Which works best? A boss, manager, supervisor or even a coach who pushes, makes you feel uncomfortable, yells at you OR the boss, manager, supervisor who is patient, calm, creates a comfortable, trusting, and safe relationship?
In college basketball, Coach Bob Knight was often criticized for his wildly inappropriate, boorish behavior. Yet, based on results, it seemed to work. Coach Knight won three national championships, very early on in his career. He coached a US team to an Olympic Gold in 1984, and his teams won countless conference championships (A side note: Coach Knight's teams always graduated at a rate among the highest in the country. And the coach also contributed his own resources to the improvement of education at Indiana University).
Then there is John Wooden, another college basketball coaching great. He was tough, strong-willed, brilliant. He also listened, created a respectful and trusting space. You still had to do things his way. But seldom did he yell or lose his temper. He did not berate his players. His teams won 88 games in a row and 10 straight championships. And his players graduated at high rates.
From psychology, there are decades of research and evidence that says the most important determinant of change is the relationship between the client and helping professional (therapist, doctor, teacher, coach, psychiatrist).
In other words, the more a customer or client feels respected, trusted, and understood ... the safer he or she will feel. That safety will help the customer or client respect the relationship. It all adds up.
What about pushing a client, using "tough love?" If a coach, help professional, therapist, is going to help a client make long lasting change, then the basic relationship space of trust and respect has to be created and cultivated. However, stretching a client to do something that he or she is not comfortable doing is ultimately the bottom line of change. And at times this CALLS for a more direct, strict, "tougher love," approach.
BUT in the long run, lasting change and lasting results comes from the relationship between help professional, client or customer.
CLOSING NOTES: Coach Wooden was able to sustain longer term success. In his first few years, his teams struggled. In fact, Coach Knight's first few years were filled with amazing success. But in the long run, Wooden had the most consistent long-term success in the history of College basketball. Meanwhile, Coach Knight's team backslid towards mediocrity.
Think about your experiences. Maybe there was a parent, coach, mentor, or teacher that you look back on as "influential." Someone you respected, trusted, admired. Someone who motivated you to perform at peak levels or at higher levels. Maybe that person did set some hard lines once in awhile. Maybe he or she asked you to stretch out of your comfort zone, to work harder, practice harder, etc. But instead of resenting that "pushiness," you stayed with it because a respectful, trusting relationship had already been established.
One dimensional coaching - constant pressure, constant berating, constant cajoling - can produce some wonderful results in the short run. But in the long haul, it may be self-defeating.