Are You Coaching, or Managing?

BY Kathy Crosett
Featured image for “Are You Coaching, or Managing?”

As a line manager or supervisor, you’re frequently under the gun to meet deadlines. You’re also counting on your staff to help you with this process. The way you work with your team members, coaching versus managing, will mean the difference between success and failure in the long term.

Most managers serve more than one boss. If they want to deliver a project on time and on budget, some managers will order their staff members around. Other managers will even pit their team members against each other to see who can finish a job first. The end result might please the members of the c‑suite, but the dictator form of managing won’t win you the trust or loyalty of your team.

To learn about the differences between coaching and managing, check out the work published by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman. These researchers have studied the topic extensively, and in their analysis of 50,000 360-​type reviews on managers, they report that team member engagement is strongly correlated to the development effort expended on them.

Simply put, when you’re a manager, avoid acting like a know-​it-​all. In some cases, you do know more than your team members. In other cases, especially if you're overseeing a team of highly skilled engineers, you don’t. To be an effective coach, admit when you don’t know the details. Ask your team members for their input and help them get the tools they need when they encounter problems.

Coaching opportunities frequently come up with junior team members. You know you can solve a problem more quickly and efficiently than she can. If you continue to take care of problems that a team member presents you with, you are teaching her to always come to you.

To be a good coach, listen. Then ask the team member for her ideas on how to solve the problem. Give her the space to take action. Whether she succeeds or fails, she’ll learn that she has the ability to think through difficult situations, and she’ll realize that you value her opinion and want her to grow professionally.

Team members who work in that environment will respect you and feel more loyalty to the organization.

SalesFuel President and CEO C. Lee Smith sums it up this way: “Managing is about improving numbers. Coaching is about improving PEOPLE.”