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Feb 15, 2023

In HR the words ‘coaching’ and ‘managing’ are often (and wrongly) used interchangeably. Yet the fact is, there are some very big differences between these two concepts.

Instructing employees about what needs to be done to reach a particular goal is the essence of managing.

By contrast, coaching aims to tap into the potential of workers, by encouraging them to exceed their current abilities.

Knowing the differences between these two is important because it’s those who can distinguish between when to employ coaching versus management techniques that tend to be the most effective leaders.

Let me explain why.

In times of stress, or when staff show inexperienced about a task or lack self-confidence, management is often the more appropriate approach. Management gives employees incentives and consequences for their actions. But it involves much less listening to the ideas of workers or fostering emotional engagement with their work.

Coaching, on the other hand, focuses more on the psychological aspects of leadership. Coaching helps employees form an emotional connection to their tasks and, thus, greater engagement with their jobs.

Unlike management – which is externally driven – coaching fosters internal motivation by seeking out the specific drivers that lead employees to pursue growth and better performance.

The following three questions are designed to assess the extent to you’re currently using a coaching mindset.

Give yourself a numerical grade for each of the following questions, using a 7-point scale, with 1 being “Never” and 7 being “Always”:

  1. I believe my employees can achieve great things.
  2. I believe that people can significantly change their intelligence.
  3. I believe my employees have great ideas.

Let’s explore each of the questions in greater detail:

Question 1: This is there because holding the belief that your staff can accomplish exceptional things is crucial for effective coaching. However, studies indicate that while 71% of managers believe the majority of their employees can excel, only 18% of employees report that their manager effectively communicates high expectations. If your score on this question was low, look for opportunities to provide positive reinforcement to your employees. When you let your staff know that they have done something well it triggers a reward response and increases the likelihood of seeing that behavior repeated.

Question 2: This probably sounds a little strange, but a coaching mindset requires a belief that employees can grow, develop and expand their intelligence and abilities. It doesn’t mean that everyone can become the next Einstein, but it does mean that people are not fixed where they are now. It’s practically impossible to coach an employee if you don’t truly believe that they have at least some untapped potential.

Question 3: This follows that same line of thinking. In other words, that it’s tough to do great coaching if you’re not convinced that your employees have the intellectual capabilities for growth and insight. Unlike traditional management, where staff are given clear instructions such as: “complete these three tasks by the end of the week,” the coaching approach encourages staff to share their unique ideas and develop creative solutions.

What are your results?

Getting a 6 or 7 on each question, with a total between 18 and 21 for all three questions, is indicative of a high coaching mindset.

If your scores are lower, you may look at whether you’ve got some opportunities to increase your coaching approach.

It should be noted that employees generally prefer coaching rather than managing, especially when those employees are more advanced and experienced.

On the test What’s Your Leadership Style?, more than a million people report that growth-oriented leadership styles are by far the most desired.

It’s also worth remembering that a Leadership IQ study also found that employees who are always learning new things at work are literally ten times more likely to be inspired to give their best effort.

So, while coaching isn’t always a magic solution for every situation, it does at least offer possibilities that traditional management does not.

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