a case for a sounding board

February 24, 2020

A leadership position undoubtedly brings with it enormous power and authority; and ironically, a deep sense of insecurity too. Having hardly anyone to connect with and share ideas and thoughts could aggravate this feeling. That is when a coach could step in and be a true guide.

Climbing the hierarchical ladder and reaching a leadership position, while being a gratifying career achievement and a chance to effect change and assume a decision-making capacity, can also be a journey that gets lonelier at every juncture. There are several reasons for this. Being in a leadership position—having access to confidential information as well as shouldering responsibility and putting a brave face against all odds—makes one face many pressures.  Being new to the role can often lead to tackling previously unknown obstacles which can be challenging. Not just this, but as a leader you will also find certain things which cannot be discussed with the team. Where earlier you may have been able to confide in your colleagues about certain organizational or leadership level pain points, now you are expected to handle the same with diplomacy. Additionally, while being on top means that there is a constant need to assess, evaluate and give feedback to your team, there are fewer people you can turn to for feedback on your problem areas.

This is where leadership coaches come into the picture. A coach can help leaders in several ways, including in aiding them to tackle loneliness at the top. Let us look at a few ways in which coaching can be beneficial.

It is often the case that when you work closely with someone on a daily basis, not only does understanding grow, but so does the ability to combat inputs of theirs that you do not agree with.

feedback and ideation

Often, leaders do not have anyone to bounce their ideas off. While you might discuss plans and execution ideas with your team, there are times when you either cannot divulge all the relevant information, or when you feel that the team is not equipped to give you feedback on a certain idea, plan, or even a decision to be made. Here, coaches can provide much-needed support and insight that can guide you to come to a conclusion. While coaches may not be subject matter experts, they are trained and experienced in asking the most pertinent and relevant questions—something your team may be unable to do. These questions help to determine whether you have thought through every aspect and every possible pitfall before making a decision, thereby giving you the confidence that you are doing the right thing. It is this sort of an approach that also helps with performance feedback. Coaches can not only provide their objective feedback to you as a senior leader but can also gather and collate 360-degree feedback, which is imperative for professionals to excel in the manifold aspects of leadership.

balancing confidence with introspection

Rajeev Shroff is founder of Cupela, and a transformation coach and consultant.

Especially for professionals who have newly assumed a leadership position, there is a degree of self-doubt in the decision-making process. Have you chosen the right candidate? Have you given the appropriate advice? Who are your actions going to affect? What if you are wrong? These are all questions that arise when you are responsible for an entire department or the organization as a whole. Coaches can help in building confidence so that you are not left with a see-saw of emotions and apprehensions. This usually begins with getting to know you and the decision making process you follow, and then suggesting modifications so that you find the right balance between data and intuition based decision making. By helping leaders develop a process flow for making decisions, coaches can strengthen confidence. While constant self-doubt can be crippling, coaches understand the importance of introspection. Your leadership functions require timely assessment and self-evaluation as well as a trustworthy reviewer. Coaches provide this time and space as well as show the path and instil the discipline required for effective and productive introspection.

bridge over troubled waters

It is often the case that when you work closely with someone on a daily basis, not only does understanding grow, but so does the ability to combat inputs of theirs that you do not agree with. Coaches can step into such a scenario and be the much-needed bridge between members of the senior leadership and the Board. Sometimes, when you as a leader do not see eye to eye with others in positions of power, an objective, outside voice that is trained and seasoned, needs to step in and mediate to help reach a consensus. In the best of cases, the mediation yields utmost productivity. However, there will be times when despite holding authority, responsibility and decision-making capability, you will face frustrations at the workplace. It could be that your leadership method is not working, that a problem seems insurmountable, or that a crisis has occurred despite your best efforts to avert it. No journey is without its hurdles, and often leaders need to hold in all their frustrations due to confidentiality or a conflict of interest. Your coach will prove to be the best listener in such cases. While a coach is technically outside of the organization, she/he is aware of your roles and responsibilities as well as the challenges you face every day. This makes for the perfect combination of objectivity, trust, and insight.

While a coach is technically outside of the organization, she is aware of your roles and responsibilities as well as the challenges you face everyday.

For the C-suite, there is an endless list of dos and don’ts and an ever-growing list of responsibilities. And so, as a leader, it is important to recognize and acknowledge that the more authority you have, the more pressure you feel, and the less your options of someone to lean on are. Coaches provide this sense of security—that will empower you to not only be successful in your role, but also to enjoy it.