Using Coaching Practices to Support Leadership and Management Development

  • By: Sean Dryer
  • Published Date: February 2017
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Between 2011 and 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) Project designed and delivered a wide range of programs to develop inspired leaders, sound management systems, and transparent governance at all levels of the health system to deliver more responsive services to more people. The LMG Project is the most recent program in 30 years of investment in stronger leadership and management by the USAID, with each project innovating to build on the lessons learned in the past.

One of these innovations has been the adoption of a suite of practices and techniques adapted from the field of professional coaching to support leadership, management, and governance activities. Prior to the LMG Project, Management Sciences for Health (MSH) had piloted this coaching approach in Nicaragua, Nigeria, and Tanzania. Due to promising early results, the LMG Project scaled up the approach, integrating these coaching practices into a wide range of programs with substantial variation in size, context, and the challenge addressed by the program.

The LMG Project’s approach to capacity building usually involves a facilitated participatory process in which the recipient of the support, usually a team within a health facility, selects a challenge and creates and implements an action plan to achieve a desired measurable result. Our approach to the use of coaching practices is usually to provide or train a coach for this team or individual, whose coaching is aimed at helping them overcome the barriers they experience in implementing the action plan.

We believe this approach has often been effective, but the integration of coaching practices has not always succeeded completely. In some cases, coaching does not take place as designed. In other cases, “coaching” sessions occur, but the content of these sessions is not consistent with the coaching practices as they are taught. In this technical brief, we examine five years of lessons learned on the enablers and barriers to successful integration of coaching practices to support leadership, management, and governance programs based on two standards of success: that coaching takes place, and that coaching adheres to the practices, methods, and principles adopted from professional coaching.