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Manager Vs. Coach: A Key to Effective Relationships

28 Feb. 2018 Posted by aadams

Gary Skaleski, FEI EAP Counselor

I’ve written in the past about the managerial relationship, focusing on the ways we relate to one another. The point was to understand and maximize the positive aspects of that relationship, especially in business, to help create a more positive work environment, positive connections between managers and workers, and ultimately positive results for the bottom line.

Author and professional coach Steve Chandler often concentrates on distinguishing the concepts and behaviors of managers versus coaches. His preference is for bosses to think of themselves as coaches to help bring out the best in their employees. To empower.

The concept of manager, according to Chandler, simply defines one that controls others.
After a coaching session, one feels empowered; after being managed, one comes out just
feeling controlled.

I firmly think there is room for both styles, but the sequence is important. When starting out, a new worker needs to be guided – controlled? – in order to first learn the job, practice it and eventually master it. The relationship then can shift into more of a coaching one.

Think of it this way: We manage our children to make sure they learn how to dress and tie their shoes, don’t run into the road, keep from sticking their fingers into electric sockets. In the best of worlds, as the child matures and becomes adult, the relationship becomes more adult to adult communication. With mutual respect.

In Reclaim Your Brain: How to Calm Your Thoughts, Heal Your Mind, and Bring Your Life Back Under Control, Joseph Annibali frames the concept of “managers versus coaches” as horizontal and vertical relationships. Consider a line on a page going up and down. At the top is the controlling entity (boss, parent, teacher) and the bottom is the receiver (worker, child, student). This is a visual representation of the managerial style. One is on top, one is at the bottom. One has power, the other does not.

Now think of a horizontal line where both ends are on an equal level. This is the
coaching approach.

Boss and worker, parent and child, teacher and student can now relate on the same level, with respect and understanding. William Glasser, founder of Choice Theory, indicated that the needs we all have include a sense of belonging, connection and power. Not power over, but power to do. These two definitions of power describe the manager versus coaching approach.

No one likes to be controlled, and those who are resent it. As a result, the other needs of belonging or connecting tend to be damaged. This can result in a spiral of increasing bitter communication, which often reflects in the worsening job results of the employee. The solution? To be aware of when to manage and when to coach.

Everyone appreciates respect. The result is a healthier work environment for all.


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