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Should We Stop Managing People?

In today's business world, the title of "manager" often fails to encompass the leadership and collaborative aspects of the role.

In an article in Strategy+Business, Adam Bryant talks about companies giving managers time, money, workers and other resources to achieve quality and cost savings. Today's business climate has changed, but the role of managers to "plan, organize, coordinate, command and control" has not.

Bryant cites a few reasons why the management function needs to shift:

  • People who see the workplace as a network and seek out others who can help them complete a task tend not to be fans of hierarchical structures.
  • The best employees need a guiding hand more than a directive approach. They are already self-motivated with good ideas.
  • Today's work environment requires creative solutions for problem-solving, not lock-step adherence to a prescribed playbook.

Coaching Revolves Around Motivation

David Meltzer, CEO and founder of Sports 1 Marketing, writes in Entrepreneur that whereas a manager oversees the day-to-day functions needed to run a business efficiently and effectively, a coach's job is to inspire the team to reach the highest level.

He maintains that both managers and coaches are needed for a business to succeed. He cites a couple of differences between the two.

Managers, Meltzer says, give direction devoid of inspiration. But without a manager's rules and procedures, nothing gets done. Coaches, on the other hand, help team members embody the principles of "gratitude, empathy, accountability and effective communication" to motivate a team to top performance.

Coaching Skills Can be Learned

Julia Milner and Trenton Milner, writing in the Harvard Business Review, leaned on coaching expert Sir John Whitmore for a definition of coaching. He said it is "unlocking a person's potential to maximize their own performance. It is helping them learn rather than teaching them." Instead of telling employees what to do, Whitmore says coaching encourages employees to use their knowledge and skills to solve problems.

The authors recently conducted a study that shows managers can gain coaching skills in as few as 15 hours of training. Here is what they say organizations can learn from their research:

  • Provide a clear definition of coaching and present the differences from other types of manager behavior.
  • Have managers practice coaching before turning them loose on their teams.
  • Provide time for participants to reflect on their coaching abilities to determine what works and what they could do better.
  • Have feedback from coaching experts or even peers on how well coaching skills were applied and what opportunities, if any, were missed.

"Not only does a lack of training leave managers unprepared, it may effectively result in a policy of managers reinforcing poor coaching practices among themselves," the authors write.

Fortunately, top business schools such as the University of Northern Colorado's Monfort College of Business are taking notice of the trends involving managing and coaching employees. In its online MBA program, UNC stresses the essential qualities to develop students into effective business leaders.

Learn more about the University of Northern Colorado's online MBA program.


Entrepreneur: Coaching Over Managing: Motivate Your Team

Harvard Business Review: Most Managers Don't Know How to Coach People. But They Can Learn.

Strategy+Business: Is It Time to Retire the Title of Manager?

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