The hierarchy in a work environment often creates distance between employees and their supervisors. One way to solve this problem and empower your team members as a leader is to pick a coaching management style that benefits everyone.
In coaching leadership style, for instance, leaders help their team members take charge of their own performance through greater attention to their team’s day-to-day work and long-term goals.
Compared with traditional leadership styles, managers using the coaching leadership style are more likely to take time out of their day and check on their team members’ progress to help them achieve their own goals.
We’ve compiled a list of tips in this guide to help you become a better leader and a coach.
Becoming a leader and a coach
More than ever, leaders today are involved hands-on in championing their teams for excellence. Gone are the days of autocratic leadership, when managers directed unmotivated employees from the backroom. For this reason, today’s leaders are increasingly incorporating coaching techniques into their management style.
But why the shift? Coaching as a leader ensures that we’re leading and growing with our teams while helping them grow. Compared with other leadership styles, the coaching leadership style is hands-on, but while putting employees in the driver’s seat of their performance.
The 4 leadership styles
As identified by author and psychologist Daniel Goleman, managers could use four main leadership styles in the office.
Leaders could also view these styles as progressive stages, starting with onboarding a new team member. Each stage draws a connection between the development levels of employees and the supportive level of a manager to dictate how a work environment functions. These styles are:
- Directing: This style tends to favor new employees who need a high level of direction and a low level of supportive behavior. This method focuses on tasks rather than the relationship with the employee. The goal here is for the leader to motivate their employee and provide directions to complete tasks successfully. It’s a highly leader-driven style.
- Supporting: Here, the employee has gained experience and confidence. Now the leader steps in to focus on building a relationship. Even though they’ve become competent at completing tasks, creating a strong bond can increase employee engagement and motivation. This stage of the process is employee-driven and focuses largely on building a relationship.
- Delegating: At this point, the employee feels empowered and confident to proceed with minimal supervision. This is where leadership is most hands-off, with a low focus on direction and a low focus on building relationships. This, too, is an employee-driven stage.
- Coaching: This style of leadership is akin to mentoring. The leader works on development goals and continues to give the employee constructive feedback to improve their performance, but also looks at establishing a relationship. This coaching style is leader-driven.
As we can see, effective managers use a different style of leadership for employees at different stages of their careers. A good coach must always look at how to best exercise leadership skills for professional development as well as to improve work relationships. The most effective leaders determine employee needs and tailor their approach accordingly.
Who is a coach?
A coach is someone who aims to improve the performance of their coachee through motivating and inspiring progress. Although the roles look similar, coaches aren’t teachers but companions and guides who help individuals achieve their full potential.
Instead of teaching, coaching aims to help clients learn and find their own answers. And unlike mentoring, coaching tends to focus on the present and solving immediate problems instead of future goals. In the office, this looks like a hands-on, personalized, and communicative leadership style.
What is coaching leadership?
Coaching leaders work together with their teams to accomplish tasks and drive growth. This type of leadership is more democratic and involved.
Leadership coaching often focuses on ensuring employees are invested in the assignment because they understand the “Why” behind the assigned tasks. For this type of manager, effective coaching and emotional intelligence go hand-in-hand. They ensure that employees participate enthusiastically, receive constructive criticism, and problem-solve — all while avoiding micromanagement.
Leaders may choose to use a variety of coaching skills in the short term. When an employee’s self-awareness and confidence in the workplace grows, managers must adapt and use the most effective management style for where they are in their journey.
5 ways to implement coaching leadership
Coaching leadership may be a large departure from how we’re used to running things, but it’s worth taking the time to try out this form of democratic leadership if we want to develop our skills as career coaches. Here are some steps to get you started:
- Understand and acknowledge the weaknesses: While this may seem negative and unpleasant, managers must be aware of their own weaknesses and those of their coworkers. Only then can we effectively tap into the growth mindset and commit to improving ourselves and reaching our long-term goals.
- Know when to praise or provide criticism: Criticism is helpful, but only when it’s constructive. During our coaching conversations, we should consider our employee’s mental well-being, acknowledge a job well done, and identify areas of improvement.
- Schedule one-on-one meetings: This will help us focus on the individual and identify their specific concerns, weaknesses, struggles, and wins.
- Set clear goals for the team: The decision-making process should involve our coachees, and we should carefully consider timeframes and deadlines. Ensure the work is challenging and interesting but can reasonably be completed within the set parameters.
- Prepare an action plan: Having clear steps will make starting the process and tracking improvement much easier for all parties involved. Schedule regular check-ins for direct reports on progress or to solve concerns as they come up.
This transformational approach to working with our coachees can take a while to settle into, especially if we’re used to a different leadership style. But the more we use it, the more easily our coachees will participate in the planning process and be able to communicate their needs.
Tips to improve leadership skills
Need to brush up on leadership skills before switching to the coaching management style? We’ve got you covered with these first steps:
- Educate yourself
It never hurts to upskill, even when we’re confident in our leadership abilities. We can start by browsing courses, reading books, taking leadership classes to see what each offers, and bringing the best and most relevant practices into our workplaces.
- Personal reflection
Part of being a great leader is understanding how to identify our own strengths and weaknesses and seeing that in others. We can start this process by taking an inner journey to discover our strengths and weaknesses. Then we do our best to play to our strengths and work on our weaknesses.
- Ask your team
The coaching management style is democratic, and for a good reason. We spend most of our time working and directly communicating with our coachees. We should ask our team members what a great leader looks like to them, what tasks are important to accomplish, and inquire about any communication preferences or tips they’d like to see.
As managers and coaches, we’re always looking for the best way to connect with our team members and clients. So, keeping an open mind and a flexible approach is always good. Try out the coaching leadership style to see if it brings you the desired results.