Choosing the Right Coaching Style

Last week we wrote about understanding the individual’s skill and will, as well as preparing to adapt your coaching approach to the situation. This week we will cover each of the four basic coaching styles in greater detail. Directing

This works best when the person being coached has a low level of motivation and comparatively little drive. They may have little real interest in their job or for taking on more responsibility. In such cases, the best coaching method is a command-and-control approach. Tell the person what to do and when. This way you can ensure your recommendations are acted upon in a timely manner. However, be careful not to appear domineering when using this approach because it can make people feel unappreciated and frustrated. Therefore, getting results requires a degree of sensitivity and showing the right amount of empathy when interacting or giving instructions.


It is best to use this style when coaching people who have a desire or passion to succeed, but who do not necessarily have the skills. A typical case would be someone who has recently been promoted. Avoid giving direct advice about what to do, but focus instead on asking questions. The aim is to involve the other person as much as possible and get them to come up with the answers. Typically, you might ask something like “What else could you try?” Make it clear that you are ready to advise, if needed, but do not forget that people develop self-confidence and new skills more quickly when they realise they can find their own answers.


When individuals have the skills but not the will, the coach may need to create excitement in them to complete a task or accept a new challenge. Imagine the case of a person who has been with the same company for 20 years but sees little chance of becoming a director. This person will have a high degree of skill, experience, and insight, but may have realised that further promotions are unlikely. Money may no longer be a factor, so the coach needs to find other ways to maintain motivation. This involves emphasising the person’s position of authority and empowering him or her as much as possible. Generally, this style is the most difficult to master. It requires a clear understanding of long-held emotions and the loss of motivation and may require innovative solutions.


Everyone hopes to coach in this way. When working with someone who has the skills and is willing to do well, it is possible to explain the task and just set the rules and deadlines. You can then leave it to the individual to figure out how to achieve the results. This approach gives the manager extra time by eliminating the need to micromanage or intervene. A high degree of confidence and trust soon develops. The benefit is that, by delegating, you are also adding to the other person’s skills and will.

Coaching is a process designed to bring the best out of individual team members. The aim is to improve performance in specific situations while remembering that levels of skill, technical knowledge, and motivation will always differ. Therefore, the best coach must be ready to adapt and use the appropriate style for each occasion. As a manager and leader, you will see short-term and long-term benefits from coaching others. However, you must put their needs first when deciding which approach to use.