From Manager to Coach: Building Trust and Empowering Teams

By Jeremy Kauffman May 21, 2024

Coaching is an approach to managing that aims to change the power dynamic and success of the relationship between supervisor and staff member. 

You have likely had someone, such as a supervisor, assist you in becoming proficient and successful in a particular job role or task in the workplace. But have you ever stopped to think about why that person was so helpful? How did they approach working with you? What were they doing and saying in the interactions that you were having? It’s likely, whether you were aware of it or not, that they were using a coaching philosophy in their approach to working with you.

Before we dive into coaching, let’s be sure we understand key terminology. In working with those who supervise others in the workplace, we often find that words such as leading, managing, and coaching are used interchangeably. While a supervisor should do all these things, the focus and approach of each are quite different.

Leading is the relationship between the leader and a group of people with an emphasis on creating a shared vision and environment to reach that future state.

Managing is a one-to-one relationship between the supervisor and staff member in which the goal is to help the person meet job expectations.

Coaching is an approach to managing that aims to change the power dynamic and success of the relationship between supervisor and staff member. 

While a supervisor will also find situations in which managing is needed, the philosophy and principles used exclusively are not found to be as successful as coaching. Managing, rooted in command and control, creates a “power over” relationship that stimulates the growth, input, creativity, and productivity of the staff members. Today’s workforce is looking for more out of their workplace than a boss who tells them what to do and how to do it. Engagement, a metric that many are measuring, is higher in places where a traditional management approach is less prevalent.

A supervisor who wants to be a coach (more than a manager) should start by doing three things with each person on their team: set expectations, discuss aspirations, and develop a meaningful, trusting relationship. Setting expectations involves discussing what success looks like from a behavior and job role perspective. A discussion between a supervisor and staff member about the person’s aspirations allows a supervisor to understand how they can support a staff member in their growth and development. As these conversations unfold, a different type of relationship is established. The staff member sees their supervisor less as a boss and more as a person interested and invested in their success. As this relationship becomes stronger, two-way communication develops, real-time feedback is given (from both sides), and the focus shifts from results to the development of the staff member.

For many, shifting from a managing approach to a coaching approach is hard. It takes conscious, consistent effort. And for the supervisor, it may feel like they’re giving up control or risking getting the outcome and results that are needed. For many, getting started is the hardest part. Aside from engaging in conversation about expectations, aspirations, and focusing on developing a mutually beneficial relationship with team members, here are some suggestions for how to incorporate coaching into your approach:

We typically get the most benefit and have the most rewarding experiences when we have to work for it. Coaching is no different. Research shows that using this approach increases engagement, improves performance, and motivates staff members while demonstrating a commitment to those being supervised. In today’s environment, in which staff retention is an ongoing challenge, we can all agree that these outcomes would be welcomed.

If you are interested in learning more or engaging executive coaching services, visit the  MHS Consulting website.