Coaching and leadership development programs often lack a critical component to reinforce behavioral change. Ours did and this is what we learned.



coaching leadership programsWe all know that leadership development is ultimately about self development. And self development is about making personal change.
The challenge is that change is hard. It requires new mindsets, patterns of beliefs and modifying old habits. And when it comes to leadership development, or development of any kind for that matter, participants need support that can help provide the feedback, structure and reinforcement to make changes stick.




In the old days, we ran our leadership development programs largely based on a “self perspective” of whether the leader actually changed. In other words, assessment of true change was based on the participant’s perspective alone and not others.


That’s not wrong. It’s just not enough.


Participants – whether that’s a coachee in an executive coaching engagement or a person in a leadership development program – need to understand if they are changing from the perspective of others because there’s always a lag between when a leader makes a change and when their change is perceived by others. And it’s only when other people consistently observe the participant’s behaviors that the participant can confirm that the change has been made and move on. This is what creates an effective leadership development model.


Here’s an example:


Take Jim. He’s an incredibly driven leader and the classic over achiever. He’s been top notch in everything he’s done in life, from school to athletics to the workplace. He’s a member of an executive team for a mid-sized organization and reports directly to the CEO. He’s certainly on the fast track. The challenge for Jim is that his confidence is often perceived as arrogance and his drive is perceived as impatience. When he enters a room, people can feel his intensity. His presence alone literally shuts down conversation, and he doesn’t see it. In other words, he has a blindspot that generates dysfunctional team dynamics.

Jim needs ongoing feedback from his peers to see what he can’t see alone. He needs a strategic leadership development program.


Supporters: The Missing Components


The missing component in many leadership development and coaching programs are what we call “Supporters.” Supporters are people who provide ongoing feedback to the participant while they are in a development program. Without the ongoing perspective of Supporters, leaders rarely know how they are truly perceived or if their own perception is in alignment with how others perceive them. In many ways it’s like going to a football game and watching the game without a scoreboard. You can guess how your team is doing, but without visibly seeing the downs, yards gained or team scores, it’s hard to truly know if your team is winning or losing.


Want to drastically change the way the leadership development game is played? Then keep score. And your Supporters are critical components to doing that. In addition we have a cloud cloud-based leadership development tool that can do this for you and it’s free to try it out for your first product.


What to look for in Supporters


We generally recommend that participants have about five Supporters to observe their behaviors. Here are three key components to helping participants select good Supporters.

  1. Observation: Your Supporters need to be in a position to observe the participant in the workplace. If you are coaching an executive, Supporters might include peers on a leadership team or board members with whom they frequently interact. In many cases we’ll also include people lower in the organization to get an “others” perspective. For front line and senior level managers, you could also include direct reports and the participant’s manager. Ultimately your Supporters need to be people who can observe the participant in the workplace based on the goals they have for their development.
  2. Commitment: Supporters need to be committed to providing ongoing feedback. Typically this takes just a few minutes per month, especially if you are automating the process with a system like Coachmetrix. It’s important that the participant maintain good communication with the Supporter so that they know how long their commitment is needed.
  3. Objectivity: Finally, participants should look for Supporters who will provide honest feedback and not just positive feedback. That honest feedback helps the participant see what is not visible to them and is key to effective employee training tools.


The Bottom Line


This is an incredible industry to be a part of as we have the opportunity to significantly make a positive impact on the lives of others. Supporters play a critical role in helping create meaningful and sustainable change. We’d love to hear your ideas and how you have created effective leadership development programs. How have you utilized Supporters on your leadership coaching engagements, and what are some of the lessons learned that you’d be willing to share?


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