In our current era, the concept of what workplaces look like is rapidly changing. As such, many managers are seeking to improve their leadership abilities to keep up with the times. Old modes of hierarchy in the workplace are becoming obsolete. The management style of “do as I say,” highly popular in past decades, is no longer as effective or relevant in today’s world.
Finding new ways to approach management will be vital for the future. One method for this is through a Coaching style of leadership. In this article, you will find all of the information you might need to start on the path to becoming a Coaching leader.
What is Coaching Leadership?
At its most basic, this style of leadership is exactly as it sounds, a manager will act as a coach to their employees.
Leaders intending to use coaching leadership must have a deep interest in the development of their subordinates. By building these relationships, coaching leaders can better understand their staff's individual long-term goals and how to best help them achieve them.
This leadership style is designed around creating a strong base of employees that will become invaluable assets in the future. Personal growth and development are key points of focus for people using Coaching leadership.
In the 1960’s Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey developed the theory of situational leadership. In their writings, they outline four major leadership styles. According to their theory, it is important for managers to have the flexibility to utilize all four as is appropriate. There is no one method that can be applied to every situation, so it is crucial that managers be familiar with different styles of leadership.
In 2007 Blanchard updated the four major leadership styles to be: coaching, delegating, supporting, and directing. It is in these articles where we find the initial outlines for coaching leadership.
There are four main characteristics found within this style of leadership: colleague coaching, leadership agility, empowerment, and feedback.
People seeking to use coaching leadership will often need some level of training themselves. It is important for these leaders to have a high level of self awareness when it comes to communication.
Leadership agility is integral to this leadership style because there is such a heavy emphasis on meeting the needs of individual employees. There is no blanket approach that can satisfy every member of the team. As such, coaching leaders must be able to adapt to the needs of their subordinates.
A coaching leader will empower their employees to become better. Whether that is through training, further education, or simply trying out new things. These leaders are focused more on long term goals and improvement than on meeting short term deadlines.
The last characteristic is feedback, which will be both for the leader and the staff. Knowing how work could have been done better is a major step towards enhancing future performance. Leaders must also be ready to listen about how their management style might be affecting people. Having this open dialogue is an essential part of the coaching leadership style.
- Open Communication
Coaching leadership is dependent on the communication abilities of both the leader and their employees. Both parties must feel comfortable talking with each other and open to feedback, whether it be positive or negative. People that intend to use this style of leadership must be excellent communicators. Being trained in how to properly coach employees is also helpful.
- Investment in employees
Since individual development is a central idea for this style of leadership, a company that intends to use it must be ready to invest in its employees. Properly utilizing coaching will take time, money, and resources. While it may seem like a large expenditure initially, over time, the result will be more productive and knowledgeable staff. Employees are also more likely to spend more time with a company where they feel supported and valued.
- Better awareness of issues within the company
Because of the emphasis on communication with this leadership style, employees can help management to identify problems that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. Then, when working as a team, solutions to these issues can be solved more effectively and for the longer term.
- Long term performance improvement
By setting goals with employees and putting a plan in place to achieve them, their ability to do quality work will drastically increase over time. Providing training opportunities and consistent, helpful feedback is an investment for the company’s future. Having a base of knowledgeable and dedicated staff is an asset that any business should aspire to.
- Improved job satisfaction
Under the Coaching leadership style, both managers and employees will feel a higher sense of job satisfaction. This leads to a higher level of worker retention. If people feel important and valued at their job, they are more likely to stay with the company for longer.
- Not all employees have the same needs
This may seem obvious, but each employee is their own unique individual. With that comes different needs and motivations. Attempting to apply a standardized system that will satisfy the goals of all employees is near impossible. If a leader lacks the time or desire to adapt their strategy to fit each employee, it will be difficult to properly use coaching leadership.
