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Are you a coach or a manager? Most traditional, hierarchical IT organizations use managers to plan, organize and control work. Managers make decisions with greater or lesser collaboration, based on their management style. A coach is a different thing entirely. Coaches exist to assist a team to reach its full potential. In the world of empowered employees and self-managed teams, a coach is an enabler, a guide, and a leader.

A coach enables her team by suggesting areas for self-improvement, ideas for using tools and techniques and facilities improving team. The goal of coaching is to help the team become more effective in delivering value to the organization. The act of coaching requires the ability to interact and facilitate both how individuals and groups work within the team.

When a coach provides guidance, they are using their gravitas to influence the direction of the team. In organizations that rely on control environments, the manager will tell the team the correct direction with the expectation that telling and doing are sequential acts. A coach provides direction and uses her influence to get the team to internalize that direction. The internalized direction may well reflect a synthesis of the team’s knowledge and the coach’s advice.

The ability to enable and guide is a function of being a leader. Kevin Kruse, author of Employee Engagement 2.0, defines leadership as “a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, towards the achievement of a goal.” The definition does not include the primary tenants of the definition of a manager, control and positional authority, but rather is focused on getting the most from the team through influence.

A coach is a guide and a leader. These attributes are inter-related and self-reinforcing. A coach rarely needs to leverage the techniques of a manager – planning, organizing and directing – rather they rely on influence and team peer-pressure. Are you a manager or a coach? The distinction is stark. Is your role to help the team maximize its value through a process of facilitation? If the answer is yes, then you are a coach.

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