Skip to content

Coaching and leadership development: The impact of on-the-job learning

The current approach to leadership development is inadequate. How do we know that? Because when asked the question ‘does your organisation have bad leaders or managers?’ 100% of executives said yes.

As human beings, we absorb information from our environments. We copy others far quicker than we are able to learn by ourselves. And if we are managed by average, or bad leaders, we are far more likely to become average leaders ourselves. To put it simply, that sucks.

The problem with this system is that is relies too heavily on role models, who are often unaware of the bad habits they might be passing down. Leaders are taught based on outdated practices, and by the time they ascend to higher positions, their skills may not align to the needs of the organisation. And, to make things more difficult, our work environments are constantly evolving, and the type of leadership that worked well 40 years ago no longer flies.

If organisations want to ensure that they are adapting quickly enough to change, and are developing a pipeline of future leaders who are genuinely capable of meeting the demands of a modern workplace, then a different approach is needed.

On-the-job learning

One of the ways we can ensure this level of adaptability is through on-the-job learning: development that comes at the point of need, to address the specific challenges that individuals are facing. This type of learning has an astronomically larger impact than if people learn the theory at a time when it simply doesn’t matter as much to them. Learning on the job allows people to be more reflective, adaptable, and adjust their behaviour far quicker for better results.

These kinds of interventions are especially vital in the formative years of future leaders, before they pick up on the outdated leadership habits of their predecessors. By intervening during formative years, organisations have a massive opportunity to shape leaders who are adaptable, innovative and capable of navigating change.

Coaching interventions

One way of introducing on-the-job learning is through coaching. This could be through formal interventions, or through introducing a coaching mindset to leaders ­– training them to have the kind of coaching conversations with their team that could make all the difference to their performance, wellbeing, loyalty and results.

Experts agree that the problem with many leadership interventions is that they often lack real-world application, which makes the learning far harder to implement — resulting in much lower ROI. Coaching answers that problem; it takes the learning and applies it to real-life situations and challenges. It allows people to question their perspective and envision a different path for how things could turn out.

The Centre for Creative Leadership suggests that 70% of a leader’s learning comes through their own challenges and experiences (e.g. learning on-the-job). In these situations, coaching has a huge impact as it can maximise the takeaway and learning from these experiences. It encourages reflection and behavioural change when it might not otherwise occur, which can ultimately shape the future of your organisation.

Coaching or teaching?

At Ivy House, all of our facilitators are also world-class coaches. We have seen, time and time again, the impact that taking a coach-led approach to facilitation can have in the room. Rather than learning and development being a theoretical, detached event, it becomes highly practical, and instantly applicable to real life. Our facilitators are able to expertly dance between teach and coach, creating space for powerful moments of insight and personal growth in the room, for individuals and teams.

Coaching and leadership

It is also why we advocate for a coaching mindset in leadership. Extraordinary modern leaders take every opportunity to have coaching conversations with those in their team, in order to facilitate constant learning and growth. They use coaching as a mindset not a meeting, and they ask questions that stimulate reflection and self-development, rather than always providing the answers. They support individuals but don’t rescue them, and they use this skill to fully harness the potential and value of every single member of their team.

Ready to take the next step? If you are ready to make sure that the 70% of learning that happens on-the-job has the biggest positive impact possible, then learn more about how we can support you to do just.





Recent Awards won by Ivy House