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So you walk out of your performance review satisfied but a little confused. You have exceeded expectations in terms of delivery and have been identified as talent but your boss says that you lack the necessary “gravitas” to progress. You don’t know what this means. Others have previously said that you need to develop your skill at managing “multiple stakeholder relationships”. Your boss said “it’s simple, what got you here won’t get you there”. They all seem to know what’s missing except for you – so you seek some help!

Approaching your HR business partner you are aware that, despite financial constraints, the organisation is prepared to invest in its talent but you also know that you have “one shot” to get it right and there are so many options. How do you choose?

‘On the Job’ Development

Nowadays many organisations prefer what they call “on the job” development. Mentoring, job rotation or “sideways moves”, and peer coaching can all help you grow and develop without even leaving your desk. The major advantage of these internal sources of development is that they build your organisational savvy and help broaden and enhance your network across the business. Your increased visibility and stronger network of relationships mean that you are in a position to be considered for more opportunities moving forward.

Executive Coaching

However, what if you still haven’t got to the bottom of this word “gravitas” and you feel unable to change your business relationships? You want to explore these issues and develop more self-awareness but you don’t want to appear weak to mentors or peers? Enter the Executive Coach. A coach is able to offer an external, objective view to give context to your development. Because they have worked with several people who face similar issues to you in other organisations, they can offer a non-judgmental and safe place to discuss your role, your vulnerabilities and help to build your confidence. Over a period of 6 months or so you will have a much clearer sense of what you are like at your best and how you can be this more of the time. You will have a plan of how to move forward and the confidence and motivation to make things happen. The mindset change that occurs with coaching often stays with us for life.

Behavioural Development Programmes

Yet, what if you know what you need to do but you just don’t know “how”. You understand, for example, that there are several relationships that you need to make stronger, or people you need to influence differently yet you don’t know how to do it. This is the realm of Behavioural Development programmes. They allow you to get feedback on your impact and then learn the skills and tools you need to do something differently. The advantage of this approach is that you leave with practical behavioural goals that you can immediately put into practice. Most agree that this intense developmental approach really works but the one thing that normally gets in the way is “time”. How can you give yourself enough time out of the office to really focus on your own development? Yet, it is the fast track option in many ways as you can achieve in 3, 4 or 5 days what might take 6 months from a coaching perspective. Unfortunately, because they can’t find the time for development, many choose to try and learn behavioural skills from a book or an online seminar instead.

So what is the answer? No doubt it is a combination of all of these approaches that will really make you a leader. We need to understand the what, the why and the how. Understanding your own organisational culture and how to navigate it, your mindset and vulnerabilities and building the skills to make a difference all play their part. More organisations are therefore looking at “blended learning” as the panacea for development for this reason. But, if you have to choose, here are some thoughts:

The Need: Organisational Savvy and Street Smarts

The Development Option: Mentoring, Peer Coaching, Job Rotation

The Timescales: 6 months +

The Advantages

  • Low Cost
  • Builds Networks
  • Broadens Experience
  • Develops others too (mentors and peer coaches etc.)

The Disadvantages

  • Internal Focus
  • Can collude with existing culture in an unhelpful way
  • Depends on the skill of mentors and managers

The Need: Understanding own mindset and getting external perspective

The Development Option: Executive Coaching

The Timescales: 6 months

The Advantages

  • External Expert
  • Safe environment
  • Long term shift in attitude

The Disadvantages

  • Takes time
  • Requires honesty and openness
  • Depends on engagement between coach, coachee and organisation

The Need: Developing behaviours and skill sets

The Development Option: Behavioural Development

The Timescales: 3-5 days

The Advantages

  • Fast-track development
  • Intense, memorable experience
  • Practical, develops toolkit for immediate use

The Disadvantages

  • 3-5 days out of office