Managing vs. Coaching
Bill Cottringer

“You must always be the apprentice, even when you become the master.”
~ Christopher Cumby.

A common problem with new managers is starting out with the wrong perspective, or as Stephen Covey would say, “getting to the top rung on their ladders only to find out the ladder was placed on the wall of the wrong building.” This wrong perspective is the focus on trying to manage others before we have mastered the art of managing ourselves. Actually the distinction between managing and coaching is very important in today’s workplace. With the current diverse workforce characteristics and value revolution going on today, business success depends upon the skills the manager has in self-management and in coaching others towards performance improvement. Both are crucial factors that have to work together to bring about success.


Success in work, relationships and life in general, depends upon the person developing two things in the process of learning, growing and improving into the best person they can be. These things include two kinds of intelligence—mental intelligence and emotional intelligence. Both join forces to help a person be successful. We are all born with a certain IQ, or the potential to use competence to achieve our goals. IQ’s can improve with effort in learning and improving our competencies, but EQ’s are probably the better way to enhance the basic intelligence we are born with. Self-management is the focus on learning and improving the various aspects of emotional intelligence.

Emotional intelligence is a cluster group of skills that are learnable if one is open to this. Emotional intelligence mainly involves the important areas of self-management including: Self-awareness and control of how emotions interfere with being successful in ourselves and others. These emotions are involved in our personal motivation and interpersonal relations, especially in communication and empathy for others. The goal of learning and improving emotional intelligence is to become more likeable, which is the key to successful interpersonal relations, which in turn are the foundation of any success.

Self-management has to begin with non-defensive, humble open-mindedness—realizing that there is likely more to learn than you already know, and that there are other valid perspectives other than just your own. The main obstacle to learning better self-management is one’s ego, or the resonance of the experiences of succeeding with efforts and the self-satisfaction that brings. But strong egos are built upon successes not failures, which are often disregarded or denied in people letting their egos get in the way of improving their own self-management. Having enough strength and courage to accept and share vulnerabilities in this regard to see how common they are, is the anecdote to deflate an overgrown ego and replace it with some refreshing humility, which may be the beginning of becoming more likeable.

Coaching Others

It is the emotional intelligence gains that lend themselves to gains in self-management, which then subsequently help improve the manager’s skills in coaching others towards success. Being a successful coach of others involves developing several skills after mastering self-management with improved emotional intelligence. The main challenge is to learn how to coach others on becoming more coachable themselves to receive the many mentoring benefits of the coaching. It starts with helping a person remove the obstacles in their way of becoming more coachable, with the very same focus the manager uses to improve self-management. This of course means becoming less defensive in realizing the need for more self-management and being more open to taking advantage of the advantages of being coached towards being more coachable and improving performance.

The starting point in self-management to become a better coach of coachability is in realizing the right perspective you used to start your own self-management, may not be the only valid one for this new effort. That means going to the people where they are, rather than where you would like them to be. Whether this gap is real or imaginary doesn’t matter, as we never learn something entirely new, but just build upon what we already know, gradually at our own pace. So we begin to see the need for patience in the coaching process to get closer to where both people are in reality.

The lion’s share of coaching success involves the development and use of empathy to facilitate better communication between coach and coachee. This empathy requires acceptance and understanding of all the obstacles and assets in improving the relationship, to make it most productive. And the primary goal in any relationship is not to struggle over who knows best, but to realize it will be the personal gains of both parties in the relationship that will make the relationship most productive in getting success for both coach and coachee, as individual takeaways.

The tried and true method of communicating with better empathy involves a concerted effort to communicate in a certain style, first identified by Jack Gibb in the 1960’s, which avoids creating a defensive climate where egos clash and shut down communication. Non-defensive communication involves purposely conveying and avoiding important things like: Equality rather than superiority, acceptance rather than judgement, tentativeness rather than certainty, sensitivity rather than insensitivity, spontaneity rather than manipulation, and freedom rather than control. Peak communication almost always results in this type of supportive communication.

Whether you are a manager or employee, try this two-pronged approach and benefit from the guaranteed improvement. Do this by focusing of self-management first and then develop coaching skills or improve your coachability. This is a giant win-win for any workplace.

“Freedom rings when you realize you can become what you never thought you could become.” ~Richie Norton.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, PhD, Certified Homeland Security (CHS) level III, is Executive Vice-president for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security Patrol, Inc., in Bellevue, Washington, and adjunct professor in criminal justice at Northwest University. He is author of several business and self-development books, including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, ‘P’ Point Management, Reality Repair, Reality Repair RX, and Thoughts on Happiness from Covenant Books.