Coaching & Communication 2

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You're empowered to do what I tell you!
You're empowered to do what I tell you!

In part 1we explored six communication styles:

  • Tells
  • Sells
  • Tests
  • Consults
  • Joins
  • Delegates

Let’s now consider the relative advantages and disadvantages of each.


Managers who use this style prefer to manage by command and control and they are sometimes referred to as autocrats. This style means that the manager can exercise great control as he or she can be sure that work is being carried out in accordance with their detailed instructions. This style also has the benefit of ensuring a consistent approach and is likely to absorb far less time.

However, people who work for managers like this often complain of feeling put upon and unappreciated. They can feel frustrated at not being given a chance to have their say and can end up following instructions to the letter and exercising little if any initiative.

Also, from the manager’s point of view, this style does not really give access to the creativity and experience within the team and assumes that the manager has experienced all the problems and knows all the answers.


Here the manager is still the one devising the plans and making the decisions, but does consider the needs of the team buy trying to sell the benefits of his or her suggestions. Notice though that it is still his or her suggestions, without much scope for team contributions. Furthermore if the team do not initially buy the suggestion it is likely that the manager will resort to Tell and insist that the team do as they are asked whether they like it or not.


Tests involves approaching the team with an idea and just seeing what their reaction is. If the initial suggestion is received with enthusiasm, this style of manager is likely to relinquish control to a fair degree and allow the team to undertake the work under his or her guidance. Alternatively, if the initial suggestion is resisted it may be that the manager decides to revisit certain decisions and to see if a more positive way forward can be formulated.


When we consult, we may prefer to avoid making decisions until after the team has had a chance to discuss matters. This can be a problem in that decisions might be delayed until everyone in the team has had a chance to have their say, and it’s far from certain that decisions made in this way will be any better than if the manager made them on their own. It has been said that a camel is only a horse designed by a committee where everyone insisted on having their bit included!


Managers that favour this style like to position themselves as just one of the group whose opinions and ideas are no more valid than anyone else’s. This can create a dynamic team atmosphere and leave people feeling highly valued.  It is likely that groups managed in this way will produce a range of creative ideas and relieve the manager of much of the burden of control. However, as with Consults, this style soaks up a lot of time and may not be appropriate when a speedy, emphatic decision is needed.


At the other end of the spectrum then is the management style of Delegates. This means that the manager explains the requirements of a task and sets the rules and deadlines, but then leaves the team or the individual to achieve the desired results as they see fit.

This quite clearly emphasizes trust and faith in others but must not be done without some thought. Managers need to know their team well enough to be able to decide who should do what, and they must never seek to delegate accountability. In other words, if it goes wrong the manager carries the can – its part of being a manager!

In a future post I’ll examine how we can use a coaching approach to work with these different communication styles.


Matt Somers

Matt Somers

Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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