Leadership coaching vs. leadership conferences

by | Feb 7, 2020 | Leadership

When I was a high school teacher, I really enjoyed attending conferences. I learned a lot from experts in the field, networked with other professionals, and went back to work inspired to change what I was doing in the classroom. When I returned to work, I always had the best intention of applying what I had learned but often went back to my old ways of doing things. I noticed other teachers doing the same thing when I was a high school teacher, principal, and president. 

Leadership conferences and single offering workshops are popular and can provide the following benefits for attendees:

  1. Current trends and best practices in leadership
  2. Opportunities to network with presenters and other attendees
  3. Exposure to new ways of thinking or doing things
  4. Inspiration to improve

Unfortunately, many people attend conferences and workshops but do not apply what they learned back at their job. They go back to work and keep doing what they were doing before. We often know what needs to change, but we do not actually change. To illustrate this point, there are studies that indicate a high percentage of heart attack victims do not change their lifestyle factors for the long term even though they have experienced a heart attack and understand the importance of a healthy diet and exercise. While conferences and workshops have their benefits, they do not provide the follow up and accountability that most attendees need. One thing companies can do to improve employee performance is to set up a system to ensure information learned at conferences is shared with other employees. In addition, they can create leadership development plans to track how well conference or workshop content is applied on the job. 

Leadership / executive coaching is an individual experience that provides the following benefits: 

  1. Individualized leadership development plan to structure the improvement process
  2. Regular follow up and accountability to ensure new skills and behaviors are implemented
  3. Deeper awareness of leadership abilities and opportunities for improvement
  4. Opportunities to discuss leadership successes and failures with an expert to better understand what really happened

Leadership conferences and workshops are typically short term in nature, and leadership / executive coaching is an ongoing process. One off training can be affordable compared to a long term coaching engagement. However, coaching has a better chance of ensuring long term leadership growth occurs. 

There are many advantages of using a coach from outside an organization to provide objective feedback and structure for improving leadership skills. Our leadership and executive coaching projects typically begin with an assessment that helps us develop a customized leadership development plan for the coachee. We often use a 360 degree feedback process to gather information from direct reports, supervisors, customers, and peers. In addition, other leadership assessments are used as needed. We recognize that behavioral change takes time. As a result, coaching projects require a minimum six month commitment to ensure follow up, progress monitoring, and time for change. Coaching can occur in person, through videoconference, or on the phone. Our goal is to build up the capacity of leaders rather than build up the leader’s dependency on the coach.