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The Difference Between Managers and Coaches

Posted by CLIMB Professional Development and Training on April 18, 2017

difference-between-managers-and-coaches.jpgBeing on a high performance team feels great. Everybody wants to succeed and feel like they bring value to a job. Most would agree the characteristics of a team’s leader determine, in large part, whether or not the team functions and performs well. Leaders who know how to coach rather than just manage have an advantage and will find developing high performance teams easier.

Forbes magazine shared a study in 2016 that revealed the five behaviors of leaders with high performance teams; they inspire more than they drive, resolve conflicts and increase cooperation, set stretch goals, communicate the vision and direction, and are trusted.  The leaders who rated poorly on these behaviors only had around 13% of their team “highly committed.”

These behaviors are more the traits of a good coach rather than a manager.  While being a good manager is important, it’s those who also understand the importance of being a good coach that develop high performance teams. So what is the difference between managers and coaches?

When most people think about a manager, they associate this role with someone who directs the activities of their reports, someone who is presumed to be more intelligent or superior, and someone who is more invested in the results of a team rather than on the success of the individuals on the team.  

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A coach, on the other hand, is more focused on developing people rather than focusing on output alone. A coach inspires individuals to do things they thought they never could. A coach does not position himself or herself as superior, but more as a facilitator of success.

There is a famous story about a man who came upon a group of soldiers during the American Revolution attempting to raise a high beam into position. The corporal in charge was commanding them around and shouting encouragement, but the team struggled to achieve the goal. The man asked the corporal why he wasn’t helping. The Corporal responded, “Don’t you realize I’m the corporal?” The man then dismounted his horse and helped those soldiers get the beam positioned correctly. As the man was leaving, he said to the corporal, “If you should need help again, call on Washington, your commander-in-chief, and I will come” (Maxwell, 2011).

The lesson here is that people are more successful and motivated when their leader is personally invested in their success. Being higher up in an org chart alone does not mean people will work hard for you. Developing high performance teams is not easy, but leaders who recognize the importance of being a coach, not just being a good manager, will achieve more.  Coaching is about inspiring your people to do and be more.   

Understanding the difference between managers and coaches is essential to creating high performance teams. Why is this important? High performance teams create more successful businesses. A successful business means more employment opportunities, more money for the business and economy, and happy customers – who doesn’t want that?  

Maxwell, J. (2011). 5 levels of leadership: Proven steps to maximize your potential. New York, NY: Center Street Press.


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The PCC CLIMB Center provides a variety of professional development  training. Just some of our courses include leadership, sales, customer  experience, online sales and management, IT and software, and  communication. Our top priority is to help you and your team reach your  full potential. We offer open enrollment classes for individuals seeking  their own professional development and contract training for organizations.


Topics: Professional Development, Management

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