Managing vs. Coaching

It is not uncommon to hear the term “managing” and “coaching” used interchangeably.  Those who understand the difference (that will include you after you read this article) cringe a little inside when this occurs because it is likely they have worked for, or with, a manager who certainly was not a coach, and therefore ineffective. In a nutshell, employees coaching is a function of managing that every good leader of others must be able to do well.

What is Managing?

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The term “managing” refers to the job of overseeing the work of others. The responsibilities of a manager typical include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • On-boarding and orienting new employees
  • Conducting meetings
  • Delegating tasks and assignments
  • Giving feedback
  • Monitoring progress and performance
  • Making decisions
  • Dealing with conflicts

Unfortunately, much of the time, “managing” employees means solving their problems for them. Poor employees often rely on the boss to solve their problems because that’s what they’ve been trained to do—regardless of whether that training was intentional or not.

This is not to say that there aren’t times when managing is necessary. When you’re rushing to meet a deadline, or when a client has very specific needs and you are the most familiar with them, it may be best for your employees to defer to you and trust you to get the team where it needs to go. Other situations that require pure management include

  • Handling new or inexperienced staff, especially if this is their first foray into that particular assignment.
  • Resolving emergencies that demand immediate action.
  • Completing an undesirable task.

These situations require expediency, decisiveness, and accuracy. They are driven by results and there is little, if any, room for error. In these cases, the team just needs someone to be in charge and distribute assignments.

However, being a controlling, directive manager is generally a less-effective leadership style because it usually results in disengaged employees who rely on their superiors to make all the decisions.

What is Coaching?

The term “coaching” refers to a two-way communication process between members of the organization (leaders to team members, peers to peers, team members to leaders) aimed at influencing and developing the employees’ skills, motivation, attitude, judgment, or ability to perform, and the willingness to contribute to an organization’s goals.

Coaching employees involves teaching them how to arrive at a solution on their own. It’s about teaching critical-thinking skills that lead to self-reliance instead of just falling back on the boss. Managing is typically a one-way street; coaching relies on open communication in both directions (employee to supervisor and supervisor to employee).

Effective leaders guide their employees in their work and then get out of the way. These leaders trust their employees to make smart decisions. When employees feel trusted, workplace satisfaction increases, work gets done more efficiently, and the quality of that work improves.

Unfortunately, too many managers fall short of success because they focus on the task and bottom line results, overlooking the fact that results are best achieved through developing and inspiring others to achieve those results. While achieving results through others is a challenging task, organizations cannot grow and compete if their managers don’t talk to people about their performance and contribution to the organization. With regular and skillful coaching, managers can fulfill their responsibility to deliver:

  • Enhanced performance and improved productivity.
  • A work environment where people are highly engaged.
  • A culture of trust within the organization.

Once a manager learns how to think, talk, and act like a coach, the “coaching process” not only becomes second nature to the coach but changes attitudes and behaviors of his or her team members.

Improve your Coaching Skills:

With this in mind, it’s clear that coaching skills have an important place in your leadership toolkit. Here are four ways to improve your abilities in this area:

1. Motivate instead of command.

Motivating others to take action is one of the primary goals of coaching. A coach learns how to balance providing direction with remaining inspiring and accessible to employees. Coaches show employees their potential by pointing out the value in their work and helping them develop self-confidence. This approach creates more effective and engaged employees because they begin to develop a sense of pride in what they do for a living.

2. Support your peers.

Be a source of support to your colleagues. It can be draining to listen to people vent or complain, so learn to lean on each other.

3. Make it desirable to do quality work.

Let’s say, for instance, that there’s an employee who has a heavier workload than usual. This extra work makes him feel anxious and stressed. A manager might just tell him to make sure he gets it done somehow—but this is rarely effective and can even exacerbate the employee’s anxiety.

A better way to handle it would be to acknowledge and validate his feelings, and then encourage him: tell him that he is capable, that you know he has the capacity to go above and beyond the minimum requirements of the job. Emphasize how much you’ve appreciated his work in the past, and then make sure there’s a reward of some kind when he’s done (whether that’s a gift card, a small bonus, or even just public or private recognition is up to you).

4. Make it a pleasure to work for you.

Remember that the culture and climate of a workplace are key components of employee motivation. The atmosphere should be fun, safe, and inspiring for employees, because satisfied employees foster satisfied customers.

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About the Author

Cherissa Newton