It is not uncommon to hear the terms “managing” and “coaching” used interchangeably. Those who understand the difference (including 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 was ineffective.
In a nutshell, coaching employees is a function of managing that every good leader of others must be able to do well.
What Is Managing?
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:
- Onboarding 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, order-giving 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. Ideally, managers can step up and serve as coaches for employees as well.
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, motivations, attitudes, judgment, or ability to perform, along with their 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; the coaching approach to management 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 contributions to the organization. By implementing 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 the 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. Recognize that it can be draining when you merely vent or complain to those who work in roles similar to your own. Instead, ask specific questions when you have a problem to solve that feels beyond your experience. Seek advice—not just an outlet for frustration.
You can further build relationships with colleagues by offering at least as much support as you ask for. Allow them to bring problems to you and get your perspective. Be generous with your time when they need similar help.
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).
When possible, offer additional help with the workload in the meantime as well. For instance, ask if there are resources he needs that would streamline the task. Sensing your support along the way can help employees feel more enticed to reach that final carrot.
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.
Check out the related services from CMOE below that can help you improve your coaching skills in a more systematic way.