Developing Team Members Using a Coach Approach

by Barbara A.F. Greene

Are you a coach or an old fashion boss? 

This is a question that all leaders should be asking themselves.

In his book, Coaching for Leadership, Dr. Marshall Goldsmith, who was recently recognized as the #1 leadership thinker in the world by the Harvard Business Review, explains the distinction between being a coach and being a boss. It gives us pause as leaders to consider what our approach is and the impact it has on the people we lead. Take a look at the distinctions suggested from the book. What do you think?



1. Push, drive people 1. Lift and support people
2. Talk at people, tell, direct, lecture 2. Engage people in dialogue
3. Know the answers 3. Seek answers
4. Trigger insecurity through administering a healthy dose of fear as an effective way to achieve compliance 4. Use purpose to inspire commitment and stimulate creativity
5. Control others through the decisions they make 5. Facilitate others to make and implement their own decisions
6. Point out errors 6. Celebrate learning
7. Delegate responsibility 7. Model accountability
8. Create structure and procedures for people to follow 8. Create a vision and promote flexibility through values as guidelines for behavior
9. Believe in doing things right 9. Believe in doing the right things
10. Believe that their power lies in their knowledge 10. Believe that their power lies in their vulnerability
11. Focus on bottom line 11. Focus on the process that creates the bottom line result

For some people using a coach approach comes naturally, while others must focus on learning and applying the coach approach skills. How does a person learn these skills without derailing their careers or the careers of others?

In order to use a coach approach, a person must first be willing to learn new ways of leading to experience the positive impact it has on themselves, their team and their organization.

I encourage leaders who want to develop their coach approach to do the following:

  • Find a mentor who exemplifies the coach approach and learn from them: follow them in meetings, follow them down the hall and listen to their conversations, and ask them questions
  • Determine the skills that are needed such as active listening and feedback
  • Participate in a formal coaching program either 1:1 or a small group environment
  • Serve on a board of directors of a charitable organization where you must use a coach approach to influence volunteers to show up, be committed, engage accountability and make a difference without  any monetary compensation tied to results

What will you do to develop your coach approach?