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The Distinction Between Coaching and Managing

This is a guest article from Oliver Martin, Training Director at the Stitt Feld Handy Group.

Traditionally, managers have relied on having all the answers.

In complex environments, with rarely only one answer, managers need a coaching approach that focuses on asking the right questions to build capacity in their staff to develop the solutions.

Coaching Develops Potential

A key distinction between coaching and managing is that coaching empowers employees instead of directing them.

A manager who focuses on “managing” may help staff to respond to a particular problem or attend to a specific task but the manager who focuses on coaching will help the employee to develop their potential to deal with issues in the future as well.

Directing others is necessary for emergencies when an immediate response is critical. In most other situations, having a coaching mindset will help a manager to maximize an employee’s skill to achieve organizational goals.

The Benefits of Coaching are Clear

Based on client feedback, the benefits of our Progress Coaching Model are clear. It provides skills to help:

  • under-performers improve
  • good performers develop for new opportunities or succession planning, and
  • employees become more engaged and proactive rather than overly reliant upon their managers.

Coaching training also helped them to build relationships with employees, which is particularly challenging in hybrid workplaces.

Coaching is a Daily Practice

Finding the time to coach and holding back from giving advice are the two most common coaching challenges that we hear from managers. The misperception is that coaching must be a formal and time-consuming process (i.e. a series of 60-minute meetings).

We believe that coaching is not an event; it is a daily practice for managers.

Developing a Coaching Mindset

Organizations can support managers by developing a coaching culture where employees don’t see coaching as a reprimand; instead, they see coaching as an opportunity for personal growth and development.

An organization can also support its managers to coach rather than manage by ensuring their managers are training as coaches. Managers need to adopt a coaching mindset and they need specific skills, such as asking powerful coaching questions, to be able to coach effectively.

How to Start a Coaching Conversation

We teach managers how to have a coaching mindset and identify coaching opportunities in daily interactions. For example, when an employee begins a question with, ‘How do I’ or seeks advice, it is a potential coaching opportunity. Instead of taking the bait and giving your managerial advice, ask, “What are your initial thoughts?”. This type of question can start a coaching conversation.

Managers can also incorporate coaching into their employee check-in meetings or 1-on-1s. Regularly scheduled times allow for more in-depth coaching and ensure coaching occurs in hybrid working environments with limited spontaneous interactions.

Looking to become a better manager?

Coaching skills can help you reach your managerial potential.

Learn more about Stitt Feld Handy's coaching course

About the Author 

Oliver Martin uses his decades of experience in management and mediation to deliver the latest up-to-date methods in management coaching at the Stitt Feld Handy Group.

A Law graduate with a master’s degree in Adult Training and Development and a second master’s in Leadership studies, Martin is the expert that other experts turn to for solutions.


Last updated: 15 Dec 2021

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