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Last updated: 16.09.21

What is a Coaching Style?

Whilst the overall intentions of professional coaching are the same, there are a variety of different techniques used by those who take on the role to support and motivate others. Different coaching styles may be used in specific situations because they are the most appropriate for certain workplace environments for example, or a professional coach might favour a certain philosophy to tutor the people they are working with.

If you are considering taking on a coaching role, or think you may benefit from coaching, understanding the different coaching leadership styles can be beneficial. Certain approaches are more appropriate for certain scenarios, and being able to switch between different coaching styles depending on the context can be useful if you want to be a particularly successful coach.

This article includes an introduction to coaching and then goes into detail discussing some of the most popular coaching models and techniques.

What is Coaching?

Coaching is a process that focuses on personal development, improving performance and reaching goals with the help of another person. It works on the belief that everyone already has the tools they need to achieve what they want and builds on existing strengths and skills to facilitate success.

A coach is someone who works with another person or group of people to uncover potential and motivate others to find solutions and methods of successful growth, instead of teaching them something new. They will assess what talents and capabilities are already there and then share methods of developing and building on these so that the person they are coaching can continue to succeed on their own in the future.

Another key aspect of most coaching approaches is helping an individual to develop self-awareness, which means they are able to identify their strengths and weaknesses without any external input. This clear connection with themselves will also make it easier to figure out the goals they are genuinely passionate about achieving, and a realistic view of the self will mean that it is easy to develop realistic plans of how to reach these goals.

Coaching can be an ongoing process that spans a long period of time or may take the form of several intensive sessions. The overall aim is for those being coached to finish the experience feeling empowered and able to achieve the things they want to without too much additional help and guidance.

In a professional environment, coaching is usually done to help particularly talented individuals realise their potential and hone their skills, as well as helping less confident employees to become more self-sufficient and gain a clearer sense of what they want and where they are going. The coach may be an external professional who is specifically trained in a certain coaching style, or they might just be another member of the company with more experience and a passion for helping other employees to grow and develop.

What are the Different Coaching Styles?

Democratic

Democratic coaching is one of the most popular coaching styles and is an approach that a lot of people will be familiar with in some shape or form. As the name suggests, it follows similar principles as a democracy where everyone involved has their thoughts and ideas heard and has a say in any decision making.

A democratic coach does not decide things for the person they are coaching. Instead, the individual being coached chooses what they would like to focus on and what goals they are pursuing, with the coach offering support and general guidance whilst avoiding influencing any particular directions or choices.

The democratic coaching style intends to equip the individual with the tools they need to make future progress independently whilst still providing a support system and offering guidance and suggestions when needed. It’s a really effective style in situations where more general support is needed and there are no specific intentions or goals in mind, the coach is just there to provide general support and share their knowledge. 

Autocratic

Autocratic coaching is almost the total opposite of democratic coaching. It involves the person in the coaching position having almost all the control in the relationship and the person being coached is almost entirely directed by what their coach thinks they should do.

An autocratic coach acts as the decision-maker in this coaching method and doesn’t tend to acknowledge what the person or people they are working with want. Instead, they set out a very structured way of doing things that others are expected to follow, which is usually successful but can be quite demoralising or frustrating for those involved.

This coaching style is only really useful in a handful of situations where an individual or group is totally directionless or where results are needed as quickly as possible. If personal development, self-awareness and self-confidence are the overall aims of coaching in the workplace, other styles tend to work better.

Holistic

The holistic style of coaching is the most common style used in general life coaching, but can also be very useful in professional contexts when coaching is happening one-on-one. It’s called holistic coaching because it takes into account the whole person, recognising the factors at play in their personal lives as well as at work and seeking to improve every area.

A holistic coach looks to improve individual growth and performance, applying their coaching techniques to all aspects of the people they work with’s lives. They operate on the belief that you have to work on the whole person if you want to see a change in a certain way and spend a lot of time building a good relationship and identifying what is best on an individual basis, instead of following a general philosophy.

Holistic coaching isn’t the best style to use if you have specific goals in mind or are looking to make progress quickly, but it is ideal if you’re someone who works best after building strong and meaningful relationships or are looking to bring about positive change in all areas of your life.

