Sometimes managers step in to ‘help’ their employees. Sometimes this is conscious. Other times managers don’t know they are slipping into this role. It is a default or unconscious act. When done responsibly this can be effective. It is also worth noting where coaching also should play a part. Jon Heron’s categories of intervention help provide a framework to determine the right intervention at the right time. And, for the right reasons!

Types of intervention

Heron notes 2 types of intervention available, which are broken down into 6 styles:

  • Authoritative intervention – Prescriptive, Informative and Confronting styles
  • Facilitative intervention – Cathartic, Catalytic and Supportive styles

Knowing the situation and needs of the person will help determine the appropriate intervention and style..

When talking about an ‘intervention’ Heron means ‘an identifiable piece of verbal or non-verbal behaviour that is part of the practitioner’s  service to the client‘.

Additionally, the framework enables us to self assess how we interact with people. Understand how we are received, know more about ourselves and also understand our coachees or clients.

Traditional coaching focuses upon more the facilitative intervention. However there is potential scope for dipping into the others – occasionally…

The 6 – Styles

Authoritative – prescriptive

Commonly used by managers, primarily as a default management style. It works on telling employees what to do. It is to the point and around the manager’s agenda and needs not the employees. The message contains direction and instruction, with little or no discussion or input from the employee. When prescriptive, managers need to be precise in their instructions. As it is an instruction, it needs to be acted on by the employee immediately for the full effect to be realized.

Is used where the employee has little experience of a task or situation. This style changes as their experience grows. It is highly unlikely that the coach will use the prescriptive style, as the coach’s role isn’t directing or instructing. However, situation’s very occasionally arise where this is useful.

Authoritative – informative

Next, informative concerns the passing information to the employee, which is needed for their task or role. It focuses on the manager having key experience of something or a situation. Without this vital information employees and teams will not be able to effectively complete tasks. The manager shares wisdom, enabling employees to work more independently. It is likely that the employee will have little choice as to receiving the information.

Again, coaches rarely use this informative intervention style. Except where the employee is putting themselves or others at risk, if they don’t have valid information. Or if the employee asks for the coach’s input. The coach ask’s if their can share an insight or piece of experience.

Authoritative – confrontation

The third intervention style, suggests is a more aggressive approach. It asks the employee to change in some way their work or approach. It is often perceived as challenging their working practices. As such, it will have an impact on the employee receiving the request. This style might be used to stimulate more independent thought processes.

Again, it is unlikely a coach will engage in this style. Instead, they will use questions to get the employee to realise a different approach is needed. However, confronting will sparingly be used as a form of challenge to the employee.

Facilitative – cathartic

Used when progress on work is slow and there is a degree of frustration. It allows the employee to share and express their thoughts, emotions and feelings. Once out, the employee or team move on, looking for other creative solutions.

Coaches confident in themselves and their practice will spend time creating the environment for this style to happen safely. Asking meaningful open questions. Teasing out and exploring feelings when appropriate. Coaches recognise the value in people being able to express and understand internal emotions and causes. Then, develop new courses of action. Coaches also use their body language to further encourage employees to express in situations. Either using it by itself or in conjunction with verbal encouragement.

Facilitative – catalytic

Coaches commonly operate in this way. It enables employees to learn for themselves, and not about providing answers. It creates an environment for them to reflect on performance and behaviours in order to uncover strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. This style focuses on the employee, putting them at the centre of the conversation.

Directive managers, rarely demonstrate this style and are unlikely to comfortably operate in this way.

Facilitative – supportive

Finally, this style helps develop employee self-esteem and feeling good about themselves. The employee is central in the conversation, reminding them of their strengths, and contributions. In doing so the employee is empowered and energized for themselves and others.

The coach maintains this style throughout their coaching approach and engagement. At the end of the coaching the coach reviews progress and provides feedback where appropriate.

There are times when managers need to intervene. But it is HOW they intervene and their intent behind this that has the most impact. Knowing employees and their needs enables the most appropriate intervention and style to be used.