Coaching Styles, Part 1 – Overview

Being an effective coach is much harder than most people realize. The difficulty arises from the fact that you’re dealing with people. People are irrational, emotional and unpredictable. People have agendas that often differ from, and therefore conflict with, that of the organization. And because every person is unique, effective coaching requires you to be flexible in your approach.

That said, there are four basic coaching styles typically required during any given situation. Which style you use will depend on the individual being coached and the task or situation that forms the basis for your coaching activities. The four coaching styles are:

The Visionary
The Visionary excels at painting the big picture. They are the experts at recognizing and communicating where the team needs to go. They can explain why the direction is important and how all of the pieces fit together to produce the end result.

The Director
The Director’s job is to hand out individual work assignments. Their expertise lies in knowing the skill sets of each team member – the strengths and weaknesses – and assigning tasks to the best player for the job. They also provide accountability to make sure the job gets done.

The Mentor
Mentors are good at teaching new behaviors. They work with individuals to help them understand how to perform certain tasks and develop the skills necessary to excel at those tasks. Mentors are masters at observation and can sense what aspects of an individual’s performance require additional development.

The Cheerleader
Cheerleaders keep everyone focused on the game. They recognize when things go well and provide reward for a job well done. They also recognize when things seem to be slipping a bit and work to rally the troops.

There’s no style that trumps the rest. And while most people gravitate toward one primary style, all four are required to truly be effective. Those managers who have mastered the art of switching from one coaching style to the next will see better results from their efforts. And it follows that those who struggle to adapt their approach appropriately are more likely to be frustrated by the lack of improvement in the performance of their team.

Over the next few posts, I’ll discuss each style in more detail. I’ll offer some clues to help you identify your primary coaching style, although I bet you already know. I’ll provide you with some questions to ask to help diagnose which style is more effective for a given situation. And I’ll share some tips to help you apply each of the styles more effectively.

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