With new assignments, shifting priorities, and evolving relationships, even the most adaptable leaders can benefit from working with a coach.
Many employers hire candidates based on the experience and skills specific to their industry/role. But proactive organizations understand that strong leadership requires proficiencies beyond these qualifications, and are including leadership coaching as part of their strategy to improve employee engagement, productivity, and performance.
Case Study: Automatic Data Processing, Inc.
A recent issue of Choice Magazine featured management services company ADP’s Global Leadership Development Program (GLDP), a rotation-based talent management program for high-potential leaders. As part of ADP’s program, new leaders are paired with a coach during the first ninety days of every assignment while also being supported by ADP Talent Managers and mentored by senior-level leaders.
The process was inspired by the book The First 90 Days: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter by Harvard Business School professor Michael D. Watkins. According to Watkins, “missteps made during the crucial first three months in a new role can jeopardize your success,” making it critical for organizations to provide guidance for new leaders in any role or industry (read more of Atkins’ thoughts about onboarding leaders here).
The coaching experience not only inspires and empowers the company’s new leaders, but also makes them feel supported by their employer while offering an ally and sounding board as they move through the 90-day learning program.
Three Types of Learning for Leaders
Employers who want to support new leaders may not know where to start. Watkins defined three types of learning for new leaders:
- Technical learning focuses on “customers, products, technologies, and systems, as well as getting up to speed with the specifics of the organization’s roles, goals, capabilities, KPIs, and performance.”
- Cultural learning “is about understanding the key behavioral norms that govern ‘how we do things here’ as well as how to speak the local language (e.g., acronyms).”
- Political learning “is about understanding how decisions are made and how power and influence work, as well as identifying the key stakeholders and clarifying the decision-making processes.”
Which learning area to target depends on the new leader’s background. For example, if they were promoted from within the company, they may already be fluent in the company culture but may need support in political learning– how their decisions influence their direct reports.
The answers to the following questions can provide clarity as to what type of support your new leaders may require:
- What systems and procedures will they need to learn?
- What data will give them a good idea of where the company stands?
- Are there any unspoken “rules” about the company culture that would be helpful for them to know?
- Does the company use certain sayings or acronyms associated with its culture?
- Who are the important stakeholders, founders, and executives they may need or want to interact with, and what is the best way to communicate with them?
The Importance of Feedback
Participants in the ADP program reported that the in-depth feedback they received from their talent manager and coach was the “most valuable and actionable developmental experience of their entire career.”
Feedback is far more than telling someone they did well or need improvement; in this case, it’s developing clear expectations for leaders who, despite the qualifications that earned them the role, may not know how to navigate their new position. Without guidance, new leaders can feel isolated and forced to appear like they know what they’re doing when they don’t–dissonance that can be reduced through a focused and well-organized learning program.
ADP’s program demonstrates the many benefits of supporting leaders via mentorship, learning opportunities, and feedback. An in-house survey of program participants revealed the following:
- 75% of leaders reported that coaching had a significant impact on their ability to uplevel teamwork.
- 63% of leaders indicated that coaching had a significant impact on increasing productivity.
- Several leaders shared that they were energized by the coaching experience and felt that it accelerated their readiness for new challenges.
When employers set up new leaders for success they cultivate confident, competent contributors who bring out the best in their teams.
For information on my executive coaching service offerings, visit my coaching page.