We 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 abundant 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 we 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, we are not suggesting you avoid tough conversations. Rather, we 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.

Coaching Model
Positive Mindset and Habits
Coaching Model  
Reactively addresses
poor performance
Proactively facilitates
good performance  
Intervention-oriented Prevention-oriented  
Addresses weaknesses   Optimizes strengths
Seeks compliance Builds commitment  
Scripted reactions by coach Authentic responses by coach  
Transactional focus Relational focus  
Programmatic Cultural  
Individual impact Organizational impact  

In my new book, The Power of Positive Coaching, I introduce this new coaching model and level of impact.


  • Lee J. Colan, Ph.D.

    Executive Advisor and Leadership Consultant

    Lee J. Colan, Ph.D. is a rare combination of a highly-trained business consultant and coach to leading organizations, prolific author and engaging presenter of ideas. Lee has authored 15 popular books that have been translated into 10 languages, including the bestselling Engaging the Hearts and Minds of All Your Employees. He has also created over 100 practical models and products that equip and inspire leaders at every level. Learn more and access free tools at theLgroup.com.