RESPECT Coaching Styles™ Explain Google’s Project Oxygen Results!

Google found after a 10-year study, called Project Oxygen, that the #1 quality of great leaders is being a good coach. But what does being a good coach entail? And how does the research and framework of the RESPECT Coaching Styles™ relate to it? The results are quite shocking, providing brand new insights you can put into action!

Google's Research

Originally in 2008, researchers found 8 qualities of effective leaders. Armed with these insights, they trained managers in these top qualities, and powerful results emerged. Google gained positive outcomes in turnover, satisfaction, and performance. These are core to any business’ operations and culture.

Then in 2018, Google researchers wanted to look again at those leader behaviors and slightly augmented the list. This research yielded a total of 10 behaviors of great leaders. In each version of study, the #1 factor of great leadership was coaching by the leader. However, what does great coaching mean? And what about the nine other behaviors on rest of the list?

OwlHub's Research

By the time Google started refining their findings, I had begun my doctorate in pursuit of studying some of the world’s best coaches. While Google found that coaching works, I quested after finding what makes coaching work?

I scoured the existing academic literature on coaching and leadership. I found a lot of research showing that it works, just as Google found. However, nothing substantive about exactly how it works!

In fact, researchers argued about what coaching is about. Some believed it’s about achieving goals. Others argued it’s about learning. Still others said it’s about problems and solutions. Other positions included speaking the unspeakable truth, expanding awareness, empathy, and empowerment. So, how can we hope to find out how coaching works if we can’t even agree what we consider coaching to be?

So, I turned to leadership literature and found the concept of styles. In fact, it was the top researched focus area – servant leadership, transformational leadership, authentic leadership, etc. Styles explained outcomes better than any other factor – more important than leader attributes, follower attributes, or leader-follower relationship. Styles held the key! However, coaching didn’t have the concept of styles. So, I asked, “Do coaches have styles? If so, what are they?”

After coding 2235 quotes from transcripts of interviews with many of the world’s best coaches, I discovered that there are exactly seven styles coaches use when coaching. These seven styles are now known as the RESPECT Coaching Styles™.

In fact, these seven styles solve the arguments by researchers and scholars. Each of them took a position that related to each style, yet they didn’t realize there was a plurality of styles! They made the mistake of thinking it was about one approach and not others. But you need all seven styles in great coaching!

What are the RESPECT Coaching Styles™?

Great coaches have distinct intentions and behaviors that fall into seven unique styles. They seven styles spell the acronym RESPECT.

They are:

Rallier: Results-oriented, motivating, and performance-focused.

Educator: Knowledge- and skills-focused, shares information, and learning-oriented

Strategist: Helps others create plans and strategies that solve complex problems

Provocateur: Focuses on decision-making, questioning assumptions, and critical thinking

Explorer: Expands creativity, innovation, and collaboration through following curiosity

Confidant: Creates emotional and psychological safety, expresses empathy, listens

Transformer: Sees potential in others, grows sense of empowerment in others

These styles infuse into every moment in coaching. Whether it’s a question, statement, or pause, one or more of the RESPECT Coaching Styles™ is shaping the interaction.

For example, asking: “What goal do you need to accomplish by the end of the week?” is an open-ended question infused with the Rallier style. However, if the leader asks, “What is a possible solution to this issue?” the open-ended question is shaped by the Strategist style.

You can even combine styles, such as: “What action do you need to take to solve this problem by the end of the week?” This question fuses Rallier and Strategist. Our programs, such as the RESPECT Acceleration Program  help give greater discernment between styles as well as shows you how to blend styles.

Project Oxygen’s Findings

Google’s best managers had the following behaviors:

  1. Is a good coach
  2. Empowers team and does not micromanage
  3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
  4. Is productive and results-oriented
  5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information
  6. Supports career development and discusses performance
  7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
  8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team
  9. Collaborates across Google
  10. Is a strong decision maker

When I first read it after my research was completed, I learned of the study and thought: “What a great list! It’s wonderful coaching is the #1 behavior of the best leaders! I knew coaching was a powerful tool for leaders!”

Isn’t it great when a study shines the light on something that is both clear in its insights, yet deep in its rigor and trustworthiness? I think so.

New RESPECT for Project Oxygen’s Findings

After quoting the study for a couple of years, I thought Project Oxygen had given me all the gifts it could – coaching is #1!

However, a short time ago I was presenting to a well-known Fortune 500 company and I quoted this study as I taught about the RESPECT Coaching Styles. I mentioned how being a good coach requires all the styles. Someone chimed in and asked, “What are the other items on list from Google’s study?” I had the full list in my presentation notes and started reading them aloud.

As I read, a chill ran down my spine and a wave of awe washed over me. Time slowed and I barely heard my own words. As I stared at the list, it struck me! Behavior after behavior – each is a clear expression of coaching styles! Every. Single. One.

The RESPECT Coaching Styles™ weren’t just embedded in #1! Every behavior from #2 to #10 was clearly and directly related to one or two of the styles! Let’s revisit the list!

Project Oxygen Meets RESPECT

In regular text is the Project Oxygen behavior, and in italicized parentheses is the RESPECT style or styles that births the behavior. To see the direct relationship, feel free to scroll back to the wording for each of the RESPECT Coaching Styles™. But let’s start the fun!

Here are Project Oxygen behaviors with (RESPECT):

  1. Is a good coach (all seven RESPECT styles)
  2. Empowers team and does not micromanage (Transformer)
  3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being (Confidant)
  4. Is productive and results-oriented (Rallier)
  5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information (Confidant + Educator)
  6. Supports career development and discusses performance (Transformer + Rallier)
  7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team (Strategist)
  8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team (Educator)
  9. Collaborates across Google (Explorer)
  10. Is a strong decision maker (Provocateur)

Seeing the results overlaid is somewhat shocking in its clarity and simplicity! You only need to master RESPECT, and the rest emerges!

The RESPECT Coaching Styles™ resolved arguments by the world’s best coaching scholars about key coaching behaviors. But they also shed new light on Google’s research about the top 10 behaviors of the best leaders!

It All Comes Down to RESPECT!

When I first discovered the seven distinct styles, now known as the RESPECT Coaching Styles™, I honestly thought, “Wow, how simple and straight-forward, but it is too obvious? Too simple?” Then I realized nobody had presented something that’s understandable, yet comprehensive! Then I thought, “This is really cool… to me! But will anyone else care?”

I’m happy to say that RESPECT Coaching Styles™ as well as the assessments and training are being rapidly adopted by the world’s most well-respected companies, from tech to the top of the Fortune 500 list. RESPECT Coaching Styles™ give a clear, powerful model that enables leaders and coaches to immediately improve their coaching and outcomes!

It’s truly revolutionary. The only question that remains in my mind is – what else can the RESPECT Coaching Styles™ explain?

I suspect we’ll soon find that the RESPECT Coaching Styles™ provide deep insight and usefulness to parents, couples, sports coaches, educators, and a myriad of others!

David Morelli, PhD

David Morelli, PhD

David is the CEO and co-founder of OwlHub and the creator of the RESPECT Coaching Styles™. He has 25 years of executive coaching and leadership development experience. When he's not inspiring people to grow, you can find him making a fool of himself onstage as an improviser.