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6 Approaches to Coaching—and 1 That Works

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It seems like every article and research piece I read lately recommends that leaders give people more coaching. Which is great . . . except that few of these articles discuss how to actually coach effectively.

In another recent blog, I talked about the different types of people you need coaching support from, but today I want to cover the different ways that people approach coaching—and what approach actually gets results.

Let’s talk about the different forms of coaching and their value:

1. Humanist coaching. Humanist coaching has everything to do with helping leaders reach their full potential. You've probably heard the term "self-actualization," and that's what this one is all about. It relies heavily on the relationship established between leaders and coaches and the idea that the depth and trust created between the coach and the leader ultimately creates success for the leader.

This one definitely takes on a more therapy-oriented perspective, where the leader being coached may already be in the midst of crisis and the coach is helping the leader find greater stability and confidence. While this is great for the leader, it doesn't necessarily help them get more done for the organization.

2. Adult development coaching. Adult development coaching focuses on the different stages of adult development. This means that the coach is working to figure out where the leader is in their development and helps the leader to move toward a more mature understanding of authority and responsibility, as well as a greater tolerance for ambiguity.

This is, again, a more therapeutic coaching strategy and is centered on the issues that one experiences at each stage of adult development. When you think specifically about types of coaching in the workplace, this one also doesn't scream, "I'm gettin' more stuff done!"

3. Cognitive coaching. Cognitive coaching is centered around addressing the maladaptive thoughts that might be getting in the way of a leader’s success. This is yet another more therapeutic approach to coaching, where the coach challenges the way the leader might think about the actions of others in nonproductive ways and thereby hinders their own performance. This one definitely has its place at the right time for the right leader; but it doesn't feel very holistic, does it?

4. Positive psychology model for coaching. The positive psychology model for coaching has seen a surge in popularity over the last few years. This approach is often seen as a strengths-based approach. The thought here is that the coach would help the leader expand existing strengths as a way to build positive emotions, creating greater happiness and, in the process, higher levels of performance.

While it sometimes can be used to achieve specific goals, it's primarily designed to change perceptions and attitudes in a more positive direction.

5. Systemic coaching. Systemic coaching, as the name implies, takes into account a wide range of factors that impact performance. Its focus is on looking at patterns that may be causing drag on a leader’s performance and seeks to disrupt them. It also highlights the importance of making small changes that can add up to big results over time. This one is consistent with much of the writing you may have seen recently on taking small steps to form new, more positive habits.

6. Goal-oriented coaching. Goal-oriented coaching is probably the type of coaching in the workplace many of us are most familiar with. It's about helping leaders regulate and direct their interpersonal and personal resources to better attain one or more goals. The primary method is to help the leader form well-crafted goals and develop an effective action plan.

Each of these approaches varies in terms of how directive, solution-focused, and dependent they are on the relationship that is established between the coach and the leader. And while each approach has shown some level of effectiveness, the value that's delivered to the leader by the coach can certainly be improved upon for each of them.

That's where a new style of coaching comes in—one that takes the best from each approach and creates something more attuned to the challenges of today's leader. Enter adaptive coaching.

To learn more about adaptive coaching, read my full article here.

Ryan Heinl is director of Product Management and leader of DDI’s Innovation Lab, where he brings innovative leadership solutions to life. He is an entrepreneur, writer, chef, CrossFitter, mindfulness junkie, and occasional yogi who travels the world in search of the perfect moment (and secretly hopes he won’t find it).

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