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Improving leadership potential at GE Financial

Decoding the success of GE's successful initiative in improving leadership performance

Improving and enabling leadership is an ever evolving concern for organizations looking to keep pace with the dynamical business environment. Often one of the biggest challenges is in providing a compelling solution to existing leaders to boost their performance while maintaining an ever important balance with their own sense of importance and being.

In 2008, GE found its enabler for leadership in Linda Sharkey (Founder member of The Marshall Goldsmith Group) where she would go on to do her best work in this space. She was able to integrate a system of internal coaching to help in the professional development of leadership.

“We started the process by interviewing GE leaders on the top challenges and obstacles facing them as leaders and from there we developed a leadership framework, focusing on the behaviours and competencies they needed to succeed as part of the organization.” -Linda Sharkey

These practices were touted by Jack Welch at the time as "best practice in leadership development." Linda explains that examination of leadership skills or impact made by these leaders was an essential part of the feedback for these individuals.

"Then we trained coaches from within GE to be able to debrief on all three instruments. Each leader had his/her own coach, who could interpret the results as part of the process and develop an action plan to help improve behaviours.”

She explains that this framework enabled them to provide a highly visual representation of key improvement areas for these leaders. The reactions from these individuals to such personalized feedback speaks for itself.

“The reaction to Leadership/Impact was interesting because the circumplex is very visual. As leaders, executives were clearly able to see how their behaviours and impact compared to other leaders’ in sometimes stark and startling terms. It’s pretty hard to ignore. From there we helped the leader pick one or two behaviours that they really wanted to make some improvement on, and that became the basis for the coaching process.”

Linda notes that after the coaching exercise 95% of the participants made improvements and she places a lot of credit for her accomplishment on the highly customized feedback which the process of internal coaching was able to facilitate.

Marshall Goldsmith himself praises Linda and has in a Harvard Business Review article goes on to explore the many unique challenges in internal coaching and settles upon:

1. Confidentiality

2. Credibility

3. Training

4. Time

You can read more about his opinions on coaching here.


Internal coaching methodologies can be a valuable asset to the longevity of an organizations. Time and time again we find people development and leadership development to be one of the cornerstones of continued harmony.

P.S you can read more about this case in greater detail here.

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