By Nick Tubach, MBA, PCC. Reflect on two distinct styles of leadership: transactional (directive) leadership versus transformational (coaching) leadership. While each style may have its place, it’s been well documented that we learn better by doing as opposed to someone showing us or someone offering up the answers. We’ve all heard some version of the saying “Tell me and I forget; teach me and I may remember; involve me and I learn.”

In this blog I’ll look at one of many examples and share my perspective on what might trigger a shift towards coaching as a leadership style, away from a directive style.

Scenario: Your guidance (mentoring) is met with resistance. 

I see that as a perfect time to shift to coaching! Consider the two different approaches in such a scenario. 

Directive. Upon encountering resistance to your guidance, you can become more directional in your interaction. “Go ahead and do it this (my) way and let’s see what happens.” Noteworthy consequences may be:

  • You’re communicating from a “parent ego” state, the least conducive to encouraging growth and learning. This article, “What is an ego state?” is a good explanation of ego states. Communication is most effective when both parties are in an adult ego state. More on communication effectiveness in the article “Why Not Ask Why?”.
  • There are several possible responses and while the objective may be met, it also may be at the expense of deeper learning (a growing opportunity) for the employee.
  • The employee is far less likely to “own it” as compared to when they thought of it themselves.
  • If something goes wrong, it was your idea, not theirs.
  • It’s setting a standard that creates a dependency on the manager.
  • You’re not encouraging the employee to become a problem-solver. 

Coaching. “I threw out an idea that doesn’t really work for you. What are your thoughts on how to…so that you can achieve your desired outcome?” Noteworthy consequences may be:

  • The employee thoroughly thinks through the issue and possibly identifies a better solution than yours or comes to the conclusion yours was the best solution, after all.
  • The employee is more likely to “own it” because they went through the process of coming to a conclusion.
  • Conditions the employee to become a critical thinker, as opposed to an order follower.
  • Maximizes the employee’s engagement as they are becoming an integral part of the solution, instead of a means to an end. 
  • Frees up the leader’s time to focus on other, strategic areas of the business.
  • Increases the effectiveness of your organization in the long run.
  • It can be an investment in time.

Having been a transactional leader early in my career, I can unequivocally say I’ve become a big fan of coaching as a leadership style. I consider the sign of a good leader to be how well their team does when they aren’t around.

I also acknowledge each situation is different, and you will know better when to ask versus tell.  With that in mind, what situation have you encountered that may benefit switching from a directive (telling) to coaching (asking) style? Please share your thoughts, below, in the Comments section.

To learn more about effective leadership and employing coaching as a leadership style, schedule a consultation with Nick.