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Why Your Leadership Development Plan Should Not Include Coaching One Leader at a Time

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.
Published on June 27, 2017

The smartest organizations, and the ones that will prove to have staying power in the marketplace, are the ones that have established a comprehensive leadership development plan. What exactly does comprehensive mean in this context? It means that not only should the leadership development plan look at the obvious core of current C-Suite and hi-potential leaders, but it should also be extended simultaneously to a wide span of company leadership.

Would a farmer plant one seed and tend only to that seedling to make sure it grew to complete development? Probably not. A smart farmer would plant a whole field of seeds and use tools – like irrigation, plows, and tractors – that allow him to grow hundreds of burgeoning crops all at once.

The same applies to grooming business leaders to reach their potential. With the right tools, a comprehensive leadership plan can be brought to fruition. Coaching is one of the tools that can help develop leaders in a manner that is systematic and can align leaders from across the company with the right skills. Done correctly, coaching can be scaled to the entire group simultaneously. Yet, by many reports, some companies are missing the mark. Just take a look at these stats from Brandon Hall’s 2015 State of Leadership Development Survey:

83% of organizations surveyed said that targeted development for all leader levels is important or very important.

Yet only 5% have implemented a leadership development plan that covers all levels of leadership.

In business leadership, like most other aspects of business, scalability is the name of the game. A companywide leadership development plan should be systematic in addressing leaders at all levels at the same time. At the core, one-off leadership coaching can provide an environment of disparity – where leaders are not on the same page.

Here are some of the most compelling reasons why one-off leadership development tactics are a mistake:

Your Organization is Only Benefiting in a Localized Way

In short, if you decentralize the leadership development plan and coach one- by-one, your organization is risking developing leaders in isolation of broader company goals. While Business Unit #1 may be seeing tremendous improvement from the top down due to leadership coaching, Business Unit #2 is getting hungry waiting for a seat at the table. Rather than creating small ripples, one at a time, it’s more beneficial to create a wave of leadership improvement by scaling leadership coaching to a vast portion of the leadership team.

Lack of Mutual Accountability Among Leadership Peers

Leadership often revolves around a group of people functioning together as a unit and relying on each other to follow through on their respective tasks and responsibilities. Holding yourself accountable is a challenge by itself. However, leadership peers should hold each other accountable too. If multiple leaders are being coached at the same time, they can hold each other accountable. They can have commune around the exciting new leadership skills they’re learning. They can provide more feedback – to each other and the organization as a whole – on the state of leadership and specifically their own leadership training.

The Increase in Performance of Your Leadership Team is Too Slow

In this business world of “better, faster, smarter,” it’s a terrible mistake to moderate the pace of development of an organization’s business leaders. If effective tools are available to scale a leadership development plan to a larger group, why would an organization coach their leaders one-by-one? To realize compounding gains in performance among leaders, organizations should plan to coach their leaders simultaneously. Otherwise, that organization simply is not increasing performance as fast as they could have.

The Chosen Leader Evolves Faster and Might Become Disenfranchised

By extending leadership coaching on a one-by-one basis, select leaders will evolve faster than others in his or her peer group. In our experience, this might leave them feeling disenfranchised, waiting for others to incorporate the same principles into their day-to-day leadership activities. They will be using different language, adopting new exciting approaches… and they’ll be the only one for a while. Conversely those leaders to whom coaching was not made available, may feel excluded and as a result become disengaged. By launching a more comprehensive initiative to a much larger group, leaders will feel more fellowship around the coaching they receive. They’ll feel like they are part of something special – together.

If your organization has already created a leadership development plan, step one is behind you. Figuring out how to effectively transform that leadership development plan into an action requires involving a wider leadership audience within the organization and is the next order of business.

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