What Coaching Isn't
It's always important to say what something is, but sometimes, because of many assumptions, you also need to say what it is not. Coaching is not standing behind someone and snarling, “Work faster, work faster!” Coaching isn't providing a detailed minute-by-minute breakdown of what your team members should be doing. It's not throwing your hands up in disgust and resignation when a person makes a mistake. Coaching is not a collection of dismissive, controlling, and worthless techniques that pass as managerial theory in too many companies and institutions.
The Managerial Flaw
Coaching and management are related in that both are tools intended to facilitate orderly and effective activity to achieve certain ends. Though they belong to the same family, there is a fundamental difference between the two. Coaching assumes that people have tremendous abilities while also recognizing that they often need help reaching their potential.
Think back a few years to corporate scandals and such names as Enron, WorldCom, Adelphia, and Tyco. Managers at those companies were sure they were smarter than everyone else. Unless you include destroying companies and winding up in jail as part of the definition of smart, it would be hard to agree.
Management too often makes the fatal assumption that a special set of people, called managers, are smarter, more knowledgeable, and generally better than others in an organization. Traditional management is a paternalistic approach to making things happen. As such, managers are supposed to direct and control others as the only way to get things done.
Under the management model, organizations generally accept that the manager possesses the necessary knowledge, information, and decision-making rights. Here, others in the organization — whether employees or volunteers — exist only to carry out the orders of management. These people are not expected to think, to find solutions, or to improve how the group tries to attain a goal. Instead, those who are managers are to do as they are told.
This has been the popular approach to organized activities for hundreds of years. In fact, until recently, it was largely the way companies, religious organizations, nonprofits, and other entities operated. In the last couple of decades, leaders and academics have experimented with other ways of doing things, but traditional management is still widely prevalent. Because it assumes that only a small group of people is capable of intelligent and creative action, this approach wastes most of the talent in any organized group.
Something Else Coaching Isn't
In leadership, coaching is more closely related to a horse-drawn carriage, and helping someone get to a destination. Instead of pointing the problems and solutions out to a player, you help the person develop a sense of how to make such diagnostic efforts and then create corresponding strategies and plans. It's truly a case of helping people find a path to self-sufficiency.