The label coach is thrown around a lot in business. Managers seem quick to describe themselves as a coach just because they are responsible for overseeing a team. It is not uncommon for managers to see themselves as a good coach just because they get results and are liked by those they are responsible for. This desire to be seen as a coach probably comes from the negative stigma that seems to surround the word manager these days, and calling yourself a leader feels too grandiose. While it is easy to label yourself as a coach rather than a manager there are some fundamental differences between the two. Which are you – a manager or a coach? Does it matter?
Managing is the primary leadership activity in the ‘Command and Control’ culture where policies, directives, ideas and initiatives flow down from the top of the organization. Managers set the goals and the expectations that those on their team are expected to fulfil. A manager is an administrator. They maintain. They focus on structure and systems. They are directive. A manager is focused on how each decision affects the bottom line. Managers develop people through reactive activities designed to keep the status quo. Managers need to deliver now and are often short term focused; everything is about the pursuit of that next target.
A coach helps teams develop and improve for the future. Coaching is a partnership in which the coach helps a team find opportunities for personal and professional development based on individual needs and goals, as defined by the team member. Ultimately, coaching is helping someone learn from their own experiences by guiding them to develop solutions to their problems and taking responsibility for achieving success. Coaching is about looking at where the team, and the individuals on the team, are currently and where they want to get to and then helping them get from one place to another.
Managing and coaching as approaches are polar opposites. Is one better than the other? Jack Welch seems to think so … “In the future, people who are not coaches will not be promoted. Managers who are coaches will be the norm”. While every management role will always, to some degree, be a balancing act of managing and coaching, developing a coaching approach to your work is a must to succeed now and in the future.
What are some of the fundamental differences between managers and coaches?
For a coach building a team culture is fundamental. They believe in building a cohesive and committed team that performs collaboratively. Coaches believe in the need to stay constantly connected to that team to help everyone perform better. Managers are less team focused spending more time working with individuals and then disconnecting to let them ‘get the job done’.
Coaches stay close to the action and get involved before action is needed. They see potential problems before they happen and work with the team to fix them before they can develop. Managers are reactive and only get involved when they are required to. Often a manager’s involvement comes after the problem has occurred and when it’s too late to fix.
Coaches are talent focused. They focus the performers within the team who deserve their attention. Managers focus on poor performers — and often only those poor performers. A manager identifies someone who is struggling and gets involved because they need attention.
Coaches take responsibility for motivation. Managers care about the job getting done, and the results being delivered. A coach understands that motivation leads to action and they equally understand that motivation is hard to sustain. The coach is constantly concerned with how to motivate and energize their team. They share knowledge and instill confidence. They know the team with the biggest desire to win, will win more often.
Coaching involves each team member by encouraging them to identify solutions and planning to overcome them. Coaching improves performance through developing direction and engaging team members in the process. Coaching builds positive relationships with team members and creates ownership amongst the team; they see their contribution to the bigger picture.
When a manager states “I see myself more as a coach” we like to ask a few simple questions to test that theory. If they have – or are working towards – a coaching culture in their business or team, they would likely know the answers to all of these questions and be able to share some specific examples. It is also a useful exercise to ask yourself these questions from time to time to see how involved and connected you are with your team…
- Do you clearly understand what motivates those on your team? You need to clearly understand each team members drive; personal aspirations, incentives, management styles.
- Do you provide constructive feedback on both successes and shortfalls? Is your feedback to team members a mix of constructive criticism and positive reinforcement — recognizing and celebrating success? Do you recognize progress as well as completion?
- Do you identify opportunities for team members to nurture and develop their skills?You should be encouraging team members’ autonomy.
- Do you encourage your team to be flexible?You should be helping team members to try new things and step out of their comfort zones. You need to build a team that can adapt to change.
- Do you know what is truly important to your team members? You should be able to articulate what they want to achieve in and out of work, where they want to be in the future, and what they need to have from you and the organization in order to perform.
- Do you know what is truly important to your team? You should know what is important to the team as a whole. What is success for the team both culturally and in performance?
Ask yourself whether you are more manager or coach? If you want to succeed look for more ways to develop a coach approach into your work.