Corporate Leadership Development Programs: Coaching v. Debriefing


How to Utilize Executive Coaching and Debriefing in Corporate Leadership Development Programs

For those of us who have been in leadership roles for many years, we’ve seen a sea change in leader development. In today’s management environment, new forms and tools of development have emerged. Foremost among them is executive coaching, a common element of corporate leadership development programs. The number of executive coaches has more than doubled in the past decade and corporate leader development programs are utilizing their services more frequently.

Although I, and my team at Afterburner Inc., have consulted with executives and management teams in Global 1000 companies all over the world, I thought that I knew very little about the practice of executive coaching. So, I decided to learn more about what executive coaching was and how it was done. I did some reading, spoke with leading academics in the field and even observed some executive coaches in action. When I stepped back and took in what I had learned, I realized that coaching was fundamentally a practice that my team and I have been teaching and facilitating in the corporate world for the past 16 years – debriefing.

Leveraging Leadership Development

What I’ve recognized as the significant difference between the Flawless ExecutionSM S.T.E.A.L.T.H. Debriefing process and executive coaching practices is two-fold. First, coaching practices struggle to get to the actionable objectives for change. That’s where the highly subjective talent and skill of the coach come in to play. Second, coaching is less process-driven than proper debriefing. Successful coaching is dependent upon the individual style and skill of the coach and the character traits of their client. Successful debriefing, however, is driven by a repeatable, structured process that leverages leadership development across the team – or the enterprise.

Let’s look at some of the elements of the S.T.E.A.L.T.H. Debriefing process for comparison with executive coaching practice.

►  For debriefing, setting the right “nameless and rankless” tone is critical. The approach is to create an environment where the full team seeks truth over harmony. Unlike a one-on-one coaching exercise, debriefing is a replicable approach that develops leadership at the team level.

►  Always debrief to clear and measurable objectives. In most instances, debriefing occurs at the end of a project or plan with the objectives of that project or plan clearly identified. In executive coaching, there is often some objective behavior that has to be identified first, usually through formal 360 degree feedback processes, before the coach can help the client move forward.

►  The S.T.E.A.L.T.H. Debriefing process develops an actionable lesson learned that addresses each of the identified results – each success or error. A lesson learned is a set of steps intended to resolve the error or replicate the success of each of the root causes. For executive coaches, transferring the lesson means helping the client own and take appropriate action on what has been learned.

Accountability Driven with Afterburner Training Programs

Debriefing frequently in small teams builds accountability into every phase of plan execution as well as the day-to-day work of your team. Training, like Afterburner’s corporate leadership development programs, can help bring debriefing into your culture. But you can start developing leadership – and building increasing accountability within your teams — by encouraging debriefing.

How to utilize executive coaching and debriefing in corporate leadership development programs

If each member on your team had a successful executive coach, the coach could help each individual tackle personal goals a little at a time making incremental progress relatively frequently – usually about every two weeks. Since it may not be practical for every member of your team to be part of a corporate leadership development program, we recommend debriefing. You can debrief plans, projects, and similar events over the span of weeks or a month.

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James D. “Murph” Murphy, the Founder & CEO of Afterburner, Inc., has a unique and powerful mix of leadership skills in both the military and business worlds. Murph joined the U.S. Air Force where he learned to fly the F-15. He logged over 1,200 hours as an instructor pilot in the F-15 and accumulated over 3,200 hours of flight time in other high-performance aircraft.Through his leadership, Afterburner landed on Inc. Magazine’s Inc. 500/5000 List four times. Murph has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, BusinessWeek, Inc. Magazine, Newsweek, Meetings & Conventions Magazine and has appeared on CNN, Fox News, CNBC and Bloomberg News. Murph is the author of five bestselling books including, Flawless Execution, and has also been invited to speak at many of the world’s most notable business schools, including Harvard, Wharton, Cornell, Emory, Duke, MIT and Fudan University in Shanghai, China.