“How do I get ahead?”

Many women ask themselves this question as they navigate their career. These women are successful, ambitious and well educated. Yet, even with their accomplishments, there are times they feel that they could use a map to help them avoid career pitfalls and find a more direct path to the positions they aspire toward.

These women have long accepted that they, like many others, face unique challenges in the workplace. They also know that with the right strategy in place, they can move beyond these challenges and find a career where they can leverage their talents, find a work-life harmony that suits them and reach new levels of success.

This is where a leadership coach comes into play.

When many hear the word “coach,” their minds turn to sports figures on the sidelines barking directions to their team. The origin of the word, though, is more Cinderella-esque – like a stagecoach. A method of transporting someone from where they are to where they want to be. It’s a great metaphor for the role a leadership coach fills.

A leadership coach is an individual, either male or female, who understands the landscape women are called to lead in and promotes action-based activities they can adopt to transport them from where they are to the better future they envision.

An effective coach:

  • Helps develop a vision, strategy, and goals. When women leaders work with a coach, they have the opportunity to think out loud and better articulate their vision. Once vision clarity is achieved, an effective strategy and goals follow. Most coaches engage their clients in coaching conversations on a consistent basis. This steady rhythm allows the coach to identify actions and milestones that their coachees can focus on, while ensuring that they – the coachhold them accountable.
  • Serves as a thought partner. An effective coach seeks to understand their client’s work environment, to include roles and responsibilities and all key stakeholders they interact with each day. When a coach understands their client’s ecosystem, they’re better able to advocate actions that connect to results. Those results can include better conflict management skills, how to be more confident in a boardroom environment or effective networking practices that enhance their coachee’s career perspective.
  • Expands self-awareness. Almost every coach provides their clients assessments to help them become more aware of their strengths, weaknesses and limiting behaviors.  Coaches also are great listeners.  As they pay attention to key themes and ideas their clients express, they’re able to identify trends that their clients might not be fully aware of, or even self-limiting behaviors that might represent an internal barrier the coachee has to work through, such as their confidence level or elements of imposter syndrome.

Most businesses invest in coaching for their women leaders because they recognize they only get the benefits of diversity when their diverse talent is able to thrive. They also know that an external coach gives their women leaders a safe space to be candid and honest, while allowing them to feel supported.

Leadership coaching is optimal for:

  • Senior female leaders who are considering what’s next in their career. These individuals could be at the top of their game and while there might not be a promotion available immediately, there are opportunities for the leader and their coach to explore to ensure these individuals continue to manage and lead their career effectively.
  • High-potential females who a business wants to engage and retain. While the war for talent is real, it’s worthy to consider what else organizations can do for female talent to ensure they’re continuing to grow and develop. Investing in their coaching could be the key that continues to unlock their potential while ensuring they remain committed to their success at the organization.
  • Women who’ve been targeted for succession planning purposes. Every leader needs focused development in preparation for new levels of responsibilities. Leadership coaching offers women leaders an opportunity to either develop or refine the skills they’ll need as they advance.

It should come as no surprise that the coaching field is crowded with individuals seeking to support the development of women leaders. To find a good fit, talk with coaches who are experienced, specialize in women’s leadership development, and have the ability to measure ROI on a coaching investment. The latter piece is key. Leadership coaching isn’t an expense: It’s not a nice to do. In many situations, it’s a necessary, need-to-do investment to ensure women leaders are achieving to their fullest potential.