- Workplace cultures can vary widely
Different types of businesses will have different types of work environments. Not all of them are well suited to the Coaching Leadership style. For example, it will be more difficult in a company that has a more structured sense of hierarchy. Having open lines of communication between the higher ups and lower level employees is critical.
- Time pressure
If the leader does not have adequate time to individually get to know each staff member under them, they may struggle to coach them effectively. Building these relationships takes a significant amount of time and effort. Initially, there may be a need to sacrifice short term goals in order to lay the groundwork for future success. This is not always possible and should be taken into consideration before choosing this method.
How to Effectively Use Coaching Leadership
- Seek out communication trainings
As the manager, your communication skills are of utmost importance. Without a leader that is capable of clearly communicating with others, this leadership style will fail. Take the time to find seminars or courses that can help you improve these skills. Courses on emotional intelligence are a great place to start.
- Make time for one on one meetings
A crucial part of this leadership style is knowing the people that work for you. While it does take time, having solo conversations with employees will give you a better sense of the needs of each individual. Having regular meetings also provides a more comfortable environment for feedback and opens the lines of communication between management and staff.
- Set concrete goals
In order to effectively coach people, you must work together to set goals. Writing these goals down will help to solidify them and aid in tracking progress down the road. Setting up meetings at regular intervals is a great idea to keep things on track and check back in. Both staff and managers can benefit from this practice, and having discussions about specific objectives can help to hold everybody accountable for improvement.
When to Avoid a Coaching Leadership Style
- Under a time crunch
Being an effective Coach takes time. Effectively setting the ground work for this style of leadership will not be a quick process. In certain businesses, where the work needs to be completed rapidly, training and talking with staff frequently may not be a feasible option.
- With unwilling staff
The success of this leadership style is dependent on the willingness of all parties involved to communicate and improve. If the workers have no interest in setting long term goals with the company or in enhancing their skills, it will not be successful. Employees and managers must also both be open to receiving constructive criticism and acting on it.
Examples of Coaching Leadership
The most obvious example of this leadership style would naturally be a sports coach. In order to ensure that the team will win games, a coach must know the strengths and weaknesses of each player. With this knowledge, they are able to place team members in positions where they will be the most helpful. If a coach is familiar with the areas that individual players need to improve on, time spent training can be optimized.
This is the same approach that a person in the business world should bring to their coaching leadership. Working to improve the skills of each employee as is appropriate will inevitably lead to the overall improvement of the team.
You will also often find this leadership style present in schools. Many schools will help their teachers get their master’s degree in education. By making this investment, they are increasing the level of knowledge that their staff possess in order to provide better education for their students.
That value is then passed on from the teachers to their students as they help each of them to succeed in their academic careers.
- Satya Nadella
Since 2014 Nadella has been the CEO of Microsoft. Under his guidance, the company has seen an annual growth rate of 27%. When he became the CEO, Nadella updated Microsoft’s mission statement to be “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.” His emphasis on empathy and collaboration has led to unprecedented levels of success for the company. Nadella is both beloved and revered for his skills as a leader.
- Jurgen Klopp
As a renowned soccer team manager, Klopp led the Liverpool team to a Premier League title win for the first time in their history. He is well known for being very close with his players. Knowing the team members personally has allowed him to help them train at a higher level and achieve astounding victories. Many players have talked about how empowering he is as a manager. He is truly able to help people be their best. Klopp sees the success or failure of his team as his own, this is evident in how he reacts on the side lines. After good matches, it is not unusual for him to run out onto the field in excitement and bear hug every player.
While any person in a position of power should be familiar with many methods for leadership, the coaching style can be a great place to start.
By using the coaching leadership style, managers can gain a better understanding of the people that work for them. Through familiarity with the concerns and needs of their staff, a leader is better able to move forward and guide their company to success.
Increasing the levels of communication and empathy between management and workers can do marvels for lifting everyone’s spirit. Finding a renewed sense of purpose through mutual support and understanding will lead to long term benefits for both the company and its employees.