Laissez-Faire

Laissez-Faire coaching takes its name from the French term that translates to ‘let it be’. It’s a coaching leadership style where most of the control belongs to the person who is being coached, who decides what they would like to do and what help they require.

A laissez-faire coach is the most passive of all types of coaches as they tend to give a high level of autonomy to the people they work with and allow them to choose the direction they go in. Whilst they are there to give advice and offer their opinion if asked for, they don’t tend to push their own ideas of what should be getting done and what the end goal of a coaching relationship should be.

This coaching style can be very effective for people who are already highly motivated and good at identifying their strengths, as it doesn’t provide much direction and is more of a support system that can be used if needed. It is less effective when someone wants to be coached but doesn’t know what changes they need to make, as laissez-faire coaching relies on the individual being coached to set the pace and choose the direction.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness coaching is an approach based on the cognitive technique of practising mindfulness, which involves trying to pay attention to the things happening around you and being present in your body in the moment you are in. Unlike the coaching styles listed above, this is more of a technique that has informed a whole style of coaching that focuses on improving an individual’s mental state so that they are in a better place to perform well.

The key aspect of the mindfulness style is practising being mindful, which can be described as switching your body from doing mode to being mode. This may seem counterintuitive when thinking about reaching goals, but practising mindfulness has been proven to help with overall wellbeing, make you feel more focused and motivated and help to improve self-awareness, all of which lead to better performance at work and in the rest of life and make it easier to realise goals and identify passions.

Intuitive

An intuitive style is quite similar to a classic democratic approach to coaching, where the coach and the person or group work together to identify goals, build resilience and self-awareness, and come up with a development plan. However, intuitive coaching takes this down a more spiritual or meditative route and asks the person being coached to tap into their intuition before making a decision, building a greater sense of trust within themselves.

Some people may not find that the intuitive coaching style works well for them, as it does involve a lot of introspection and isn’t a particularly measurable or repeatable approach. In some professional contexts, other coaching styles may be more suited to getting things done, but if the overall aim of coaching is to improve self-awareness and self-belief then this can bring about very positive results.

Transformational

Transformational coaching is a specific coaching style that is used when someone is undergoing a significant change in any area of their life. It provides a support system where a coach can offer advice and guidance during a period of transition, which many people find incredibly useful when starting a new job, moving to a new location or making a big change in their personal life.

A transformational coach can also help to assess what may have been holding someone back before they underwent a change and help to make plans for how certain behaviours or relationships will be avoided in the future. This can be a very successful type of coaching in the workplace if someone is starting a new role, but is not suitable for all contexts.

FAQs

What is coaching in the workplace?

In a workplace environment, coaching is a method of facilitating personal and professional development by providing employees with a kind of mentor or leader who works with them to realise their potential and develop skills that will allow them to achieve goals independently. Many workplaces bring in external coaches to work with certain employees that they feel are particularly good at their jobs or have promising potential, or coaching may be offered by more senior employees as a way of helping newer members of staff to grow.

What is a coaching philosophy?

A coaching philosophy is the theory, values and beliefs that make up the foundations of an approach to coaching. Having a philosophy behind a coaching style means that there are overall principles that guide everything you say and do, which can be very useful as it makes it easier to decide on actions and provide guidance in the right direction.

What is the difference between coaching intervention and coaching style?

A coaching style is a specific approach to coaching that is based on certain values and uses certain techniques to guide others towards success, whereas a coaching intervention is a specific tactic where a coach interrupts something that is happening either to point out a way that it can be done better or to highlight something that is being done particularly well.

Summary

A variety of coaching styles have been developed because different personal and professional situations require different approaches to help, direction and guidance. Whilst some coaches train in a specific style to work with other people, others learn several different disciplines which means they can adapt the techniques they use depending on the people, the context and what the desired outcomes of the coaching relationship are. The above examples are some of the most common coaching styles, but many other philosophies and approaches can also be used to facilitate personal or professional development.

If you’d like to find out more about the techniques involved in coaching and the skills that can be beneficial when taking on this role, we offer an extensive ‘Coaching’ online course which is suitable for anyone wanting to improve their leadership and coaching skills.

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