Coaching is essential in the workplace. It doesn’t matter whether the leading managers coach the staff, senior employees mentor the new ones, or a company hires a professional; the goal of coaching is always to help someone improve in some way.

A great coach can improve leadership potential, help employees perfect their skills, maximize management abilities, and even inspire and change negative attitudes toward work.

Unlike many other skills, coaching is not so straightforward — there’s not necessarily a right and wrong way to do it. However, there are four distinct styles of coaching that stand out.

Participative Coaching Style

Participative or democratic style strives to encourage the coachees to take matters into their own hands. Here, the coach merely acts as a mediator. They are there to motivate and give useful guidelines as well as inspire the team to take an active role in the project.

The basic principles of democracy are participation and collaboration, so this style of coaching is great for improving the overall communication in the team. Every participant feels appreciated and heard, and everyone can pitch ideas and contribute to the decision-making process.

This coaching approach can improve the productivity of the team immensely. By empowering employees to take an active role in a project, it also makes them more involved and invested in the outcome.

A democratic coach is more of a friendly enabler than a fierce leader. Since this style is gentle and unintrusive, it can take some time to yield results, but it is worth it.

Autocratic Coaching Style

This style of coaching, otherwise known as authoritarian, is the complete opposite of the previously described one. Whereas the democratic style encourages participation from the coachees, this one is rather instructive, and the coachees have no control and no say in the process.

The coach takes an active leadership role and makes all the decisions, and the participants simply have to understand and follow. There is a strong focus on the outcome and achieving it in the most efficient way possible.

Though this style of coaching is not that popular anymore, and it is even negatively perceived, it does have its own advantages. For example, not every team is ready or willing to take part in the decision-making process. Inexperienced employees would rather follow a strong leader than risk feeling utterly lost.

Another advantage of this style is that it takes the stress off the coachees’ shoulders as all they have to do is do as they’re told.

Laissez-Faire Coaching Style

This is the most laid-back and hands-off style of coaching you can imagine. It stems from the idea that employees are perfectly capable of “leading themselves,” i.e., that they require almost no leadership and should possess a great deal of autonomy.

In this style, the coach is merely a motivator, and the participants have complete control over the process. They are the sole decision-makers.

While this style can greatly improve the employees’ self-efficacy and confidence, a complete absence of leadership is often seen as harmful. It can work in some instances, but if you practice it all the time, it might translate as a lack of accountability and interest no matter your intentions.

To avoid negative outcomes, the coach should be more present and give regular feedback and advice on what and how to improve.

Holistic Coaching Style

Many people are used to leaving their personal lives and problems at the door while entering the office. They are taught to be professional and focus entirely on work while at work.

However, a holistic coach is interested in the employees as whole persons with lives outside of work. They know that various factors outside the office influence their performance, and these need to be acknowledged and addressed.

This style of coaching may include various mental health exercises and deep care for the coachees’ personal wellbeing. It may promote various stress management techniques and relaxation sessions.

There is an obvious benefit to this style, i.e., the human element that allows people to feel understood and appreciated. However, as is the case with any other style, this one too may not suit everyone.

Some employees may find it intrusive and unnecessarily meddling. People deal with problems in various ways. There’s always the risk that such a coaching approach may unlock deep traumas, which the coach won’t have the knowledge and skill to deal with.

It Isn’t Set in Stone

While these are the four most common coaching styles, there are many others too. In reality, no one relies on one style only, but rather, they mix and match to find what suits them.