As a CEO, I have plenty of coaching leadership examples from my career in business. I believe you should always have a coaching leadership element in your repertoire, and this article contains four different approaches, with real-life coaching leadership examples from the world of business. This is a deep-dive article in coaching leadership examples connected to my main article on the coaching leadership style.
If you have not read the coaching leadership article, here are a few paragraphs to bring you up to speed:
Background before the coaching leadership examples
Coaching leadership focuses on improving employees to become better individuals and professionals with the leader as a coach. A Coaching leader can sacrifice initial performance for learning opportunities. Coaching leadership is very effective in the long term but can be difficult and time-consuming.
Coaching Leadership was coined by Daniel Goleman in 2000 and is part of his six leadership styles based on emotional intelligence. There are streaks of coaching leadership within the transformational leadership style, but besides that, it is rather unique among leadership styles. (Join our newsletter and get some of my secret tips for each of the Goleman leadership styles.)
Advantages of the Coaching Leadership Style:
- It leads to high engagement and low turnover within the team
- It develops people to perform more and better in the future
- Coaching builds empowerment and confidence in people
Disadvantages of the Coaching Leadership Style:
- Coaching is difficult and time-consuming
- Coaching requires commitment from both parties
Coaching Leadership Examples
Let us get back to the coaching leadership examples:
- One of my managers coached me and showed genuine interest in my development and helped to grow my confidence.
- I use self-coaching a lot, to ensure I develop myself continuously by reflecting and frequent feedback collection.
- I coach others on a more simplistic day-to-day basis on more operational issues and troubleshooting
- I coach others on a long-term level in separate sessions where skills and experience are discussed rather than daily items.
Coaching can be done in many different ways, the above are just examples.
Coaching Leadership Examples: When I have been coached
Few of my managers and leaders have been true coaches. I have very often been left alone to figure things out for myself, to be honest. I am not necessarily unhappy with this, since it has worked out well for me when it comes to learning, gaining experience, and developing my career. However, I have no idea what another approach would have resulted in of course. I do think that a more coaching leadership type of approach among my managers would have resulted in further and stronger development for me as a professional and as an individual.
Some of these managers and leaders have been very far from coaching and combined a laissez-faire approach with sudden bursts of directive or even autocratic leadership just to fall back on laissez-faire again. That’s my view though, perhaps they were different towards other people, and perhaps my own behavior didn’t make things gravitate towards coaching – that can also be a cause in this. (You can find an article about the laissez-faire leadership style on our leadership styles page.)
I have had one leader that is strong in the coaching leadership style which impressed me the first time we sat down for a coaching session. He immediately made me feel the following:
- He wanted me to succeed, even if that meant I would leave his organization in the end
- He was genuinely interested in me and our relationship grow stronger
- He helped me prod myself to articulate things I had earlier dismissed as minor in order to understand that perhaps they weren’t minor at all
- He grew my confidence by genuinely believing in my possibility to succeed
Those are very important, and high-impact areas in a relationship with your leader. He managed to achieve this together with me during just a few hours. That’s a pretty strong impact per time spent I would say. Do not underestimate this and how it can impact the people around you.
Coaching Leadership Examples: Self-coaching as a leader
One concept of the coaching leadership style is self-coaching. This is relatively common among coaching leaders and essentially means that they challenge themselves to improve, constantly learn and find alternate routes in order to circumvent or beat barriers and roadblocks in their way. I would say, a very subjective opinion obviously, that I am pretty good when it comes to self-coaching. I have strived and struggled to find the answers as well as intentionally exposed myself to learning opportunities. I read a lot, I reflect a lot and I think a lot. (Requires intrapersonal communication.) I often ask myself what I could have done better in a certain situation with the objective of getting just a tad bit better for the next time a similar situation arises. You can do this too! Especially if you do not have access to a coaching leader. Some brief ideas on how to get started with self-coaching:
- Learn more about coaching leadership and apply it to yourself.
- Actively gather feedback from others, multiple sources if needed, and consider how to improve yourself
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses, then build additionally on your strong sides and improve or limit the exposure of your weak sides
- Always ask yourself: how well did this go? What could have been done better? What was really good and should be repeated? You’d be surprised how good of a judge you can be on your own once you put your mind to critically review yourself and your actions and performance
- Learn, learn and learn more. I once read that every person you meet has something to teach you, you just need to figure out what it is.
I always, and I do mean always, end performance evaluations with employees by asking how I can develop to become a better leader for them. I also ask what I should do more of, and what I should do less of. If you have managed to establish trust, you are likely to receive some interesting feedback through this process. You can continue to ask questions about your own behavior and what works good and bad in thought-through and disarming ways. To some degree, you can turn your reports into coaching you without them knowing it. Or at least gather feedback you can use to continuously develop yourself. Make sure you consistently develop yourself by having a leadership development plan that you continuously update.
Coaching Leadership Examples: Coaching others
I try to be as much of a coaching leader as possible when circumstances permit. The senior leaders that report to me get different kinds of coaching depending on who they are, as well as the situation – all to maximize the impact for them personally. (Just as you should use different leadership styles with different people and for different situations. This is why there are six leadership styles in the Goleman framework, coaching is just one of them.)
Coaching Leadership Examples: Day-to-day coaching of others
When one of my direct reports has a problem, I rarely tell them what to do. Instead, I ask them questions along the following lines:
- Could there be more to this problem that you haven’t found out yet? Additional aspects and places to look for more information?
- Do you have any plans on how to deal with the problem? If so, please describe them.
- Are there any side effects of these solutions?
- Is there anything else you can do to solidify your ideas further?
- What do you need in order to execute?
There are many similar questions that can be used in order to stimulate thinking and facilitate a situation where the individual himself or herself contributes further to their own solution. It teaches ways of thinking, areas, and aspects to consider, etc. rather than telling people what to do. In this day-to-day coaching that can be deployed in many of your normal interactions, I find that focusing on asking questions is a good rule of thumb.
Read this for inspiration on a day-to-day approach for checking in with remote employees. Since I have direct reports all over the world, this approach has been very useful to me. If you have a lot of remote meetings, it`s really important to have a good speaker and microphone setup. It saves time and reduces misunderstandings.
Coaching Leadership Examples: Long-term coaching of others
This application of the coaching leadership style would be the more profound change and development of an individual. Since I come from the world of business this often circulates around career development and who the individual that is being coached wants to become or what they want to achieve.
By asking for their long-term desires and wishes, you can agree on a common goal of realizing those desires and wishes together.
Once that is on the table, the discussion can move towards questions such as:
- How can you achieve this?
- What do you see as development steps to get to that point?
- Can you break your goal down into smaller chunks?
- What do you need to change to enable this?
- What strengths or yours can be deployed to realize this?
- What weaknesses stand in your way?
Most of these questions can be drilled down further into by asking the next layer of why’s and how’s, such as in the case of “what weaknesses stand in your way?” which can lead into:
- Why do you consider that a weakness?
- Has it negatively affected you sometimes?
- How can you limit the consequences of this?
- Can you remove this as a weakness?
- How would you go about that?
You get the drill. I have been in both ends of this and believe me, the answers often lie within the individual, they just need to be poked and prodded in order to get the answers out there and start working with them.
As further reading, besides our main article on coaching leadership, I suggest you visit and bookmark our leadership styles portal which contains more than 25 different leadership styles and frameworks. Start learning today! (Join our newsletter and get some of my secret tips for each of the Goleman leadership styles.)