Leadership Coaching

Leadership coaching is an important management training tool that cultivates leaders in a two-fold methodology: to coach leadership by providing individual, guided, long-term approaches to their development, and to help them maximize their coaching effectiveness with their current teams to create a culture of coaching and development.

Read more about Leadership Coaching below.

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Leadership Coaching

Traditionally, mentors play an important role in shaping the outlook and habits of others. Teachers, coaches, family members, and even peers—we naturally look to role models who act as guides to support development throughout our lives

In a professional workplace environment, the traditional hierarchy model doesn’t always support mentorships, and instead often relies on competition and a top-down strategy. But that doesn’t develop your current and future leaders in a sustainable way. It takes deliberate effort to develop leadership in your organization, so much that it’s become a standardized approach called leadership coaching. 

Leadership coaching is an important management training tool that cultivates leaders in a two-fold methodology: to coach leadership by providing individual, guided, long-term approaches to their development, and to help them maximize their coaching effectiveness with their current teams to create a culture of coaching and development. Developing and implementing a leadership coaching programing at your business may sound like a lot of work, but it’s absolutely worth it. And, you can receive assistance getting it off the ground from outsourced HR companies.

What Is Coaching In The Workplace

What Is Coaching in the Workplace?

Leadership coaching in the workplace is using individual situations to practice development in employees and teams, assessing their decisions, reflecting on situational judgements, and identifying progress or regression on long-term goals. 

Each year, organizations invest in business coaching services to help them develop their leadership. Often the goal is to use a third-party service to temporarily pull leadership away from their day-to-day responsibilities to practice long-term coaching methodologies. However, the hardest part about leadership coaching is dedicating the time to long-term growth. It’s not an overnight process. 

This is why using a qualified and experienced outsourced HR provider can help companies looking to implement leadership coaching strategies in their organization to develop a long-lasting and self-sufficient culture of coaching. 

What Are the Main Types of Coaching?

Leadership coaching is a broad philosophy of guided development within the workplace, and within it are several strategies that adjust the amount of input and direction leadership provides their team. 

Think about this on a spectrum of control and interference: on one side you have styles of coaching that are very hands-on and that interfere and control. On the other side is a hands-off approach that allows the team or individual to develop independently. Both are important approaches.

There are several sub-groups within leadership coaching, and here we’ll take a look at the four primary types of coaching styles in management, directive coaching, laissez-faire coaching, non-directive coaching, and situational coaching: 

Directive Coaching

Also called autocratic or authoritarian, this form of leadership is close to the “control” side of the spectrum and is more similar to traditional management styles where the coach dictates steps the team should take. This still qualifies as a leadership coaching strategy, but the more control the coach has, the less return they see in development of their team. The team has less motivation because they aren’t given the responsibility to dictate their success or failure. 

Laissez-Faire Coaching

On the opposite side of directive coaching is the laissez-faire approach—or, translated from French, “allow to do.” Here, the decision-making is left to the coached person or team as they try to achieve a unified, defined goal, and the coach is there to observe and offer feedback at the team’s request. This is the most hands-off approach, and while the coach has little influence on the outcome, the team or individual has the most opportunity to exercise decision-making and grow as an employee.

Non-Directive Coaching

In this style, the coach is more present than a laissez-faire approach, but their involvement is to offer questions to the team that might guide them towards better approaches and an overall solution. The coach practices listening instead of answering, adding to the questions of the team as they problem-solve. This is more of a democratic approach with the coach’s position only slightly more controlling than that of the team members.

Situational Coaching

Somewhere in the middle of these approaches is what authors of a Harvard Business Review article call the sweet spot of coaching methodologies, situational coaching. This isn’t so much as a different methodology but a hybrid combination of the others, where a practiced non-directive coaching style begins to incorporate some directive coaching techniques to fit the situation. Here, the veteran coach can be direct by providing more information to the team about the problem, but in doing so expects more from them. 

Other leadership coaching methods exist, such as holistic coaching, and democratic coaching, but even these tend to fall within the four main styles of leadership coaching. 

Consider your approach to leadership coaching. What might be a coaching style of leadership example you’ve seen that’s been effective that you would like to mimic? 

What Are the 5 Skills of Coaching?

As a leader, it’s your responsibility to begin processes of leadership coaching. And that can feel daunting, especially if you aren’t used to the indirect approach of long-term coaching development practices. Below are five of the many skills you’ll need to practice. 

