“What if We Invest in Our Leadership and They Decide to Leave?”

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It’s a question I hear all the time. “What if we invest in coaching and leadership training opportunities for our leaders and they decide to leave?” Now, tell me if you’ve heard this one: “What if you don’t invest leadership development… and they stay?”


It’s understandable that organizations are worried about this. Leadership Development through high-impact coaching or development programs can be a big investment that may seem wasted if a leader leaves during or shortly after a leadership engagement. But looking at it from this perspective is an example of being problem focused. Instead, outcome-focused leaders and companies recognize that investing in coaching and leadership, no matter the length of time a recipient stays, positions the organization for success. Bottom line: While there is a risk that a leader may look for new opportunities, to flex new skills, outside your organization, the risk is absolutely worth the reward.


Building a Culture of Improvement


First of all, it’s important to understand that the risk of a leader leaving immediately following a coaching engagement is minimal and perhaps even minimized. Leaders who are engaged and given the opportunity to learn, grow and improve are much more likely to stay with their current company.


When you invest in leadership coaching and development for your leaders and high performers, you are demonstrating your commitment to them and to their success. Your interest and commitment create a positive environment, where people are encouraged to practice their leadership skills. Not only does this development benefit your organization by giving you stronger bench strength, a larger pool of skills and abilities, it also reduces the risk of turnover and is yet another tool to help attract top talent to your team.


Developing the Right Team


Many organizations hesitate to provide leadership development opportunities to their leaders because they are either waiting for a change initiative to be complete or they are waiting for their so called dream team. They only want to invest in leaders they feel are the future of the organization, and if not 100% sure, they don’t want to risk “wasting” the opportunity (and funds).


Again though, this is a reactive, problem-focused way of thinking, and while conservative and ‘safe’, a problem-focus does not lead to positive outcomes. Instead, problem-focused thinking leads to avoidance of said problem – a different, less effective place entirely. Consider this – how can you build your dream team without first investing in your leaders? How do you identify who is the right fit for your organization, and who has the skills and abilities required to lead your company into the future?


At this point, it’s important to define the concept of positive turnover. If, during a coaching engagement, one of your leaders realizes or surfaces that they are not completely satisfied in their current role and that this ‘lack of satisfaction’ is having a negative impact on their performance, they may decide they are better off looking for a new opportunity before things go too far downhill or before they impact others. This is an example of positive turnover. It doesn’t matter how skilled they are – if a leader is unhappy, their motivation will suffer, and this lack of motivation will filter down to their productivity and through the rest of their team. The resulting environment does little to advance your organization toward your desired outcomes.


Think about it. While there is a short-term cost of bringing in a replacement, in the long term, your organization benefits by having leaders who are fully committed, satisfied, and passionate about what they are doing. Only when this is in place will you be able to get the full potential from your leaders and their team. But if you aren’t investing in your leaders from the beginning, you may never identify the leaders who are not the right fit, and you may never end up with the dream team you envision.


My Challenge to You – Don’t be Paralyzed by Your Fear of Unclear


Too often, I see enterprises delay the decision to invest in leadership coaching and development programs because they are afraid it may not be the right time. When this occurs, I take them through a series of outcome-based questions to help them determine the best course of action. If you’re paralyzed by your fear, or things seem unclear, ask yourself:


  • What outcome will be realized by not investing in my leaders? Does this position my organization for success?
  • What return on investment can be expected if I wait versus starting the engagement now?
  • Am I simply maintaining the status quo for “peace of mind”? Does this truly move me closer to my desired outcomes?
  • Is it better to realize a leader is not the right fit, and perhaps not performing at 100%, now or in the future?


I think it’s clear, after answering these questions, that the wait and see approach does nothing to move your organization forward. Investing in your leaders is something that benefits everyone, and while it’s true that some may not end up staying, that doesn’t mean you should avoid providing coaching altogether.


When you develop your leaders, you set your organization up for the best chance at success possible. You create an environment where people are engaged, motivated, and able to perform at their best.



Jennifer Collins is CEO and Managing Director of Hazell and Collins Associates (HCA). Learn more about HCA’s Leadership Strategy and Coaching Services

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