The Managers as Coaches Myth

This isn’t necessarily a new concept, but it’s one that is popping up a ton lately in conversation.  The basic concept is we should be 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!?!

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 6 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 worked 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.

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!

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


3 thoughts on “The Managers as Coaches Myth

  1. Pingback: Are Coaches Considered Managers? Unraveling the Truth

  2. To be fair, most OD folks use the term “coach” in reference to executive coaching behaviors…NOT Bear Bryant. The idea is to get leaders to ask more than they tell, develop more than dictate, and seek to understand rather than to punish.

    I’m not sure all leaders are equipped to do this (scratch that…I KNOW they aren’t), but it is a good list of behaviors to aspire to.

    And to all you coach-happy leaders out there, remember that not all employees are in a place where coaching makes sense. Situational Leadership…

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