A guide to organisational coaching styles

The need

As projects get more complex and require larger numbers of people to work on them, and as innovation continues to be paramount in all product and service development, the need for different personalities to collaborate and produce real results is higher now than ever before.

Demanding that people work together and deliver innovative and quality products whilst ignoring human dynamics is never going to work. Coaching gives us the tools we need to succeed in business.

As the need for professional coaching grows, more and more people are looking for training so that they and their organisations can reap the benefits that coaching brings in their working life. For the beginner, the choices available can be overwhelming and because the cost of training is high for all the good courses, getting it wrong can be costly in time and money.

Different approaches

This guide is for anyone who wants to learn how to coach but doesn’t know where to start, and for anyone who is interested in learning the different types of coaching available to broaden their knowledge.

We are going to look through very different two lenses to discover what the right coaching is for you and your staff.

Lens 1: Who are you coaching?

The first lens is to decide who you are coaching. This is very important because beyond the basics, the skills required are different depending on who your coachees are. As we are focusing on organisational coaching, we will review the following:

  • One to one staff coaching
  • Small team (up to 15 people) coaching
  • Systems coaching (from 2 – several hundred people)
  • Executive (or senior leadership) coaching

We are not covering personal relationship, life, or sports coaching in this article.

Lens 2: What outcomes are you looking for?

The next lens is to look at the outcomes you are looking for. In coaching, it is the coachees who set their outcomes, however, in an organisational setting, there are patterns that occur again and again, so we can match outcomes to different meetings that occur throughout a product or service lifecycle and make sure the right types of coaching are available to the right people.

We can plot these outcomes along a sliding scale:

Coaching Types along a scale


The different types of coaching in an organisational setting

We are now ready to map the styles of coaching to the different lenses and target audience.

Skills Performance Org Strategy Org Vision (purpose)
One to one X X
Team X X
Systems X X
Executive X X X

Whilst there are edge cases where any combination is possible, we are interested in the common patterns and what makes sense to learn for someone who is looking to coach within organisations.

Skills based coaching

Skills coaching is often a mix of coaching and mentoring rather than pure coaching. It requires the coach to have a deep knowledge of the subject area and how to guide and suggest improvements. Skills coaching differs from training in that it is tailor made to the person or team and usually occurs after the person has been practicing the skill for some time and now needs improvement.

If you don’t have a deep knowledge of specific skills needed in your organisation, this type of coaching is not for you.

Performance coaching

Performance coaching is the most common form of coaching in organisations. It requires the person or team to set their own goals and then be coached on how to align their behaviours and day to day actions with their goals to enable better performance. Goal or performance-based coaching is best with small numbers of people with clear goals.

It does not require a deep knowledge of the subject matter that the person is trying to excel in.

Systems coaching

Systems coaching is the hardest to master for a coach and usually a coach has experience in performance coaching before attempting systems coaching. Systems coaching is based upon a type of coaching called Gestalt coaching. Systems coaching is best for larger numbers of people in complex environments. It involves combining many views in a sense-making model so that clear actions or experiments can be undertaken to make the system, product, or service to a better place.

Enterprise coaches should really have a good understanding and deep experience of systems coaching.

Executive coaching

Executive coaching usually requires the coach to have had some experience of working at or with senior staff in similar types of organisations. Usually understanding the types of stresses and challenges that senior staff face is needed.

It is possible to perform executive coaching without this experience, but often content-based mentoring and some level of support is required with the gravitas and experience to challenge and hold senior members of staff to account to their own ideals. Many coaches find this daunting or impossible if they have not worked at that level themselves.

Agile Coaching

A good Scrum Master, Agile or Enterprise Coach will have learnt Professional Coaching as one of their key core skills. Professional Coaching is where the word ‘Coach’ in ‘Agile Coach’ comes from.

Enterprise coaches need to learn systems coaching as well as one to one and team coaching.

Choosing a course

If you want help choosing a course where you can learn these skills, you can visit this page on our website.

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