An organization’s performance and success links directly to the strength of its leaders, and effective leadership in the workplace inspires and empowers teams to perform at their best.
While there is no single ‘right way’ to lead, leadership styles play an important role in determining the engagement and motivation of a team. And of the many different styles used, coaching leadership is becoming increasingly popular.
This guide explores the key elements of coaching leadership, the benefits, and strategies to become a strong coaching leader.
What Is Coaching Leadership?
Coaching leadership is an approach that leaders take to encourage team members to grow and succeed through a focus on development. By incorporating coaching mindsets and behaviors, this method enables high performance and empowerment.
Underpinned by collaboration, honest communication, and encouragement, coaching leadership emphasizes unlocking potential and enabling team members to achieve their goals.
The Key Skills and Qualities of Coaching Leadership
- Focus and alignment
- Active Listening
The most successful coaching leaders have certain key skills and qualities in common.
Effective communication is vital to be successful with a coaching leadership style. Leaders need to communicate honestly and openly, including giving constructive feedback that identifies areas for improvement and highlights strategies to move forward. Check out our blog post on employee feedback for a step-by-step guide to delivering constructive feedback.
Focus and alignment
The best coaching leaders are laser-focused on goals and aligned with company strategy. They help their direct reports define and achieve goals in alignment with the bigger picture.
Leaders using a coaching leadership approach often also take a mentorship role. A mentor is a trusted advisor who is able to offer support and guidance to their mentee, requiring high levels of empathy, understanding and emotional intelligence.
A consistent quality of coaching leaders is active listening, which encourages more positive relationships and greater trust to be built with team members. Being an active listener is an important skill for any successful leader.
Examples of Coaching Leadership
What do the CEO of Microsoft, the manager of Liverpool F.C and the former COO of Facebook have in common?
You guessed it - Satya Nadella, Jürgen Klopp and Sheryl Sandberg all use a coaching leadership style. All three of these famous leaders are known for their collaborative and supportive approach to management, enabling their teams to thrive and excel.
When Satya Nadella became the CEO of Microsoft in 2014, he updated the company’s mission to “empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more”. As a result of his increased emphasis on collaboration, development and clear communication, Nadella transformed the company and is now largely viewed as the most successful CEO in the tech industry.
The Benefits of Coaching Leadership
- Team Engagement and Retention
- Team Performance
- Employee Experience
- Trust and Collaboration
Let’s explore some of the benefits of adopting a coaching leadership style, all of which contribute to a thriving workplace culture.
Team Engagement and Retention
One of the most notable benefits of a coaching leadership style is an increase in team engagement and employee retention.
Research has shown that leaders who focus on enabling team members to achieve their goals boost engagement by helping employees feel valued, happier and more committed to the company. This increased commitment translates into decreased turnover intention, which is good news all around!
Placing an emphasis on development and progression can have extremely positive knock-on effects on team performance and productivity.
When individuals feel empowered and supported, their motivation increases.
Employees are much more driven to go above and beyond for the company, and demonstrate increased efficiency, productivity and innovation.
A positive employee experience always starts with the leader. And by adopting a coaching style, leaders invest time and resource in their team members.
This strengthens the employee’s experience by ensuring they are heard, understood and valued.
Trust and Collaboration
Coaching leadership builds a solid foundation of trust and collaboration. This approach results in stronger relationships between leaders and their teams, and increased collaboration between team members.
The best coaching leaders create safe working environments within which employees can thrive. Team members understand the expectations placed on them, and are clear on what they need to achieve. And leaders offer guidance and support to ensure a psychologically safe working environment were employees take ownership of their work.
How Does Coaching Leadership Compare To Other Styles?
Every different leadership style has positives and negatives, and different approaches are suitable for different organizations.
While more traditional management styles often favor an autocratic approach with command and control at the forefront, the coaching style leans more toward servant leadership, which puts collaboration and employee support in the spotlight.
Coaching leadership is centered around helping employees achieve goals through collaborative partnership.
But there are also challenges to consider. Coaching leadership requires a lot of time and effort from the leader, which can be difficult when they’re under pressure.
Leaders need to invest in their own development to build strong coaching skills, which takes time. The coaching leadership style will not work well for leaders who are inexperienced or unconfident in their coaching abilities.
Challenges of Coaching Leadership
Very time consuming
Leadership training is required
Difficult in high-pressure environments
Leaders with large teams can struggle to build strong relationships with every employee
Not always suitable for in-experienced or unconfident leaders
How To Adopt A Coaching Leadership Style At Work
- Build your self-awareness
- Improve your communication skills
- Check your alignment
- Practice your active listening
It's important for leaders to reflect on their strength as a coach before adopting a coaching leadership style.
As we explored earlier, successful coaching leaders have a number of key skills and qualities in common. Working through these steps will set you off on the path toward becoming an amazing coaching leader!
Build your self-awareness
Coaching leaders need to have a good understanding of themselves – their strengths, their weaknesses, the ways they are perceived by others. The best leaders practice what they preach, so it’s important for those applying the coaching leadership style to focus on their own professional development and regularly ask for feedback on their performance.
Improve your communication skills
Take some time to consciously improve your communication skills. Learn how to deliver feedback in a constructive and supportive way, and research the best coaching questions to ask to encourage your team members to thrive.
Check your alignment
Effective coaching leadership means being focused on goals, at both an individual and company level. Make sure you are aware of your team members goals (and your own, of course!) and that they align with the objectives of the company. If they don’t, you’ll need to reevaluate the direction and alignment of the team to enable you to begin putting your coaching leadership style into practice.
Practice your active listening
Being an active listener is possibly the most important quality of a coaching leader, but it takes some time to master the technique. Leaders can practice and develop their active listening skills by focusing on their team members’ words and asking the right questions that get to the heart of their message.
3 Strategies To Become A Coaching Leader
- Meet regularly with your team
- Recognize success
- Practice what you preach
You’re now ready to try out the coaching leadership style! It can be difficult to know where to start, so we’ve developed 3 strategies to get you going.
1. Meet regularly with your team
To be able to effectively coach your team members, you need to have regular connections. Scheduling both team meetings and one-to-one check-ins with team members will allow you to build those vital connections and start having the conversations that matter. Our monthly Team Check-In feature is a great way to strengthen the bond with your team and stay connected.
2. Recognize success
A big part of the coaching leadership model is taking time to celebrate wins and recognise team success. Using recognition as a strategy means making use of both formal and informal channels to show your employees they are appreciated. PepTalk provides team members with a clear route for developing skills and progressing in a fun and engaging way, offering leaders an opportunity to recognize and celebrate learning milestones in-line with a coaching leadership approach.
3. Practice what you preach
To be a coaching leader, you need to practice what you preach and clearly demonstrate your commitment to development, progression and growth. Great leaders take accountability for their own goals and the goals of their team members, working collaboratively and setting the tone of the team. Becoming an impactful coaching leader takes time and practice, and continuing to develop your skills sets a great example for your team members.
Start Your Coaching Leadership Journey With PepTalk
The PepTalk platform is custom-built to improve Team Experience (TX) and give leaders a helping hand in boosting employee engagement.
Integrating PepTalk is a great way to transition into coaching conversations in your team, shifting the focus towards development.
Book a demo to find out about our other features, and see how the PepTalk platform can help start your coaching leadership journey!