Coaching as a Leadership Style

Enabling leaders to develop skills that are critical to the future success of the business


The executive leadership team within a global services company had recognized that the skills of coaching and feedback were going to be critical if the company was going to continue to raise levels of performance across the organization. It is not that they wanted all of their managers and directors to become coaches but they recognized that a coaching management style would enable them to unleash the potential in their organization and lead more effectively in a climate of constant change and innovation. They felt that the development a strong coaching and feedback culture could enable them to:

  • Drive for peak performance
  • Maximize engagement
  • Encourage a sense of responsibility and ownership
  • Lead teams through change
  • Foster innovation and initiative

The Challenge:

As in many organizations a command and control approach to management was ingrained into the organization and into the habits and mindsets of individuals across the company. Earlier attempts to train managers and leaders in the skills of coaching had met with only minimal success; even those who were initially enthusiastic often found the transformation to a coaching style of management to be very challenging. It was recognized that to develop a strong coaching culture within the organization they needed an intensive program that would drive and reinforce behavior change over a period of time. But the logistical and budgetary challenges associated with doing this across a global organization seemed to be prohibitive.

The Solution:

Illustra worked with the L&D department to develop and deliver a live virtual program that took place over a 6-week period. During this period participants are taken on an experiential journey that enables them to interact with an experienced Illustra mentor/coach in order to develop the skills and behaviors required for a coaching style of leadership. It consisted of the following elements:

Three Live Virtual workshops

Three highly interactive virtual workshops which through a variety of individual and team exercises and demanding role plays enable participants to explore key aspects of coaching and feedback

  1. Fundamentals of coaching – Participants explore the mind-sets and behaviors required to be a coaching leader, listening, questioning and constructive challenging and the importance of adopting a growth mind-set.
  2. The Skills of Coaching – An in depth exploration of the GROW coaching model and the skills and strategies to support the successful use of this model; powerful questioning techniques and the need to establish the right balance of support and challenge in the coaching relationship.
  3. The skills of effective feedback – Understanding the importance of effective positive and constructive feedback to the success of the business. Learning to use a powerful simple model for providing effective feedback.

Recorded video simulations

Participants role-play a coaching conversation with an actor – both the actor and the participant are on web cam. A video recording of this role-plays is then made available to the participant and the Illustra coach for review and analysis both individually and in the live virtual workshops.

Skills Practice Labs

Participants come together in trios to role-play a variety of different coaching and feedback conversations, each participant taking it in turns to act as coach, coachee and observer. Illustra coach mentors observe these role-plays and provide coaching and feedback.

Development Assignments

Each participant identifies specific coaching and feedback challenges they face in their own work. Over the period of the program they work on these challenges as assignments, documenting their pre conversation planning, actions and the resulting impact of coaching and feedback conversations. This documentation is shared with the Illustra mentor coach who then provides coaching and feedback.

The Result:

This six-week program has been run for groups of leaders across the United States, Europe and Asia. The participant’s skills and behaviors were evaluated at the beginning and end of the program and showed a marked improvement. While many had learnt about coaching and feedback before this program, the majority confessed to having made little use of it in their own work. After this intensive experiential learning journey a high percentage of the participants reported the beneficial adoption of a coaching leadership style in the work they were doing with their own teams.

What participants say:

“Overall this is really great coaching program”
“The program is excellent. I was initially apprehensive about the outcome since it is online, but this program exceeds all my expectation. Thumbs Up”
“Real life case study and ability to practice it with colleague without worry of consequences is a useful tool. This definitely helps build the skill”
“The clarity of material, example and experience of the coach and technology for virtual training is excellent”
“The best part of this workshop is the overall platform in which we do not feel like we are working virtually. Hats off to illustra.”