Blog

November 21, 2017

Management Vs Coaching - What's The Difference?

Employee retention was one of the biggest concerns for companies going into 2017 and continues to be a key area of focus as employers look forward to 2018. Not long ago, Right Management conducted a survey and found that 68% of managers fail to engage their employees’ career development. That’s more than half. That’s an awful lot of employees with underdeveloped careers. One clear strategy to retain talent is to focus on their development through coaching. But what is coaching? Having a manager sit down in a one-to-one and calling it coaching without really understanding the concept can do more harm than good.  

The terms coaching and managing are often used interchangeably, but that doesn’t suppose they mean the same thing. While a manager typically organizes the work and processes to deliver results, a coach drives team performance and helps people get to their next level of effectiveness. Let’s explore both roles a bit deeper.

What is Managing?

Managers are task-oriented and often direct team members to ensure the project is delivered on time and on budget. Managing is particularly beneficial when a crisis occurs or when you need to achieve certain outcomes quickly and efficiently. Being a manager means being the person team members look to for guidance and answers.

What are some specific situations where managing is necessary?

  • A crisis that needs to be resolved quickly
  • Onboarding and training new team members
  • Delegating and assigning tasks
  • Meeting deadlines
  • Conducting meetings
  • Monitoring progress
  • Making executive decisions

Managing is metrics driven. It is very much driven by numbers. How are you checking in with your team and tracking progress? What are you really managing towards? What are the desired outcomes? What’s the best way to organize the team or the task? What are all the moving pieces of the project?

What is Coaching?

On the flip side of the same leadership coin is coaching. Where managing is about providing directives, assigning tasks and monitoring progress, coaching involves partnership and exploration. A coach is someone who guides team members to their next level of evolution, thereby creating new leaders within the organization.

Over the past 10 years, the Harvard Business Review has collected responses from roughly half a million individuals who have all echoed what other surveys have found: effective coaching increases employee productivity, engagement, and commitment.

The following chart from hbr.com shows the clear link between a leader’s ability to develop team members and the level of those team members’ engagement and efforts:

It’s the right time to coach when:

  • A team member needs career guidance
  • Collaboration is necessary to develop new strategies
  • You want to develop your team members and help them reach the next level of effectiveness
  • You believe the potential is greater than the current performance

Coaching = developing. When you have a team of competent professionals who are already performing at a high level, your goal should be to help develop these self-reliant and confident team members to think independently and execute without waiting for permission. Getting people to their next level is an incremental and holistic process.

Why Both Roles are Necessary

When it comes to fitness, some people focus on aerobic exercises like jogging and biking, while others focus on lifting as much weight as possible. But health experts will tell you, to be optimally healthy, you need to include both aerobic exercise and resistance training in your workout routine.

To have the healthiest team possible, you must manage and coach them. You’ve got to be able to organize the work so that it makes sense for your people, but you’ve got to coach and develop your people and show them you are invested in them as people.

Think of managing as the short game, and coaching as the long game.

The good news is that many managers want to also coach their team. But just because you want to be a coach does not mean you are naturally good at it. You may need to develop this skillset to be able to coach effectively.

Here’s a great evaluation tool to learn your personal style of coaching.

If you’re new to coaching and you don’t know how to identify what a person needs the most help with, simply ask your team members what they feel they need help with. If there is a shared buy-in, it’s going to help them do the necessary work toward growth.

Also, if they say, “I want to develop in this area” and you yourself don’t have that skill or expertise, then it’s up to you to match them up with someone who can help.

Let’s say someone on your team is really struggling with public speaking, but you yourself aren’t the greatest public speaker. As this person’s coach, you can help them create a game plan to reach their goal. Maybe it’s signing them up for Toastmasters. Or maybe you’ll have that team member lead the discussion at the next quarterly meeting.

The bottom line is, coaching takes practice. The more you practice and ask for feedback, and implement that feedback, the more you'll be able to flex your style.

True leaders do whatever needs to be done to propel their teams and their business. If, up until this point, you focused primarily on managing your people, try to collaborate more so you can help people grow and ultimately create new leaders within your organization.


Gabriela McManus is Executive Director at Intelligent.ly. Follow her on Twitter: @GabMcM