Situational Leadership and Executive Coaching, Part 2

As I mentioned in Part 1 of the post, one interesting discovery I had is that Situational Leadership is also applicable to Executive Coaching.

“Executive coaching requires exceptional leadership and questioning skills to be effective. At no point is leadership more important than in assisting clients in defining their performance issues and identifying the underlying causes.”

This is how Paul Hershey and Roger Chevalier began their article on Situational Leadership and Executive Coaching, and it made me stop and think, again, about how asking powerful questions can make a difference in the coachee’s self awareness and create that “aha” moment. The first time I heard about asking powerful questions, I wasn’t sure what that really meant. But as our coaching class did the exercises on coming up with what we thought were powerful questions and discussed which were and weren’t, then I began to understand.

They added an Executive Coaching Guide to Situational Leadership to show how it provides a structure to guide executive coaches in working with their clients. The principle is the same in that executive coaches must adjust their leadership styles to their client’s readiness to perform a given task. Readiness refers to ability and willingness.

As a performance aid, the Executive Coaching Guide provides a process and a two-phased framework for interviewing, counseling and coaching situations. The first phase focuses on asessing a client’s readiness in dealing with each of his issues, performance or otherwise, and choosing an appropriate leadership style. Assessing readiness helps the coach choose the appropriate leadership style to work with his client. The coach asks open-ended questions to assess how the client sees the overall situation and gain insight on the his issues. The readiness level for each issue may vary.

The second phase focuses on selecting the appropriate leadership style to intervene in a manner that has the best probabilty of a positive outcome for the client. The coach matches his coaching leadership style, choosing from the following:

  • R1 – Client is unable and unwilling or not confident
  • S1 Prescribe – 1. Presents alternative courses of action. 2. Identify the best course of action. 3. Inform, describe, instruct, and direct.
  • R2 – Client is Unable but willing or confident
  • S2 – Develop – 1. Discuss ways to improve performance. 2. Reach agreement on best course of action. 3. Guide, persuade, explain, and train.
  • R3 – Client is able but unwilling or not confident
  • S3 – Reinforce – 1. Reinforce the process used and the progress made. 2. Reinforce self-worth and self esteem. 3. Encourage, support, motivate, and empower.
  • R4 – Client is able and willing or confident
  • S4 – Follow-up – 1. Document session in clien’t record. 2. Follow through on all commitmenets. 3. Monitor progress and prepare for next session.

Leading with questions in one of the most critical skills of executive coaches in working with clients to analyze performance gaps and causes, to set a reasonable and achieveable goal, to process options and decide on a course of action that moves the client forward.

The Executive Coaching Guide is published in Coaching for Leadership, Writings on Leadership from the World’s Greatest Coaches, Edited by Marshall Goldsmith, Laurence S. Lyons, and Sarah Mc. Arthur.

Situational Leadership and Executive Coaching, Part 1

In some of the continuing executive education classes I’ve taught where we did the Leader Effectiveness and Adaptability Description (L.E.A.D.) self-assessment questionnaire exercise developed by Paul Hershey and Kenneth Blanchard, I found out that many managers and executives are not familiar with the concept of Situational Leadership.

For those who did the exercise for the first time, it was definitely an eye opener for them to discover that their preferred or default leadership style may not always be the most appropriate in all situations. There is no one size that fits all in terms of leadership styles. It was also an eye opener that there is a model that one can use to assess the readiness of one’s team and team members and then adapt one’s leadership style.

In a nutshell, the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory states that instead of using just one style, successful leaders must change their leadership styles based on the task maturity of the team they are leading, and the realtionship and support the team needs to get the work done.

As tasks vary in complexity while the team’s ability to do the task also varies, managers can give more or less attention to the task vs. the realtionship and support to the team.

According to Hersey and Blanchard, there are four main leadership styles:

  • Telling (S1) – Leaders tell their people exactly what to do, and how to do it.
  • Selling (S2) – Leaders still provide information and direction, but there’s more communication with followers. Leaders “sell” their message to get the team on board.
  • Participating (S3) – Leaders focus more on the relationship and less on direction. The leader works with the team, and shares decision-making responsibilities.
  • Delegating (S4) – Leaders pass most of the responsibility onto the follower or group. The leaders still monitor progress, but they’re less involved in decisions.

Leadership Styles S1 and S2 focus on getting the task done, while Styles S3 and S4 focus on developing the team members’ abilities to work independently.

One interesting discovery I had is that Situational Leadership is also applicable to Executive Coaching. Read more about this in Part 2.