Managing != Coaching

While pondering about management and coaching I recently realized that my mental model needed some realignment with reality. I came to understand that functional managers don’t have to be personal coaches, and vice versa.

You see, in our organization we are used to the situation where every functional manager is required to assist people with their personal development. As managers, we care about our people’s skills, their knowledge and experience, their training, and their discipline (or, in some cases, lack thereof). For their good behavior we should offer compliments, and for their bad behavior (after a good scolding) we should offer a shoulder to cry on.

As functional managers, we are our people’s personal coaches.

But it doesn’t have to be that way…

Managing people is different from coaching people. As a functional manager you might be responsible for interviewing job candidates, writing procedures, enforcing procedures, controlling budgets, negotiating salaries, checking daily reports, checking weekly reports, checking monthly reports, checking yearly reports, and reminding people how important it is that they give you those reports. So you can check them.

And as a functional manager you must also make sure that all your people have a personal coach. But that doesn’t have to be you! You can delegate responsibilities and empower (senior) people to coach the others. In this model every person in the organization has both a manager and a coach. You could still be the coach for the seniors, but you wouldn’t coach the juniors. While still acting as everybody’s manager, you could save yourself a lot of time, while empowering your senior people, all in a single stroke.

(And while you're at it, you could find someone to be the personal coach for your senior people too. In the current economic downturn, hiring a face that's friendly and understanding can be much better for your people than having to fake one yourself. Just make sure that at least someone is helping them.)


The model of delegating coaching to senior people turns out to be very close to the situation in our Ukrainian office. Until recently I had trouble matching that situation with my own mental model of how things are organized in my own office. But my visit to Ukraine confronted me with the fact that managing and coaching are not the same.

I already knew that. But sometimes I need reality to act as a reminder.

(pictures by clairity and Ctd 2005)

Follow me on TwitterSubscribe with a readerSubscribe by email!

Latest, greatest and favoritest posts:
What Motivates (Some of) Us
I'm Out of Control
A Tasty Team Building Exercise

  • The Decline and Fall of Agilists
  • How to Annoy Your Boss (14 Real-Life Tips)
Related Posts
free book
“How to Change the World”