Join Us For Our New Webinar, Proofing Your Workforce: Upskilling and Reskilling Strategies Sign up!

May 4, 2023 3 Min Read

Master Adaptive Coaching

  • Featured Image
Mastering Adaptive Coaching


Did you know that 75% of employees believe coaching is crucial for their career development? In addition, The Institute of Coaching cites that over 70% of individuals who receive coaching benefited from improved performance. (Sime, 2019)

As a leader, it is essential to adapt your coaching approach based on the unique needs of your employees. In this article, we explore four different styles of coaching that can be characterized as: Directive, Explanatory, Collaborative, and Empowering. By mastering these approaches, you can unlock your team’s full potential and drive success. 


Directive Coaching 

Directive Coaching is like providing a compass to a lost traveler. In this approach, the coach uses clear instructions and close supervision to guide employees with limited experience or skill.  

Directive Coaching is suitable for situations where employees are insecure or unmotivated. For example, when an employee is new to their role and unsure of how to navigate a sales pitch, Directive Coaching can provide the necessary guidance and support.  

Key actions, behaviors, and questions for success:  

  1. Encourage questions for clarity.  
  2. Recognize and reinforce incremental progress.
  3. Use coaching questions that are consistent with a directive style such as: “What steps do you need to take to complete this task?” and “How can I help you feel more confident in your abilities?” 

In his experience working with clients, Coach Andrew Grunewald believes this is a critical time in setting your people up for success – by ensuring they have (and understand) the tools at their disposal to do their job. As well as creating an environment that encourages openness and questions. Very often though, coaches can get “stuck” in this phase and continue being ‘directive’ in their coaching, despite the employee having gained experience or skill – leading to micro-management.


Explanatory Coaching  

Explanatory Coaching is about providing the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’.” This style combines task structure with discussions about the importance of the task, while recognizing the employee’s enthusiasm and commitment.  

Explanatory Coaching is ideal when employees have limited experience but are highly motivated. Consider a scenario where an employee is eager to learn a new sales technique but lacks the required knowledge; Explanatory Coaching can help bridge that gap.  

Key actions, behaviors, and questions for success:  

  1. Provide focused performance feedback and increased dialogue’  
  2. Acknowledge the employee’s interest and dedication’ 
  3. Use coaching questions that are consistent with an explanatory style: 
  •   “Can you explain the rationale behind your approach?” 
  •   “How does this task contribute to our overall goals?” 

When asked about this phase of coaching, Coach Andrew says, “This, for me, is an exciting phase. The employee has now gained a limited level of experience and skill, perhaps even success and can therefore start exploring boundaries. As they say, ‘a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing’ The opportunity for the coach here is to guide and mold that excitement in the right direction.”


Collaborative Coaching  

Collaborative Coaching is like building a puzzle together with the employee. This approach involves open-ended discussions and collaboration to address performance challenges when employees have proficient skills but lack confidence or motivation.  

Collaborative Coaching is fitting when an employee is struggling with a complex problem or requires reassurance. Imagine a team member who has a solid track record in sales but is hesitant to tackle a high-stakes client negotiation; Collaborative Coaching can offer the needed support.  

If we contrast this with an employee in the Explanatory Phase, the employee might be exuberant or excited. An employee in the Collaborative Phase has experienced both success and failure and could be stuck in a comfort zone, that is holding them back. When Coach Andrew sees this with his clients, he tries to get to the core of what is holding that individual back. What self-limiting beliefs need to be highlighted and addressed and explore ways to move beyond those self-limiting beliefs.

Key actions, behaviors, and questions for success:  

  1. Help employees recognize the source of performance challenges.  
  2. Work together to find viable solutions. 
  3. Use coaching questions that are consistent with a collaborative style: 
  4. “What do you think is holding you back from achieving success in this situation?” 
  5. “How can we work together to overcome this obstacle?” 


Empowering Coaching  

Empowering Coaching is about unlocking an employee’s full potential and giving them the keys to success. This style encourages employees with high skill levels, motivation, and confidence to take ownership and responsibility.  

Empowering Coaching is suitable when employees have demonstrated their expertise and commitment. For instance, a top-performing sales representative who is ready to tackle a new market segment can benefit from this approach.   

In his experience, Coach Andrew sees this as a segment of employees that can be overlooked for coaching, as they already have a level of success compared to the expectations or KPIs. Leaders tend to let them carry on and focus on other employees, who “need” the coach more.

What Coach Andrew loves about this style is that, by understanding what drives and motivates an experienced and skillful employee, a coach can now really challenge them. An effective coach will be able to unlock new thinking about what is possible for the employee, beyond what is expected or even what the employee may think is possible.

Key actions, behaviors, and questions for success:  

  1. Offer freedom in decision-making. 
  2. Initiate communication with open-ended questions. 
  3. Use coaching questions that are consistent with a collaborative style: 
  • “What strategies do you think will be most effective in this new market segment?” 
  • “How can we support your efforts in driving growth and success? 


Choosing the Right Coaching Style 

As a leader, understanding your employees is vital to provide effective coaching. When choosing the right coaching style, several factors come into play. First, consider the employee’s skill level, experience, and motivation. A novice employee might need more guidance, while a seasoned professional may require encouragement and autonomy. 

Next, think about the task’s complexity and urgency. For instance, a high-stakes project with tight deadlines might call for a more directive approach, while a long-term, collaborative project could benefit from a more participatory style. It’s essential to tailor your coaching approach to the specific context of each task. 

Additionally, consider your organization’s culture and goals. Aligning your coaching style with the broader objectives and values of your company can help reinforce a consistent and supportive environment. 

Adapting your coaching style based on employee needs requires flexibility and responsiveness. As a leader, be open to adjusting your approach as situations change or as employees develop new skills. Continuously evaluate the effectiveness of your coaching style and be willing to make necessary adjustments to meet your team’s evolving needs. 

By taking the time to assess employee needs and context, and adapting your coaching style accordingly, you can foster an environment that encourages growth, development, and success. For Coach Andrew, this is key, “As a coach you need to adapt your style to your employee’s needs and not get ‘stuck’ yourself in one way of coaching. I have seen coaches in the past who get ‘burnt-out’ mainly because they have slipped into a habit or single approach. The joy of coaching is that each engagement will be different, as you are dealing with different employees who have their own, different set of circumstances.”



Mastering Adaptive Coaching is crucial to unlock your team’s full potential and drive success. As you plan your upcoming coaching conversations, challenge yourself to apply the most suitable approach based on your employees’ needs. Remember that effective coaching is an ongoing process that requires flexibility, evaluation, and adjustments. 

If you’re looking to put your insights from this article into action, consider reaching out to a professional Coach. They can provide expert guidance and support as you develop your Adaptive Coaching skills and create a positive impact on your team’s performance.

Book your session with Andrew Grunewald or another TaskHuman leadership coach today!


Book Coach Andrew →

TaskHuman Icon

You're almost there!


Enter your phone number and we'll text you a special download link.

Subject to TaskHuman's Terms and Conditions

Access TaskHuman!

Go to or download the TaskHuman app from the App Store or Google Play Store

Apple Store Google Play Store

Don't have the app? Download it now

Google Play Store QR Code