I have all seen different types of coaches in action. The angry, red-faced coaches who yell at their teams for their failures; the disengaged, flat-line coaches who are physically present but not actively engaged in coaching; and the positive, exciting coaches who inspire their teams to strive for more despite the circumstances. Which type of coaching produces the best results?
The benefits of positive coaching carry "face validity," meaning that even without research evidence, most people would agree that positive coaching generates real benefits (although there is plenty of research to support the validity of positive coaching). People in general, regardless of generation or culture, respond better to positive interactions.
We do more for those who appreciate us and invest in us simply because it feels good. Since we are creatures of pleasure, we repeat the behavior that created that good feeling. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of reinforced positive behavior and positive results.
As I see too frequently, an equally powerful negative cycle can be created. Although some leaders argue that a negative response motivates people to perform, it also creates anxiety and triggers disengagement. A negative approach to coaching typically does not sustain long-term performance because people respond to negative leadership with compliance versus commitment.
To be clear, I am not saying to avoid tough conversations. Rather, I recommend coaching for performance improvement with a positive mindset and habits to increase the chances of positive results.
Positive coaching is not a soft approach. To the contrary, it leverages insights about human dynamics and performance to generate hard results. Positive coaching leads to:
- More focused effort (and less wasted mental and physical energy) because you and your team are aligned on expectations.
- More discretionary effort from your team because they are fully engaged.
- More ownership behavior and innovation because your team is involved in creating solutions.
- Greater accountability because your team knows their personal performance score.
- Deeper commitment from team members because your team feels genuinely appreciated and valued.
The results are a more productive team, improved relationships, and sustained positive performance.