Managers as Coaches? You and Your Workers Aren’t Ready For That

This isn’t necessarily a new concept, but it’s one that is popping up a ton lately in conversation.

The basic concept is that we should push our managers and supervisors to be “coaches” to their employees, not managers. The view from Organizational Development and Training folks is that coaches are more of a representative of great leadership than we would normally think of when we think of managers and supervisors.

Um, what?

How coaches behave

I’m not sure what people are thinking, but I’ve been “coached” and have been a coach most of my life. When you tell me I should “act” more like a coach and less like a manager, I get very confused.

Let me give you a little insight to how most coaches behave:

  • We yell. Usually a lot. Yeah, you don’t see that at your 8 year-old’s soccer match, but go to a high school football game, basketball game, soccer match, etc. Don’t even get me started on college!
  • Our vocabulary consists of about six words I don’t use on this blog very often.
  • Our intent is to get our players to be a more aggressive version of themselves for a short period of time to help us win a game.
  • I’ll make you cry. It’s actually a goal of mine. To push you beyond your comfort zone so you’ll breakdown and comeback stronger
  • If you work really hard and give it your all, I’ll give you a hug and maybe pat you on the backside. If you fail, I’ll probably yell more.
  • I’ll publicly extol the virtues of team, while behind the scenes push internal competition beyond a healthy level.
  • I love it when my players want to kill each other, and having a fight at a practice isn’t really a bad thing.

Not a process to put employees through

This is the reality of coaching once you get beyond very young youth sports where everyone gets a participation medal. This is real life. Not every sport, not every coach.

But if you took the top 100 most successful coaches in every sport, you would be shocked at their behind the scenes behaviors. You wouldn’t like most of them. You wouldn’t want them around your kid.

But, let’s go ahead and teach our managers to be coaches!

Here’s the deal: What training and OD are teaching our managers to be, are not coaches. It’s an altruistic version of what they want coaches to be.

They believe coaches are there to just help you along to get better and build great teams. Which conceptually is true. How it’s done is not something your training department or OD would want to sign up for!

Article Continues Below

It’s a difficult concept. Most athletes who have really been coached at a high level get it.

You aren’t ready for how coaches operate

Coaches are super hard on you because that’s the only way to make yourself better and win championships. They’ll push you beyond what you think you’re capable of. In the end you usually end up respecting your coach and are thankful for the pain they put you through.

Mostly, it ends up good. But is that a process you really, truly want your managers and supervisors to put your employees through?

Doubtful. You want all the outcomes of a great coach, but you’re not willing to allow them to go through the process of how a great coach gets his or her team ready for battle.

Give us the result without the process? It just doesn’t work that way.

This was originally published on Tim Sackett’s blog, The Tim Sackett Project.

Tim Sackett, MS, SPHR is executive vice president of HRU Technical Resources, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI. Tim has 20 years of HR and talent background split evenly between corporate HR gigs among the Fortune 500 and the HR vendor community ? so he gets it from both sides of the desk. A frequent contributor to the talent blog Fistful of Talent, Tim also speaks at many HR conferences and events. Contact him here.

Topics