February 28, 2021
Performance Management 12 February 2018
Coach vs. Manager - What Do Employees Want?
Technology Advice

You probably noticed that at some point within workplace culture, we began calling managers “leaders.” We need to recognize that the role of a manager requires so much more than previously acknowledged by the term "manager".

The old school of thought was that in order to be a candidate for a management position, you needed to put in your time, do a great job, and eventually, you’d have enough seniority to take the next promotion when it became available. 

Not only is this method a terrible idea for those contributors who have no interest in leading people, but it is not a good indicator as to whether or not someone will be successful in a leadership role. Nowadays, training employees for leadership positions needs to be done carefully and with purpose.

Although plenty of managers out there see their role as little more than a position of authority or a huge ego boost (“you’re here to make me look good, okay?”), we’re also seeing an intentional change being made among leaders who recognize the value in coaching versus managing. Let’s talk about what that looks like.

Coaching vs. Managing

Historically, managers have had more information and more facts than their employees. They would disseminate that information if they felt their employees needed to know it, otherwise, it was part of their authority to withhold it. 

Managers had access to senior leadership that others didn’t and held power over their employees. They could command them to do things and impose consequences if they didn’t perform up to arbitrary standards. 

Today’s workforce expects something very different: Managers who adopt a coaching style and have taken their own personal success out of the equation. 

A coach acts as a guide: someone who walks alongside their team members rather than standing out front or above them. They’re more concerned with their team accomplishing collective goals, as well as each individual employee accomplishing their own personal goals.

They’re not concerned with earning accolades based off of their team’s performance. A coach mentors and motivates the employees on their team to achieve new levels of performanceThey’re not concerned about being the smartest person in the room, and they encourage collaborative environments where everyone has a voice and everyone’s ideas are welcomed. Coaches take the entire person into account and concern themselves with addressing them holistically, rather than just seeing someone for simply a job they were hired to do. They are able to build up their team to accomplish tasks that are a good fit for employees and will benefit the company. 

The Shift

One of the biggest ways we’re seeing a major shift in coaching versus managing is in the way we provide employee feedback. Data supports the assertion that more frequent feedback is a proven method for increasing employee engagement. What’s more is that the younger generation, which now makes up the majority of the workforce, demands it. 

New software tools like HR software, pulse survey tools, and project management software give coaches and individual contributors a common space to discuss problems, analyze setbacks, and celebrate wins.

The value in providing frequent feedback means that employees can immediately course correct. Rather than waiting a year for an outdated performance review covering things an employee did months ago, frequent feedback allows an employee to immediately fix mistakes, or to capitalize on what’s going well.

Additionally, there is a lot to be said for simply thanking people for their contributions. People love to know that the work they’re doing makes a difference.

Traditional management falls short when providing feedback only when something is going wrong, or at review time. It’s discouraging and increases the likelihood that you’ll lose some of your best talent when the only time they hear from you is when you’re delivering bad news.

Is All Management Bad?

Are there times when it’s more appropriate to be a manager than a coach? Yes. When someone is about to fall off a cliff, it’s time to give some directives--not engage in a coaching session. For example, if you hire someone with a terrible work ethic and attitude, control needs to be implemented ASAP so that damage doesn't spread to other members of the team.

Additionally, there are instances where an employee needs skills improvement and what’s best for them is more training or additional resources. Managers can be there to direct this training and provide these resources. While some employee development can be done through encouragement, having a formal succession pathway in place is the best option to keep them on track.

As we think about making the shift from manager to coach, it’s important to remember that happy, productive work cultures value individuals for their unique strengths, abilities, goals, and ambitions. Leaders of today have adopted a coaching style that puts them in a position of being a guide. They should be less concerned about being the smartest person in the room, and more concerned about recognizing the contributions of each of the members of their team.

Start your employees on a leadership succession plan to teach them what it takes to be a leader! See what ProSky Pathways can do to help your company by requesting a demo of our software today.



Jessica Barrett Halcom is a writer for TechnologyAdvice.com, with specializations in human resources, healthcare, and transportation. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay and currently lives in Nashville, TN.