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The Champion Forum Podcast

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TCFP205: Leaders are Coaches

Thank you for listening to The Champion Forum Podcast with Jeff Hancher! Over the past year, I have heard many leaders share that they want to adopt a coaching style of leadership. While this can be an excellent approach for many leaders and can lead to greater employee engagement, some teams are different and require another approach. Today, we will discuss the pros and cons of a coaching leadership style and how you can apply this strategy to lead your team.

Coaching Leadership is when a leader coaches their team to develop and improve over time. Coaching leadership builds engagement and focuses on training employees to become better individuals and professionals in the long term. This style of leadership can be challenging and time-consuming and requires the leader to be good at providing clear direction and support.

Characteristics of Leaders who use a Coaching Leadership Style

  • Help their teams learn and grow personally.

  • Understand their team member's strengths and weaknesses and tailor their approach accordingly.

  • Are results driven and enjoy setting realistic yet challenging goals.

  • Supportive, relationship builders, empowering.

  • They think in terms of questions versus directives.

  • They are reflective and help others learn from their mistakes

  • They are forward-thinking and have the patience to create long-term plans.

  • They see themselves as guides and are patient for growth.

  • They are willing to be flexible and adapt to the needs of others.

  • They enjoy helping others feel accomplished.

If you do not currently have these characteristics, work on developing them before you adopt a coaching leadership style. It's best to attend a workshop (like Performance Management) or have a mentor to help you develop these areas.

Situations where a Coaching Leadership Style is Appropriate

  • Employees are driven, but engagement and motivation are low

  • You are leading a new team that is recovering from a toxic culture or has an existing distrust of leaders

  • The organizational and personal objectives are not aligned

  • The leader is visionary, driven, and empathetic.

  • Team members are receptive to change.

A coaching style would not be appropriate when the team is in a crisis where you have to make quick decisions, and judgment errors would result in severe repercussions.

Q: Would a coaching leadership style work for your team? Why or why not? Are you qualified to use a coaching leadership style? Explain your answer. What characteristics should you work on to be a better coach?

Benefits of a Coaching Leadership Style

  • Teams often reach their goals and achieve results.

  • There's a high degree of trust between leaders and direct reports.

  • Team members grow with the feedback and encouragement of an experienced leader.

  • Teams feel a sense of unity.

  • This can lead to higher employee retention (because employees feel supported)

Drawbacks to a Coaching Leadership Style

  • There are not always quick wins and results

  • It is labor-intensive for the leader and requires a lot of time and energy.

  • Your employees must be committed and willing to engage in the process of growing and developing.

Q: Have you ever worked for a leader with a coaching leadership style? What benefits did it have? Were there any drawbacks? How did you grow during your time under their leadership?

How to Effectively Use a Coaching Leadership Style

1. Be sure of your team member's strengths and weaknesses

Ensure that you are coaching people at a level consistent with their current needs. For example, your 20-year veteran and peak performer likely can use less hands-on coaching than your newest employee who just graduated college. Consider what would help each person grow and get their feedback.

2. Meet with your people

Coaching should be personal and have a mentorship component. The best way to do this is by having one-on-one meetings with your team members and asking them open questions about their career development and goals and how they think the whole team is currently functioning. Regular meetings will also help you determine where the team needs to go next.

3. Establish developmental goals

Many leaders focus on their team's results. By focusing on their development, you will know better how to help them make progress, and you will ensure your team reaches their results goals. Getting feedback from your team will help ensure that you have their buy-in and are not asking for something impossible.

4. Offer feedback and support ad nauseum

Your employees want you to ask them how they're progressing toward their goals and if there's anything you can do to help. This will also allow you to offer feedback on what they're doing well and what they might be able to improve. As you make yourself available to listen, see if they have any challenges, questions, or need to vent. If they need suggestions, help them find solutions.

Application Activities:

  1. One of my favorite ways to evaluate teams is with the Clifton Strengths Finder Assessment. If you are unsure about your team's strengths and weaknesses or want to ensure that your biases and perceptions are not clouding your judgment, I recommend taking this assessment. My team is qualified to do this assessment and address teams on the results. If you are interested, email us at

  2. Schedule one-on-one meetings with each of your team members. Ask open-ended questions about their career development and career goals. What do they feel are their strengths? Where are they struggling? Are they happy in their current role? If not, what would they like to see change? And where do they ultimately see their career? You should also ask team-related questions. How do they think the team is currently functioning? What do they think the team is doing well? And where do they think the team is struggling?

  3. One of the qualifications for using a coaching leadership style is having a team that is receptive to change. One way to do this is by holding meetings to discuss the recent change. Ask your team questions to help share how they feel about the change/s. Be vulnerable about your experience and suggest using metaphors to explain their feelings. After you have listened to the team, consolidate the information. Ask your team to figure out what they have in common and what differences there are. Finally, identify the actions the team can take. How can they influence the situation? What can they control in this process? By regularly meeting and creating a culture of openness and productive vulnerability, you will create a team that is more open to change.


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