How to Be a Coach Not a Boss

Shaun Enders

How to Be a Coach, Not a Boss

Managers have a lot on their plates. They have to meet their manager’s and the organization’s goals while also helping their employees do the same. However, it’s not uncommon for managers to get so tied up in their own day-to-day goals that they unintentionally fall short on developing and coaching their employees.

It’s also common for us to confuse managing with coaching. Managing is more about having authority, focusing on a specific outcome, directing, and telling employees what to do. Coaching is about leadership and setting positive examples, facilitating, partnering, developing, focusing on the long-term, and inspiring employees to do their best and continually improve. Coaches can inspire employees even when the employees don’t believe their industries or jobs are inspirational.

When managers genuinely embrace the idea of coaching and become effective at it, they come to appreciate that coaching is more rewarding and productive than “managing.” Coaches enable and empower employees, which in turn supports the manager in being more productive in his or her own role. Coaching becomes a rewarding part of a manager’s day-to-day job, and they no longer fall short in developing their employees.

Coaching also increases employee engagement. According to a 2015 International Coaching Federation study about coaching culture and employee engagement, companies with a strong coaching culture had 60% of employees rated as highly engaged. Further, 63% of organizations with a strong coaching culture had more revenue growth than their competitors.

How Can a Manager Learn to Coach vs. Manage?

Coaching is all about human connection and professional evolution. However, it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes training, time, and practice for managers to coach their employees effectively. With some dedication and work, though, any manager can learn to coach. Coaching involves developing employees, listening to them, and providing guidance.

Coaches Develop vs. Direct

Managers who manage typically direct and tell their employees what to do. But coaches guide employees and provide them with training and resources for professional development so they can direct themselves to get the job done.

Coaches Listen

Listening builds trust and understanding. People hire different types of coaches, so they have an unbiased individual who will listen to them about their goals, whether it be about their career, relationships, or life in general.

As a manager, do more listening than talking. And as you listen, repeat back to the employee what your understanding is of what they shared. When you do this, it lets the employee know that you really are listening and care about whether you understand them correctly.

Coaches Provide Guidance, Not Advice

Effective coaches share information, not advice. Managers who coach their employees guide them into their own answers vs. micromanaging them and telling them what the answers should be. When employees seek solutions to a problem, coaches provide them with the tools and resources to answer questions and identify solutions on their own.

When employees come to you with a problem, the best approach is to ask them questions about the issue and their thoughts about it. It’s gratifying to watch the lights bulbs go off as they come up with their own solutions.

There will be moments when managing is the right approach. For example, in an immediate crisis, you might need to direct employees to resolve the crisis quickly. However, true leadership requires us to know when to manage and when to coach. Coaching is the right way to go and is rewarding for both the manager and employee when it comes to professional development, increasing overall job satisfaction, and day-to-day functioning. Learning how to coach vs. manage is also worth the long-term results of increased productivity for the organization.