16 May 2016 17:12 IST

Should you be a coach or a manager?

There are stark differences between being a coacher and being a manager. Read on to know what they are

Leaders contribute to an organisation’s success in many ways — they drive business plans, engage with customers to enhance loyalty, strengthen the supply chain to ensure business continuity and use money wisely to earn adequate return on investment. All these are significant contributions.

However, what really crowns a manager’s contribution is the way they develop their people through coaching. Coaching builds a pipeline of future leaders, who can in turn take the company to new heights.

The incorrect assumption

In most companies I went to, I found that leaders believe that preparing people for future challenges and opportunities is the job of the learning and development team.

After all, they prepare training calendars and roll out programmes, which are usually focused on building or enhancing organisationally relevant skills and competencies. And in so doing, these functions help build future leaders.

However, this assumption is only party right. In reality, future leaders are developed on the job, under a good dose of everyday coaching by the managers they work under. Organisations like IBM and GE, to mention a few, thrive on leadership bench primarily because these managers are expected and enabled to make coaching a way of life.

They appreciate and understand that everyday work provides numerous “coachable moments”, which would aid in coaching the juniors and getting them to perform better.

However, many managers do not appreciate the need for coaching, not because they are incapable or do not value it, but because of a simple misunderstanding — they think, “We spend valuable time telling people what to do; we clarify doubts and more than anything, review a junior’s work on a daily basis. If this isn’t coaching, what is?”

Which is why organisations, on their part, need to invest enough time to help managers understand the difference between “instructing, telling, clarifying, guiding, providing solutions and solving problems”, and coaching.

What is coaching?

Coaching is a process that does not involve telling; instead, it involves asking, suggesting, andpaving the way for self-discovery. While managing involves instructing and solving problems, coaching adopts a very different, highly empowering approach.

Coaching believes that every employee can find a solution to their problems and, in the absence of interferences, optimise their potential. Armed with this belief, which is vital to any coaching process, the manager desists from jumping in and solving problems or even prescribing solutions.

All the manager should do, to be an effective coach, is engage in conversations with the juniors and enable him/her to reflect on what an ideal solution would look like; or make them understand what the current situation is, what kind of hurdles and opportunities they will encounter as they set out to address the challenge, and finally, what steps he or she would take to move forward towards addressing the challenge.

What it takes

So here are a few points as to how a coach and a manager are opposite ends of a spectrum.

~ Coaching requires a lot of patience. Managers, on the other hand, are impatient by nature.

~ Coaching enables juniors to solve the problem on their own. Managers offer solutions.

~ Coaching empowers the coachee and helps with reflections. Manager increase dependency.

~ Coaching requires managers to talk less, and coachee to shares more. Managers take all the air time and call it coaching.

So, if a manager trains to be a good coach, a big part would involve her appreciating the fundamental differences between managing the way she has been doing so far, and coaching to play the role of a facilitator, not actor.

This is one part of the coaching story. The other part has to do with educating the coachees themselves on the difference between “being managed and being coached.”

Coaching needs both skill-set and mind-set. Managers should build this to make a difference in the lives of people they manage.