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When picturing a manager, a controlling and demanding figure probably comes to mind. Compare that to a coach and the associated image. Vastly different, right? The differences between a manager and a coach may appear to be only surface-level, but the differences in the results achieved from their leadership styles can be substantial.

While the two terms are used interchangeably, a coach is someone who leads by example, whereas a manager is someone who is seen to direct tasks. This isn’t to say that a manager won’t show an employee how to do a task at work – a coach just takes it a step further.

A coach is on your level and committed to supporting you, while a manager is your boss. Both individuals may want to achieve the same outcome in the workplace, but each offers a contrasting method on how to get to the end goal.

Engaging and trustworthy leadership can improve employee retention, lower staff stress levels, and heighten motivation. A coach focuses on developing the employees as individuals, rather than focusing purely on the results associated with those people.

Here are some tips on how to transition from being viewed as a manager to being viewed as a coach:

1.   Treat your staff as team members – not employees.

The difference between a manager and a coach could be as simple as this: a coach is a fellow team member; a manager is a superior.

Being viewed as a superior doesn’t necessarily equate to respect, nor does it equal productivity from your staff. You will receive the highest amount of output from workers who see you as someone on their level, there to work toward a common goal rather than just directing traffic.

When you’re on the same level, you provide an aura of comfort, stability, and understanding to your employees.

2.   Develop a personal connection

The only way to treat your staff as fellow team members is through personal connections.

Learn this: speak to your staff on their level. Learn about their lives and create a connection. Connections are fostered through empathy and shared personal experiences. We are all humans, and finding common ground may be easier than it seems in many circumstances.

This may be as simple as asking an employee about his or her weekend or investing in their goals outside of work.

3.   Listen to your workers

“We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak” – Epictetus

If you can listen to your employees instead of instructing them, you will find answers to problems you didn’t even know existed.

To be a better listener…

  • Give your staff your full attention when they are speaking to you.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Be empathetic towards them and show that you are willing to help.
  • Be approachable. Always have your door open.
  • Welcome open communication and feedback both to and from employees.

4.   Motivate and incentivize.

We are all motivated by something or someone. Knowing your staff on a personal level should give you an indication as to what motivates them.

81% of respondents to Glassdoor’s Employee Appreciation Survey said that they’re motivated to work harder when their boss shows appreciation for their work. In contrast, only 38% said they work harder when their boss is demanding. 37% said they work harder because they fear losing their job (Inc).

Learn what incentives will drive motivations, and vice-versa. Some examples might include…

  • Offering personal or professional growth opportunities.
  • Providing constant work validation.
  • Offering monetary bonuses.
  • Being transparent.
  • Prioritizing a work-life balance.

You may not have the ability or the power to implement the incentives listed above, but motivation can also come from humble personal gestures. Giving a pat on the back or attending an after-work event are adequate ways to show your employees that you appreciate them.

5.   Make work relaxed, and make it fun

If your workers enjoy coming into work, then their output and outlook will improve. Enjoying your work often has less to do with the work itself and more to do with the people at the office. The familiar saying, “People leave managers, not companies,” reflects perhaps the most prevalent reason for disengagement and unhappiness at work. 

Improve your relationship with your employees – if they can look forward to coming into work, then their work will become enjoyable. Once it becomes enjoyable, it will then lead to an increase in production.

After all, a happy workplace is a successful workplace.

For ideas on how to make work “fun” – see Forbes’ article on ways to make your workplace a fun place.

6.   Create meaningful and impactful work

We all enjoy seeing the fruits of our labor. If you can make your employees feel that their work matters, then they will feel like their job matters.

Meaningful work means different things to different people, especially when considering demographics. Whether we like feeling appreciated personally or having an impact on society, one thing we all share is a need for social connection, with each other and with our team.

Create a sense of community, provide constant validation, and motivate your team to understand the impact they have on the workplace. Create a culture of understanding, and emphasize how important each individual is to the organization.

It is the subtleties that make a manager appear to be more of a coach?

Over the years, workers’ mindsets have changed. To maintain a happy and healthy workforce, your leadership style should also change to reflect the new needs of employees. Being seen as a coach means much more than simply increasing your chances at improved worker output – the impact that it may have on each individual worker in their day-to-day life is priceless. 

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