We all tend to fit one of seven types of change leader, each of which indicates a different mix of leading with Head, Heart, or Hands. The first change leader type is the Coach—and he’s all about Heart.

If your change leader style is that of a Coach, you focus on people and how the change process will impact the people around you more than any other type of change leader. You give significant time and attention to communicating about change, engaging others in the process, and ensuring that people’s needs are taken into account as it occurs. You excel at encouragement, positivity, and support.

You may, however, place more emphasis on motivating people than you do on confronting them when they’re not following through. To help yourself and others move more smoothly and deliberately toward the objectives of the change project, you need to find a way to supplement your natural people-focus with attention to project planning and the overall purpose and goals of the initiative.

If you lead as a Coach, most of the time you:

  • Encourage people to participate in discussions and decisions
  • Step in to resolve process problems (e.g., conflict, lack of involvement)
  • Listen attentively (while withholding judgment) to all viewpoints
  • Recognize and praise others for their efforts
    • Help the team reduce stress during challenging times in the change process by joking, being informal, and discussing personal interests

However, as a Coach, you do tend to have some blind spots. For example, you sometimes:

  • See team process and organizational climate as an end in itself
  • Fail to challenge or contradict others
  • Do not recognize the importance of accomplishing tasks
  • Overuse humor and other conflict-mitigating techniques
  • Do not give enough emphasis to long-range thinking and planning

So while a Coach can be encouraging, tolerant, and humorous, he or she can also be seen as vague, impractical, or not sufficiently serious. When you have a full understanding of these facets of your leadership style, you can go about maximizing the good and minimizing the weak spots.

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