June 17, 2024


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In sports movies, coaches are larger-than-life figures, delivering inspirational speeches, running up and down the sidelines or even getting kicked out of games. One of my first soccer coaches had a much more understated style. Before games, he wished us luck with a cheerful smile. He certainly was not detached, however. During games, his advice was infamously constant and direct. He would call out phrases like “eyes up, “look for the pass” and “get back, ” each aimed at a certain player, often enough that we started using them as nicknames for each other.

While real-life coaches are often less dramatic, they are some of the first examples of effective, personal leadership that many people encounter. The coaches who often help shape us seem far removed from the world of business leadership and mentorship. But though coaching attire may not cross over into the board room, my time as both a player and a leader has taught me that direct, personal coaching techniques should.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to leading your company and developing your employees into effective leaders. However, harnessing coaching principles and techniques in your communication and mentorship can help you develop strong leaders and foster a productive work environment. Here are five coaching strategies you should consider implementing in your leadership style. These approaches will help you lean into the mindset of a coach, enabling you to lead your company, mentor your employees and develop a high-functioning team.

Related: Boss or Leader? 8 Principles to Truly Effective Leadership

1. Show up to practice

A coach’s main role is to be present during practices, drills and games. Likewise, If you only observe your employees’ work at an annual performance review, you’ll be too far removed from their work to be an effective mentor or help them develop their own leadership style. You need to observe their habits and strengths throughout, not just a few times a year or at the culmination of major projects. At Outpace SEO, our founders are present in meetings that are primarily led by the team leads they are mentoring. This allows them to take a hands-on approach to leadership training and observe their mentees in action.

2. Get to know your team

Effective coaching depends on the personal knowledge of a team and players. Be present in meetings, team-building exercises and your team’s daily life to develop a thorough understanding of your key players. This will help you develop an in-depth awareness of your team so that you can select the most effective potential leaders and build a workplace that functions smoothly and successfully.

The best coaches help players learn things about themselves, and you should know your employees well enough to do the same, identifying their skill sets and where they still need further professional development. Delegating may be necessary, but it should not translate into detachment. Where possible, schedule regular meetings with the developing leaders in your team regardless of whether you have an urgent task to discuss.

Related: 10 Leadership Lessons From Successful CEOs

3. Adapt your coaching style

Just like players on a team, different employees function differently and respond best to different versions of involvement and feedback. Some employees may need more frequent check-ins, while others may prefer reporting back or meeting when they have questions. Some employees may actually prefer more blunt constructive criticism to move forward quickly, while others need a more gradual mentorship approach with positive feedback and gentle redirection. Part of being a strong leader is being flexible. Don’t be afraid to ask the employees you are mentoring how they learn most effectively.

4. Isolate skill sets

Just like a coach designs practices based on the needs of their team, do not wait for your employees’ weaknesses or learning gaps to become an issue. Instead, identify the areas where your mentees need to grow and allow them to work on projects that specifically target those skill sets. Treat these projects differently than their regular roles; they will need more direct involvement from you. It may be helpful to tell your employees which projects are specifically intended as learning opportunities and reassure them that questions and feedback are expected as part of the process.

Related: 5 Traits You Must Have to Create More Leaders

5. Be vocal

Coaches do not think in terms of delegation and feedback, but of continual guidance and gradual growth. This mindset is key if you want to not only lead your team effectively but also develop leaders within your company. Be vocal with feedback of all kinds, positive and constructive. This will help you organically stay in touch with your employees and increase employee engagement. Determine what types of feedback work the best for your team and make it a regular, scheduled part of your role.

Your involvement should not be limited to constructive feedback but should also include celebrating wins as a team. Whether it’s for individual accomplishments or business growth, public recognition of success is an important piece of the coaching process. From informally mentioning positive results or completed projects in meetings to recognizing and rewarding promotions or work anniversaries, it’s important that you keep track of your team’s wins, big and small.

Thinking of yourself as a coach empowers you to continually seek momentum for your business. Developing an involved, personal and positive leadership style will not only boost employee engagement and company productivity but also help you organically find and deliberately mentor new leaders.



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