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When to Manage vs When to Coach

When to Manage vs When to Coach

Sooner or later, every new coach gets their first coaching client who needs help in getting their team or employees performing better but is at a loss regarding how to go about it.

In such a situation, you need to work with that client to help him or her learn about managing and coaching, and when or how each of these skills is required during the day-to-day activities at the place of work. Read on and discover how these two skills or styles differ.

Managing and Coaching Defined

At a basic level, a manager is an individual who controls and directs how given resources are utilized. For example, a manager will assign employees tasks and give them deadlines within which to accomplish those tasks. The manager will also avail the different resources required by the employees while they execute the tasks given. In short, manager is concerned about specific, often short-term goals or outcomes.

Conversely, a coach is a facilitator who mentors, guides and makes it possible for team members or employees to grow and become better than they ever thought possible. The coach listens, encourages, gives feedback and does anything required to enable those he or she is coaching to reach higher and develop skills that make it easier for them to accomplish their goals/duties.

Can Managing and Coaching Be Mutually Exclusive?

Leading people rarely requires you to be entirely a manager or coach. Most times, the two approaches go hand in hand, though you have to decide at which moment to be a coach and when to be a manager.

You should therefore help your coaching clients to learn the two techniques and practice how to apply them during different situations at their places of work. The discussion below gives some highlights of when each approach would be most applicable.

When to Be a Manager

  • When an Employee or Team Member is New

One of the situations in which your coaching clients can be managers is when a new employee has just been hired or someone has just been added to the team.

Such an individual will be unsure about what needs to be done, so a manager plays a critical role in directing him or her to perform a given set of tasks. As a manager, your coaching client will have to keep a close eye on the new employee/team member so that the person doesn’t falter due to their inexperience regarding how things are done in this new environment.

  • The Employee Has Just Been Assigned a New Client

Think about a manufacturing facility that has big companies to whom they supply their products. Would it be prudent to assign one of those large companies (clients) to a sales representative and leave that employee to figure out the best way to deal with that client?

A smart supervisor will put on the hat of a manager and give detailed instructions regarding how the sales representative should structure his or her dealings with the client. You, as a coach, should therefore tell your coaching clients that they should play the role of a manager in such a situation instead of using the coaching approach.

  • The Employee Has Been Assigned New Responsibilities

It is also appropriate to advise the client to “manage” an employee that he or she has just assigned new responsibilities. It is necessary to manage such an employee because they are unfamiliar with what is expected of them, so they are likely to fail or perform poorly if left to their own devices.

The role of a manager helps to set the parameters of what is expected, so the employee will “follow the script” until they have developed a measure of comfort in the role before tweaking or finding better ways to execute the new responsibilities given.

  • When New Methods Are Introduced

Your coaching clients would also be well advised to wear the hat of a manager if new techniques or methods of work are introduced.

Being a manager in such a case is important because it helps to make the learning curve less steep for the team members who are expected to switch to that new technique or method of work.

When to Be a Coach

  • When You Spot Untapped Potential

One of the situations in which it pays to be a coach to your team members is when you spot untapped potential in any of those team members.

For example, you may notice that a certain employee is always chipping in whenever extra work needs to be done fast, and that person encourages or commends others when they do well. Such an employee may have what it takes to be assigned leadership roles if coached to grow into such a responsibility.

Your role as the supervisor or manager is therefore to mentor (coach) that person as a way of preparing them to succeed in a leadership role. You can’t “manage” an employee into leadership!

  • When Experienced Employees Are Trying New Techniques

Every organization or company has a set of highly competent employees how have years of experience under their belt. Such employees may even recommend new methods, tools or techniques to get things done in a faster or cost-effective way.

It isn’t advisable for you to give directions regarding how such competent people should go about trying the new technique that they feel will be helpful. Being a manager could be counterproductive in this scenario.

Rather, inform your coaching clients to be a coach to those competent employees. This may include giving them boundaries or targets to attain, and then leave them to find the best way to attain the objective.

  • When You Want to Lift a Competent Team Higher

Your coaching client may also be faced with a dilemma regarding what to do about a high-performing team that has hit a plateau. Acting as a manager to spur them to hit bigger goals isn’t likely to work because they may think that you don’t appreciate what they are doing, or you are doubting their commitment.

The better approach is to be a coach to the team so that each of them can stretch their limits and scale to greater heights.

  • When You Want to Build a Positive Culture

Teams perform best when there is mutual trust that everyone is doing their best to attain common objectives. You don’t build such a culture of trust by being a manager (shouting out orders, mailing appraisal reports, etc.).

The best way to nurture a culture of trust is by coaching your team. This can be through delegating responsibilities, holding regular meetings to acknowledge good performance, etc.

Over time, the efforts of your coaching client in facilitating the growth of the team will bear fruit as the team will work seamlessly without a need for them to be micromanaged.

It will take time for your coaching clients to intuitively know when to be a manager and when to be a coach to their employees or teams. With your help as a coach, the line will gradually become clearer and tangible results will start showing as the client starts switching from being a manager to being a coach depending on the dictates of the situation.

As a matter of fact, your work as a coach will also benefit a great deal if you too can tell when you need to manage your clients (assign a deadline of when you expect a revised resume, for example) or when you need to be a coach and facilitate their growth (give a book on how to reframe different situations, for example).

Your turn – Do you find it hard to decide when to manage and when to coach? What practical situations have you used these different approaches successfully? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!

To Your Success,

Jairek Robbins and Team PCU

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