No two people are the same. It’s only natural then that we respond to different kinds of guidance and transformation, depending on the path we’re on and what we’re trying to achieve. As a coach, your job is to facilitate that change, in the style that best serves your client.
Whether you are using coaching as a tool to improve your team’s performance as a manager, or you’re a professional coach working with a variety of clients, learning about different coaching styles can enhance the impact of your practice. Some styles might come more naturally to you, others might not fit your practice. Either way, knowing the difference between these coaching styles will give you perspective and help you design your own.
In this article, we’ll explore the 5 different coaching styles, how you can create your own mix, and the difference it will make to your coaching practice.
The 5 Coaching Styles
The Autocratic Coaching Style
This coaching style is normally used in an environment where there’s a clear goal the coachee needs to reach. There isn’t as much wiggle-room for changing direction or choosing another approach, and the goals are pretty much set already, unlike in other coaching situations.
This approach can work well in sports or in a company environment where goals are predefined by the organization. An autocratic coach can help people identify their obstacles and overcome them, provide them with the right methodology for success, and guide them in the right direction to achieve results.
The Holistic Coaching Style
Coaches who have a holistic coaching style look at their clients as a whole, with no separation between their work life and personal life. They equally assess the professional, spiritual, and social aspects of their client’s life, as well as their wellbeing.
Holistic coaches provide a safe space where the client can share anything, even the most sensitive issues of their lives, and help them see the correlations between the different areas. This coaching style is most commonly used by life coaches who help people look at their life as a whole and identify areas of growth in it, without the need for categorizing them.
The Inspirational Coaching Style
This coaching style is also known as motivational coaching. It’s normally used by coaches who have head-turner charisma and who can easily raise the energy level of their clients. Not surprisingly, many coaches who use an inspirational coaching style are also speakers, thought leaders, or content creators, and they utilize their gifts on a variety of channels.
Using this coaching style is certainly not a must, and it’s not necessarily better than the other coaching styles (despite the celebrity coach craze in the industry). But if you know you have the skill to help people see the bigger picture and give them faith in challenging times, this might just be what they need while you’re working with them.
The Solution-Oriented Coaching Style
As the name says, this coaching style is focused on finding solutions to the predefined problems clients bring to a session. People might come to you with health issues, challenges at work, a problem in their relationship, or an issue that encompasses their whole life, like a lack of confidence.
As a solution-oriented coach, you’ll help your coachee come up with different solutions for their problem, and make a decision on which one to choose. Once the problem is solved, you move onto the next problem.
The Mindset Coaching Style
This coaching style is also known as transformational coaching. As a mindset coach, you’ll uncover limiting beliefs your clients have and other areas in their belief system that need more clarity. By asking powerful questions, you give them perspective on their current reality and thinking patterns, and you help them find their own answers to their most burning questions.
A great mindset coach doesn’t try to influence their client’s way of thinking but instead gives them space and the freedom to choose their own beliefs, that will help them get where they want to be. Helping them make their own choices will empower them more in this particular situation than simply giving them solutions to their problems.
Can You Mix Different Coaching Styles?
Absolutely yes, as long as they are serving your clients. Picking a coaching style is not as much a quiz, as it is a toolkit of techniques you can use in different situations. Some might come more naturally to you and allow you to use your own unique skills and competencies as a coach. Others might not work for you or your client, and that’s a-okay.
You just need to remember to assess the kind of coaching style the situation requires, choose the one that’s appropriate, and recognize when you’re not the right coach for a particular coaching relationship.
How Do I Know What Coaching Style I Should Use?
First, You Need to Take a Close Look at Yourself
Assess which coaching style you are feeling comfortable with as a coach. If a coaching style doesn’t sit right with you in a coaching session, you won’t be able to help your clients and give them what they need.
Are you great at motivating people, and do you often carry a positive, uplifting energy that’s contagious? You might be an excellent inspirational coach.
Do you prefer to just get down to business, take a no-nonsense approach, and focus on finding solutions for your clients? You’re probably a solution-oriented coach.
You have a strong desire to lead, and you’re an expert in the area that you’re coaching in? Perhaps your biggest value lies in autocratic coaching.
You believe that our career can never be separated from our personal life, and that transformation can only happen on a holistic level? You’re a holi… You get the idea.
Build on your strengths, and commit to a coaching style that brings out the best in you. If you want to try out a new coaching style and see how that works with you, practice taking a different approach. Pair up with another coach or join a peer-coaching group, where you can pick up a new coaching style without any risk and practice it until you feel confident using it.
Now, You Also Need to Look At The Other Side of the Coin: Your Client
Use your coaching skills (aka superhuman abilities) to identify the coaching style they most need. It’s not necessarily the one they feel “comfortable” with (as you know, impactful coaching can be uncomfortable).
It’s best to define this as early as in your first discovery session with your coachee. See if they want to focus on a particular area or if they are open to looking at interconnected or cross-functional issues in their life. Pay close attention to whether they want to be given space to find their own solutions with gentle guidance, or if they need more hand-holding in the process.
Last But Not Least, Take the Context of the Coaching Relationship into Account
If you’re a manager coaching a team, you will have certain expectations from the leadership that you need to keep in mind. You’ll likely put more focus on the results of projects, KPIs, and team morale than the personal life issues of your team members.
If you’re an organizational coach, you’ll need to make sure your coaching style fits the organizational culture of the company you’re working with. You will approach a leadership coaching session with a CEO of a company differently than one with a couple-in-a-relationship coaching session.
Choose what’s relevant to you, your client, and the context of the situation. Ultimately, the only thing that matters is picking a coaching style that can move your clients in the direction they want.
Coaching Principles You Can’t Compromise On
Yes, choosing between different coaching styles gives you the freedom to navigate sessions differently. But there are some fundamental coaching principles that you cannot compromise on, no matter which one you choose.
If you’re working as a professional coach or you’ve taken any coaching training before, this probably isn’t new to you, but let’s have a recap of them, just in case. So remember to always…
Ask For Consent
This means only coaching someone when you have permission to do so, and continuously seeking consent to push your clients, ask uncomfortable questions, or share your own perspective.
Keep Things Confidential
What happens in your sessions, stays in your sessions. Period. The only exception is the rare case of when your client is a danger to themselves or others, which is when you should refer them to a psychiatrist immediately.
If you’re coaching team members, be clear on when you’re wearing the “manager hat” as opposed to when you’re wearing your “coaching hat.” Maintain trust with your team members, and be clear on when it’s time for work talk and when it’s time to share something personal in a safe space.
Refrain From Judgment
Almost everything is allowed in a coaching session, but judgment is not one of them. Keep your personal views to yourself, and allow your clients to fully express themselves, share their beliefs, and be vulnerable.
Remember, It’s About Them
The session should always focus on the coachee. Yes, even if you’re an inspirational coach with stories that can move mountains. Practice active listening with your clients, and give them space to reflect on the materials of the session, whether it comes from them or you.
Wait, Is There A Difference Between Types of Coaches & Coaching Styles?
Glad you asked 😉 Yes there is! The type of coach you are is more focused on the topic of your discussion or the area that you’re an expert in. Based on this, you might specialize as a leadership coach, relationship coach, health & fitness coach, branding coach, and so on.
Your coaching style, however, is the way you approach these areas. It’s a toolkit you can pick from as you go along your coaching relationship.
So remember, pick the coaching style you feel best at (or create your own mix), keep in mind what serves your client, and stay true to your professional commitment as a coach.