In the culinary world, a catch-all for improving a dish is to “just add salt.” While that might help in some cases, it certainly isn’t a universal fix. A dish may require more acid—a squeeze of lemon or a splash of balsamic vinegar. Or it might need a little granulated sugar or honey to cut the bitterness. Or it could be enhanced by specific herbs or spices—sage, rosemary, a dash of turmeric, a sprinkle of fennel seeds. In short, cooking is complex and there is no single way to improve a dish.
The same is true for leadership teams.
Your team is multi-faceted, unique, and complex. When you put them through standardized training, that’s the equivalent of throwing more salt into a dish. This approach can be helpful at times, but it certainly lacks the subtlety and effectiveness of personalized coaching programs.
That’s because training is very different than coaching. Training programs often revolve around a specific skill or competency, and their delivery is usually one-size-fits-all. They also tend to be brief (an afternoon lunch-and-learn, or a series of short workshops), with little or no follow-up.
On the other hand, coaching (the kind we practice, at least!) is more personalized, focuses on mindsets and behaviors, and is designed to be long-term and sustainable. This type of coaching can directly address a team’s key issues and growth areas. (For a more in-depth discussion on training vs. coaching, read our article on the topic.)
As coaches, we’ve found that cohort programs are often the most effective way to elevate and improve leadership teams.
Through these programs, we identify the main issues facing a team and work collaboratively to solve them. Common trouble spots we’ve addressed are:
A lack of momentum, motivation, or focus
Poor team dynamics or lack of cohesion
Feelings of overwhelm or frustration
Keep in mind, not all coaching programs are created equally!
When considering options for your leadership team, keep these 4 key features in mind:
1. Personalized to the team
Every leadership team is unique. As coaches, we’ve encountered myriad personalities, demographics, interpersonal dynamics, communication styles, work responsibilities, and perspectives. So naturally, we approach each team a little differently. We’ll work differently with a team that is more introverted, for example, than a team that is more outgoing/extroverted. Or, we’ll shift our approach for teams that tend to be more analytical than creative.
Demographics matter, too. We have found through personal experience and neuroscience research that there are fundamental and key differences between female and male leaders. We wouldn’t go as far as saying, “Men are from Mars; women are from Venus,” but even small differences can have a profound impact. We discuss those differences in our article about how companies are failing women leaders.
2. Collaborative/shared growth experience
When it comes to coaching, collaboration is key. We believe in dialogues, not lectures. And in participation, not passivity. A leadership team needs to be engaged and have a stake in their future success. Effective cohort programs facilitate this kind of engagement and provide opportunities for collaboration among teammates.
Part of the reason cohort programs can be highly effective is because of our human tendency to collaborate. From the early days of humanity, we found success as a species when we shared resources, worked together to raise children, or protected each other from threats. Even for the introverted among us, the impulse to belong to a group still remains.
That’s why cohorts are a natural way to achieve collective growth. Working as part of a team, leaders can gain support, resources, and motivation they would not have experienced if they were working on solo self-improvement.
3. Science-backed (neuroscience)
If you’re familiar with The Disruptive Element, you know we’re big believers in using reputable data and brain science to guide our coaching. When so many scientific studies and insights into the human condition exist, why leave coaching to chance? We believe it’s better to let credible data and neuroscience guide our methodologies and approaches.
Because brain science is directly linked to workplace success. It is relevant when it comes to learning and retaining information. It is crucial when developing new routines or habits. And it is an absolutely essential part of effective communication (which includes giving quality performance feedback, clearly articulating one’s message, and becoming a persuasive/motivational speaker). When a cohort program is rooted in neuroscience and backed by data, the transformations that can be achieved are astonishing. We’ve witnessed it time and again.
The ultimate goal of any worthwhile coaching program is to create a lasting impact. It should aim to create positive new habits, spark dialogues, build practical skills, and forge enduring connections. When seeking a cohort program for your leadership team, pay attention to the results. What are people saying about the program? What are the lasting effects?
Effective coaches understand they will not be a company presence forever. Eventually, the program will end, and they will have to step back from their role.
Because of this, the coach’s job isn’t just to provide information, but to build infrastructure—systems, methodologies, and mindsets that endure long after they’ve said their goodbyes. When hiring a coach, be sure to ask about their approach to facilitating long-lasting, sustainable change.
Your leadership team is complex, multi-dimensional, and brimming with potential. If you’d like to activate this potential and elevate performance, ditch the two-hour lunch-and-learns! Real change comes from sustained, collaborative work that is rooted in neuroscience and customized to fit the unique strengths and challenges of your team. When you go beyond “just adding salt,” amazing transformations are possible.
To learn more about our cohort program designed for leadership teams, check out In OUR Element.