reach your full potential, professionally and personally. Executive coaching provides the tools and feedback you need to understand your promise of value and to perform at your peak.”
I also have a good friend, Mary Abbajay, who does both consulting and coaching (and she wrote an awesome book, Managing Up, that we use in our Growth Mindset course). Her website describes coaching like this:
Coaching is a confidential, professional development process that supports individuals and teams in reaching greater success within the context of their organization.
Some coaches will focus on more specific audiences (Ellyn McKay focuses her coaching on women leaders, for example) and some focus on niche topics, like career coaching (Marshall Brown, again), diversity coaching, and I’ve done a fair amount of conflict coaching for executives as well.
What is NOT as common in the association space is leadership team coaching, also referred to as business coaching. Here the coach works with both the CEO and the entire management team, tackling a broader range of individual, team, and organizational issues. I coach management teams in our Priority-Based Execution system. That will include working on internal management team issues, but it will also help build strategic clarity and address areas where culture is getting in the way of success. But it’s still coaching (not consulting), because my role as the coach is to provide a framework and system that the management team can implement on their own, with my guidance.
I wish more association leaders would take advantage of coaching. And I don’t mean that in the obviously self-serving way of I wish more people would get coaching in our system or around conflict. I mean I wish association leaders would stop trying to be leaders all by themselves. Yes, you have colleagues and friends that support you, but they don’t work with you every month, and they haven’t really put together a complete system to support you. Coaches have. Put this in your budget for next year, because it’s time to up your game.