Managers: Are You a Boss or Coach? The Difference Will Shock You

If you’re a manager who’s struggling to get peak performance from the people who work for you, I’ve got something for you to consider…

Are you a boss or are you a coach?

You might be wondering what the difference is. Let’s explore it a bit.

A Boss

A boss manages workers in an expedient but personally distant way. Some common characteristics of a “boss” are:

  • Issues commands and expectations.
  • Has a lot of expectations, but little conversation.
  • Is far more interested in the task than in the person.
  • Knows little about the employee personally, and has invested no time to learn about their personality traits, strengths, and challenges.
  • Views employees as “hired hammers” who are as good now as they’ll ever be. Has a fixed mindset towards others.
  • Swings between two extremes: Giving no direction or micromanaging (usually micromanaging when giving no direction has its likely consequence of low performance)
  • Has employees who are frustrated, feel disrespected, and are unengaged (or actively disengaged, i.e., they resist and create friction).

A Coach 

By contrast, a coach is much more hands on. Some characteristics of a “coach” include:

  • Discusses an assignment with the employee. Gets his or her feedback and perspective. Reaches mutual agreement on methods, timeline, and expected outcome.
  • Values conversations as meaningful ways to build relationships and gain a better perspective and better data.
  • Is as interested in the person as in the task.
  • Knows at least a little about the employee’s personal life and has invested time and effort to learn their personality and communication style.
  • Views employees as uniquely talented individuals with potential for development. Has a growth mindset towards others.
  • Balances giving clear direction with seeking the employee’s input, offering support, removing obstacles, and celebrating when the employee succeeds.
  • Has employees who feel encouraged, excited about their role and their growth, feel respected and are engaged in their work.

The difference is shocking… isn’t it? So I pose the question… as a leader, have you been playing the role of a boss… or a coach? 

It’s okay if you answered “boss.” You aren’t alone. Most people fall under this category. What’s important is never trying to stop improving your leadership style.

Why do bosses behave the way they do?

Lots of reasons.

You’re busy. You’re distracted. You may have come from an upbringing that shaped them to be highly directive and less relational. You may undervalue the “soft” side of the business. You may be in a culture that rewards toughness and requires armor.

Add a pandemic and the virtual environment we’re working in now, and relationship-building is even harder. Coaching is more elusive. It’s easier to fall into “boss mode”.

But I’m going to challenge you for a minute So, if you’re a boss, listen up.

You’ve got to stop… take a step back. And realize a few things: 

  • You’ll never get sustained top-level performance from your employees if you don’t change the way you approach leading people. You may get compliance in the short run. But you won’t get sustained commitment.
  • Your employees won’t reach their potential. Your team won’t reach its potential. Your results will be marginalized.
  • Your most talented employees will look for other places to work. Millennials and Gen Z, in particular, want coaches. Not bosses.

Luckily… there are ways to get out of your “boss” like behavior and transition to more of a coach. And believe me… the results are worth it! 

7 Steps To Transition From a Boss to a Coach

So, what are some steps you can take to become less boss-like and more coach-like?

Try these on:

Step 1: Know Your Employees
Get to know your employees personally. What are their hobbies? Where do they want their career to go? Show that you value them as people, not just as employees.

Step 2: Implement a DISC Assessment
Take a giant leap forward in understanding your employees. How? Have each team member do an Everything DiSC® Workplace assessment. Managers who use this tool are amazed at how it accelerates mutual understanding and team performance!

Step 3: Get Involved
Involve your employee in a conversation about the task you’re assigning to them. Get their input.  Gallup reports employees are four times more likely to be engaged if you include them in goal setting. This will also speed their development as they learn to think through things more strategically.

Step 4: Share the “Why”
Be sure to share why a task you’re assigning to them is important. Connect it to the big picture. Don’t assume they see the connection. The “science of why” tells us that people’s work needs to resonate at a deep level for true engagement.

Step 5: Ask for Commitment 
Ask for their commitment as you close your discussion of the task. Don’t assume you have clarity and commitment.

Step 6: Offer Support
Ask what they need to get the job done. Ask what obstacles need to be removed.

Step 7: Ask for Feedback
Ask your direct reports (plus your  peers and your boss) to give you feedback. Specifically, have them do a quality 360 review so you can get their feedback. Leaders find a 360 process, like the Hogan 360, to be a wealth of constructive, developmental data to mine. It’s an incredible way to build emotional intelligence.

Once you shift your management style from boss to coach… I guarantee you’ll be able to reap the benefits for years to come.  

Conclusion: Reap the Benefits of Being a Coach Today

Elevate your leadership. Develop yourself as a coach and you’ll enjoy a better reputation, more loyal teams, and a more productive workforce. It does take time, but the payoff is huge. And it’s personally rewarding!

Want to accelerate your development as a leader? Or improve your team’s culture and performance? I’d love to help! Schedule a complimentary 30-minute conversation. We’ll discuss your unique situation and identify ways to propel performance to the next level!