Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Big Question - Are you Manager or Coach?

If you have employees reporting to you in business these days, do you prefer to be called a manager or a coach? Nailing my colours to the mast - I love the word ‘coach’

This is not a new thing for me. I’ve ALWAYS had a problem with the word ‘manager’ when it comes to describing the relationship between the person in charge of a group of people at work. I’ve always held the view that people ‘manage’ themselves.

We manage ‘things’ – we ‘coach’ people is one of my favourite expressions!

Coaching of employees raises the ‘value’ of the relationship for both parties as far as I can see.

These days I feel privileged and honoured to be described as a coach for a few clients I work with. My ‘job’ is certainly not to ‘manage’ them. My role is to 'get alongside' the person and then it is our task working together to find ways in which they can solve any issues they may have. We plan how they can get to work on things they are good at and that they enjoy.

That description is a million miles away from the traditional description of a ‘manager.’

‘Manager’ to me implies status differential and demarcation on an organisational chart. ‘Manager’ implies somehow that one partner in the relationship is more important. That is not how I would describe my idea of effective working relationships.

Management is about rules and coaching is about getting the best out of people.

Real joy for me comes from seeing people flourish and thriving in their work and that they look forward to going to work.

In the NHS whenever I was described on my job description as a ‘manager’ I never saw myself as ‘managing’ people. I always felt our relationship was one of adults working together.

I think the best managers are actually 'coaches' - even if their job description describes them as a 'Manager'

In a nutshell it’s not about rules it’s about relationships.


Marilyn said...

Dear Trevor,

Great distinction between managing things and coaching people. In my training to become a wellness coach ( we spent a good bit of time studying what makes a great coach. A coach does help bring out the best in the person--the best that is already there, waiting to be uncovered.

This is a real 180 from my schooling--when I was trained to regard myself as an 'expert.' That'a another distinction--the manager can let go of the expert hat and let those closest to it come up with solutions.

The best benefit? People gain power and confidence because they do the work!

Trevor Gay said...

Great summary Marilyn - thanks for that.

There is no greater satisfaction than knowing we have helped in some small way to unlock the ability someone already has.

When I am 110 years old - and I am in my rocking chair drinking a nice glass of Red Wine alongside Annie and looking back on my career I will be absolutely thrilled if I am able to say to my great Grandchildren that I was a GENUINELY EFFECTIVE mentor/coach to even just a couple of people. That would mean more to me than saying 'I always balanced the budget as a manager '

The best way to gain 'power' is to let go of 'power.'

Have a great weekend!

Dave Wheeler said...

I used to think of this as a "leader" vs "manager" distinction. I now however see much utility in the use of the term coach. Clearly "coaching" and developing those we lead should be our number one priority. We provide the time, tools, training needed to increase their capacity to excel. It is in these types of one on one or team interactions where I gain credibility, which leads to trust, which leads to their involvement and participation which leads to a great work environment. I like it Trevor...when I look back at the folks who have really made a difference in my life and outlook at least three of them were football or baseball coaches. Leader, coach.....anything but to have the "brand" as a manager!

Trevor Gay said...

Hi Dave and thanks for your comments again.

I think we are on to something here. The more I think about the word ‘manager’ the less I think it describes the modern relationship between leader and team.

Manager is a ‘hard’ word and ‘coaching’ to get the best from people is certainly not about ‘hard’ stuff. It is about listening to our employees, finding out what makes them tick and then creating the opportunities for them to flourish. Good soccer coaches in my lifetime have been great heroes of mine too. I am not saying coaches are ‘soft’ but I am saying they understand things like motivation far better than the traditional manager in the typical business who saw their job as merely meeting targets in a rational and predictable world of business.

Like you I think we should look to sport for our role models rather than traditional business.

So far it’s you, me and Marilyn against the world buddy :- )

Anonymous said...

I hope that you will allow for just a little voice of dissent. Coaching is a wondefully powerful process that managers can use to bring out potential.
Howewver it can be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Sometimes all that is needed is a little bit of feedback to enable soemone to reflect on the performance and make changes for the better.
I always encourage managers to try using feedback to influence future behaviour and the development of potential - leaving a more intensive coaching relationship for the issues that require a greater degree of structure and support. Over reliance on coaching is a bit like 'always taking a driver off the tee'. Usually impressive - but often unnecessary.
And while I am it I don't think you manage things or people. You can't manage time - but you can choose priorities. You can't manage money (or budgets) but you can influence peoples decisions regarding spending, saving and investing. You can't manage a project, you can provide people with a patttern of communication and feedback that wil influence them to do the right things at the right time.
The only thing that you can manage is yourself - your own judgements and behaviours.

Trevor Gay said...

Hi progmanager – dissent is perfectly permissible with me – in fact it is compulsory - it is the best way I learn :- )

I am a great fan of coaching and yes of course like everything it must be used sparingly to be most effective. Normal adult relationships between team members and supervisors should enable most things to be achieved. We don’t need to call all relationships ‘coaching’