Managers need to understand that “coaching” and “micromanaging” are different things…
I actually just recorded a whole video with my friend Terra about micromanaging, and then came across some new intel I felt compelled to share. BTW, surprisingly given how often I blog, I’ve only written about micromanaging once, and I think I was day drunk when I wrote it, so it’s not too good…
So now I come across this new article. It’s about a study of different managers being told to “coach” their employees, and what do you think happens? This is what happens:
The biggest takeaway was the fact that, when initially asked to coach, many managers instead demonstrated a form of consulting. Essentially, they simply provided the other person with advice or a solution. We regularly heard comments like, “First you do this” or “Why don’t you do this?”
I think this hits on a huge point that needs to be addressed.
What is actually valued at work?
OK, this is a trick question. We would say “productivity” or “stuff getting done” — much of work is truly about tasks — but the actual answer is “work is about control.” We will gloss that over for now, though.
The most successful people in white-collar work have a relentless, all-consuming focus on execution. Makes sense. That’s the stuff that gets you promoted eventually. Gotta be seen as a target-hitter and a doer. I get it. We’ve all been there. We’ve all seen it.
But “coaching” is a much different deal. It’s longer-term, it’s methodical, etc. You need to listen and give ideas, take feedback yourself, learn as you go, grow as you go, etc. It’s complicated. We sometimes lip-service it as a “fluffy” thing while we’re over here smothering KPIs with a pillow, but it’s important and nuanced. There aren’t a ton of great business coaches. There aren’t a ton of great football/basketball/baseball/track coaches either. It’s hard.
This is where the divide exists that explains the above quote. See:
- Work is about execution and “stuff being done”
- Coaching is about a longer-term listening relationship
- When asked to “coach,” most managers default to “Here’s the answer, can we move on to checking the next box now?”
- That’s all a lot of managers understand
- Managers, thusly, often are not coaches
And honestly, the jury is out on whether they have to be. So long as work prizes box-checking and execution, we probably don’t even need coaching-friendly managers. It would be super nice to have, sure, but it doesn’t even line up with how those with true authority view the workplace, i.e. a series of financial acronyms and stuff getting done that they hope to never really have to try and understand.
Still, though, the concept of a bunch of MBA chest-beaters thinking they’re “coaching up the ranks” and instead going straight into micromanagement consulting hell is pretty LOL, if you ask me…