Many leaders have regular coaching. It is interesting to notice that sometimes, the behaviour of the leader doesn’t always improve with coaching. The person can be making great progresses on some specifics aspects but not obligatorily on the way he/she manages people.

Shadow coaching is an advanced observational coaching that provides an opportunity for leaders to go below the surface and get a deeper awareness and greater improvement by working in the moment.

The coach observes the leader in a real time situation in interaction with a person or a team and then coaches the person to reveal behaviours, sometimes unconscious ones and key improvements which generate strong changes for the best of the all team.

The main advantage compare to classic coaching is that it is not solely based on the person’s perception of his/her leadership, environment and performance but on observation. Developing awareness is key to improve. It often brings impressive impact on team motivation and performance. Using shadow coaching, the leader realises very quickly the direct correlation between his/her leadership style and the team engagement in action.

With shadow coaching, the process can be limited to the leader and his team or cascaded down to the step below with the managers and their own team and so on to have a wide and sustainable leadership impact across the organisation.

The reason why shadow coaching has such great impact is that it focusses on behaviours where and when it occurs. Because it is real time coaching it is as close as you can be to real life.

In training for example, one of the difficulty of making it valuable is the fact that it is done most often remotely from the work place and potentially disconnected to real life experience. To implement the learnings of a training, you need to use it straight away and consistently to make a difference. The usual handbook you come back with from training is very often joining a pile of similar handbooks from previous trainings in a drawer from which it will never go out of again.

When the level of trust between the leader and his team is good enough, team members can even be involved to contribute with feedback to help the leader improve more quickly.

As stated above, the leader is often unaware of what he/she really does during his/her team meetings, but when the person opens up and starts to be curious, amazing things can happen. In fact, people can really discover things they do unconsciously and it is often revealing. Each of our behaviours are the expression of some beliefs and we can sometimes pretend to have a certain belief and express a behaviours that shows the exact opposite. The only goal is to help the leader increase awareness to not be the unconscious instrument of behaviours, habits or defence mechanisms.

For the coach, shadow coaching is really exciting and rewarding because you have access to a wider perception of the dynamic of a team and can observe the direct cause and effect between the quality of the leadership and its impact on the environment. Month after month, session after session, you notice the changes and improvements and how everyone benefits from the process.

Denis Gorce-Bourge is an Executive Coach, Facilitator and Senior Consultant with 15 years’ experience, from on-to-one coaching to large scale programmes on Leadership and Management.