  1. Active listening – More than anything else, leadership coaching is about actively listening to others’ reflections, allowing them to work through problems on their own instead of offering your solutions right away.
  1. Involved detachment – Remain invested in how the person you are coaching is problem-solving, but stay detached from the situation or problem itself. Your role is to provide more outside council than to participate or take over in the situation. 
  1. Ask open-ended questions – Remember you aren’t a solution provider, here. This can feel unnatural to you as a leader. Your role is to support and ask open-ended questions that will lead the individual to find answers on their own. 
  1. Define collaborative goals – How do you help the person you are coaching develop goals? Instead of providing the goals yourself, interrogate the goals of others: can they be more specific? Are they setting the bar too low or too high? 
  1. Provide feedback – Celebrate and recognize small wins, even if the situation is difficult or counter-productive in other ways. Provide constructive criticism about specific decisions and allow reflection. 

What Does a Leadership Coach Do?

So what does it look like on a granular level to enact leadership coaching? Leaders need to take actual steps to practice the methodology and see results. There’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this. The wrong way is to take a hands-off, uninvolved role and call it leadership coaching because you’re letting your team grow through experience. This is problematic and doesn’t achieve the overall goal of creating a culture of coaching.  

The right way, on the other hand, is to develop a leadership coaching plan that involves intentional, practical steps. Let’s take a look at examples of coaching and mentoring in the workplace to better understand the role of a leadership coach: 

  • Define goals  – Coaching is about setting goals and realizing them. Sit down with individuals or the group to discuss their quarterly and annual goals. Define them as clearly as possible and write them down to refer back to your language. 
  • Scheduled reflection – Coaching is a long-term strategy. Are you meeting with teams and individuals with time dedicated to reflect on situations, progress on your goals? Build out a calendar and don’t miss meetings to reflect.
  • Exercise recursive assessment – Practice active listening to questions like: “What are the biggest challenges you currently face?” “What went well this week?” “How can I assist you best right now?” Make notes and follow up in your next meeting.
  • Practice positivity – Sometimes a leadership coaching opportunity is to remind your team or an individual of progress already made, excitement about a project, or encouragement during adversity in a project or situation. 
  • Have tough conversations – Let employees define where they think their weaknesses are, and revisit them: are they continuing to struggle with some of those same issues? Is there anything that you, as a leader, can provide to help them grow?

How Can Coaching Improve Performance?

That all sounds well and good, but what are the benefits of coaching in the workplace? They are myriad, but they won’t happen immediately—and that’s okay. In fact, the design of coaching is for long-term improvement, so immediate improvements like productivity or enthusiasm from an individual are likely more related to more communication overall (which is a perk—don’t get us wrong!). 

So what are the improvements that occur when you begin a coaching relationship? Much of it happens with how individuals and groups respond to situations and how they interact with you: 

  • Executives and leadership become sounding boards during times of crisis and decision making. You’ll see employees begin to problem-solve and use you for council before or after enacting a decision. 
  • Team members will define goals more quickly at the kick-off of a new project or initiative, naturally repeating practices you developed during coaching. 
  • Middle management pursues additional training and education and displays a renewed enthusiasm for self-improvement. 
  • You see evidence of leadership coaching throughout the workplace as those who have received coaching begin to repeat the process with others and create a culture of coaching.
  • Long-term goal setting and a company culture of growth are likely to develop in an organization that implements leadership coaching.

What Is an Example of Coaching?

Let’s think about what leadership coaching might look like in your workplace with a concrete example. 

Phase 1: Collaborative Goal Making

You ask a manager you are coaching to develop a series of personal and team goals for the quarter. You meet to discuss the goals, and you offer a few additional strategies (not additional goals) to help them develop a strategy. This creates collaboration where the manager is taking responsibility in his or her own growth.

Phase 2: Scheduled Feedback Sessions

You schedule weekly or bi-weekly feedback sessions where you and the manager report back on individual situations where there was progress or regression on accomplishing goals. You act as a sounding board for the manager to discuss decision-making and to reflect. 

Phase 3: Quarterly Reflection

Your manager should be offered the chance to self-assess their quarterly progress and to evaluate how well they accomplished their goals. This is a good opportunity to have tough conversations about recurring opportunities to improve and an opportunity to celebrate successes. 

Milestone: Leadership Coaching You Can Trust

Often, an outside perspective can be all it takes to spark change in an organization. In the case of leadership coaching, this can be done through the guidance of a qualified outsourced HR provider. 

At Milestone, we understand the potential of leadership coaching because we’ve seen the results. We provide unique outsourced HR consultation services to give your team the tools to learn together and to pass down throughout the organization. While we can work with your internal human resources professional to provide needed support and guidance, we also have the capability to begin leadership coaching directives ourselves, providing the necessary consultancy you need.  

Our goal is to make credible improvements that will continue to benefit leadership, employees, and the overall health of your business. We assist with strategic HR initiatives, employee engagement, and help provide monthly HR support so any changes to your HR strategy receives the consistent support it needs—including coaching leadership initiatives. Schedule an appointment today to discuss your needs. 


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