InsideOut Development

Are You a Manager or a Coach?

by Suzanne Gaker


When you hear the word “coach,” what comes into your mind? Do you picture a basketball team with someone on the sidelines shouting out directions? Or perhaps a football team with a man pacing back and forth, shouting out the names of the players?

Coaching is no longer reserved just for sports teams; it is now one of the key competencies in organizations that are committed to bringing out the best in their employees and achieving higher and higher levels of business results.

Often when I ask people in supervisory positions what they believe their primary management responsibility is, the most frequent response is, “to ensure my people deliver on their results this year,” or something very similar. Not too surprising, is it? And with their best intentions, these managers may spend a great deal of their time and energy on strengthening their management skills of planning, organizing, reporting, etc. They organize the work, assign the right people to the necessary tasks, coordinate the results, and ensure the job got done as directed. The focus is on efficiency, and following “the process.”

As important as these managerial skills are, it is no longer enough. In today’s world, where value comes increasingly from the knowledge of people, and where workers are no longer undifferentiated cogs in an industrial machine, good managers must also be able to effectively coach others. People look to their managers not just to assign them a task, but also to help them understand their purpose and contribution. Managers must organize workers, not just to maximize efficiency, but also to nurture skills, develop talent, and inspire them to achieve results.

Coaching focuses on future possibilities and utilizes learning from past experiences. Coaching is more about how things are done, rather than what things are done. It is about unlocking a person's potential and maximizing their performance. It is about helping people discover answers for themselves rather than just giving them the answers. Simply defined, coaching is one person guiding another through a process, leading them to higher levels of performance, confidence, and commitment.

Coaching is about building relationships based on collaboration, rather than just directing and advising. It’s about building confidence by affirming good performance through regular feedback and increasing competence by helping people assess strengths and opportunity areas towards the achievement of identified goals. Coaching is a way of thinking, a way of being, and a way of accelerating decision making.

Coaching is a lever for unleashing potential, a tool for unlocking performance, and an approach to change! It can be used to enhance the performance of the coachees beyond their dreams. Once that performance is unleashed, that automatically means change in thinking, doing, and acting.

The manager’s job is to plan, organize, and coordinate. The coach’s job is to inspire, build confidence, and create passion and commitment in others. The most effective leaders recognize the critical importance of balancing their time and efforts in both of these areas.

Category: Conversations Coaching Performance Check-Ins and Feedback

Picture of Suzanne Gaker

Suzanne Gaker has over 35 years of experience delivering solutions that develop more effective leaders. As a former Executive Director in Human Resources for The Kroger Co., she was responsible for the personal and professional development opportunities for over 310,000 hourly and management associates. Outside of the office, Suzanne enjoys gardening, traveling, and volunteering at a local no-kill animal shelter. She is proud to share her home with a spoiled rotten rescue bulldog named Tallulah.

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