One of the most challenging but most important jobs of any leadership role is recognizing when an individual or even a whole team isn’t living up to their potential, and understanding the best way to step in and guide them. Sometimes members of your crew just need a push in the right direction and knowledge of your support; sometimes they need more hands-on training in the nitty-gritty details of their work process; and sometimes they need someone to help them step back, see the bigger picture, and create a plan of action.

Different realities and different dynamics call for different approaches when intervening in the work process of a team or individual. This kind of intervention is known as coaching, and there are three distinct varieties meant to address different primary concerns.

1. The Heart: Motivational Coaching

When you recognize that a team member (or even a team as a whole) is no longer feeling passionate about or engaged in the work they’re doing, that is a surefire sign that there’s been a breakdown that needs to be addressed for the future health of the project. Motivational coaching is a means of addressing situations where someone on your team is no longer putting in the effort necessary to achieve your organization’s goals.

The lack of effort here can take many forms. It could be that the individual no longer feels invested in the project, or it could be that they’re struggling with fear of failure, or frustration with parts of the work process. Your goal is to pin down the “why,” and it’s not always something the individual themselves is fully aware of. You’ll need to speak with the affected person or persons, ask questions carefully, and listen attentively to pin down exactly what is happening.

Motivational coaching can include a range of leadership responses, from simple encouragement and support to the “tough love” of brutal honesty. Whatever route you take should be carefully considered and approached with empathy and positivity. As a leader, it can be frustrating when one or more teammates are no longer exhibiting the passion for the project that you have, but remember that most individuals won’t be happy with that state of affairs either.

2. The Hands: Educational Coaching

In many cases, issues in your organization can come down to nothing more or less than a lack of knowledge. When this happens, you can turn to educational coaching, which is intended to address information gaps and give individuals the knowledge or skills necessary to take action.

Depending on the shape and scope of education needed, intervention in these scenarios may just require providing written instructions, or sitting down and role-playing through the work process with affected individuals. More complex information may require more intensive training sessions, breaking the training down into multiple parts, or delegating the training to someone else in the organization who is especially familiar with that information.

Remember that the end goal of educational coaching is to provide individuals with the information they’re missing or to support them in developing the skills needed to properly contribute. That lack of knowledge may be embarrassing or frustrating for your team members, so approach educational coaching with compassion.

3. The Head: Strategic Coaching

Of all these methods, strategic coaching may be the most intimidating but also the most important. Members of your organization may be as passionate as the day they joined and equipped with all the necessary information, but if they don’t know the best way to direct all of that, they still won’t be able to accomplish their goals. That is when you should turn to strategic coaching, which evaluates the best plan for using the resources available to achieve the most desirable outcome.

The key word for strategic coaching is “how.” You must determine how the individual or team is currently using their resources, how they’ve decided on the goal to pursue, and how they should approach things moving forward. By necessity, strategic coaching involves asking a lot of questions, offering feedback, and pushing the affected people to carefully consider their strategy. 

On that same note, though, don’t be afraid of giving individuals time alone to think through things for themselves—sometimes self-reflection can lead to a major breakthrough. Just be sure to schedule a follow-up to finalize a plan.

Are you looking for more information on these coaching methods and other means of improving your leadership? Sign up for a Wild workshop to expand your leadership toolbox and learn more about how to coach your organization to success.