Skip to content
What is the Difference between Managing and Coaching in the Workplace?

What is the Difference between Managing and Coaching in the Workplace?

Any successful organisation understands the importance of an effective manager and an effective coach. It is easy to consider the two concepts the same, they share similar characteristics. However, they are separate and distinct but equally as important. Throughout this blog, we shall explore what is meant by coaching and managing, the differences, similarities and key traits.

What is managing?

Effective management or managing has been defined in different ways by different thinkers. According to Harold Koontz, ‘Management is an art of getting things done through and with the people in formally organized groups. It is the art of creating an environment in which people can perform and individuals can co-operate towards the attainment of group goals. ‘

I think this definition is helpful. Management is not necessarily teaching the skills to achieve a goal but creating an environment in which people are best placed to do so. An effective manager is also a good organiser and someone that has sound interpersonal qualities. The best managers tend to be exceptional leaders.

What is coaching?

The essence of coaching focuses more on the individual. Coaching is to help a person change in the way they wish and to help them go in the direction they want to go. Coaching is to support a person at every level in becoming who they want to be. It is to build awareness, empower choice and encourage positive change. A coach drives the individual to the next level of effectiveness.

What is coaching in the workplace? It is taking the same principles as above and applying them in the workplace. Perhaps it is taking on a new, young employee in their first professional role. It is up to you as the role of a coach to help develop the skills and qualities necessary for the employee to grow and succeed in the role they desire. A great coach will not necessarily lead you but inspire you to achieve your goals.

What are the main differences between a coach and a manager?

As mentioned, the main difference between a coach and a manager is their focus. A coach focuses on the output and performance of the individual compared to a manager who focuses more on the output and achieving goals as a team.

Both roles look to lead and inspire but in their own way. In fact, you can have a coaching management style whereby one’s main focus remains on the output and goals of the team but takes time to build relationships with the individuals to drive the next level of personal effectiveness.

Another difference between a coach and a manager would be the level at which one connects with someone else. Being a coach means your role becomes much more interpersonal. As a coach, you can really have a significant impact on someone’s career and even life. A manager tends to lead, whereas a coach looks to inspire.

Top 3 traits of a good business coach

When asked ‘what is coaching?’, it is difficult to answer without explaining the key traits and qualities that make up the most effective coach. Here we take a look at the top 3 traits of a good coach.


The best coaches treats individuals as partners, encouraging their input and trusting them. People are more likely to trust another person when they feel trusted by that person. When we open up and allow ourselves to be vulnerable it usually creates reciprocity and encourages trust.

Some coaches are fans of tough love, while others are more lenient. What all good coaches have in common is respect for their mentees. Contempt and resentment have no place in an effective coaching relationship and only breed further conflict.


A good coach makes expectations clear at the beginning of the journey. Both the coach and the employee must have a sense that this meeting has a distinct purpose and must agree on what that purpose is.

Whether that be wanting to change career direction, wanting to grow a certain skillset or simply at entry-level wanting to learn and the understand the basics. No matter how big or small the desire and ambition of the employee, it must be clearly understood by the coach.

Honesty and support

A good coach expresses encouragement and optimism when both easy and difficult issues are discussed. The path to achieving your goals is unlikely to be a smooth ride, there are bound to be hiccups and obstacles along the way. The best coach supports you through the tough times, as well as the easier times.

Sometimes an issue can be the elephant in the room that nobody wants to talk about. In this case, it is up to the coach to make this issue less intimidating by modelling a constructive attitude that brings the best out of the individual.

Is a manager higher than a coach?

Usually, yes. This is because in a larger organisation a manager will employ a coach or a coaching team. However, on many occasions, the manager also undertakes the role of the coach. Despite there being differences between a manager and a coach, they also have a lot in common.

The best managers concentrate on the individuals of their team, as well as the final output of the team as a whole. There are plenty of ways a manager can develop the skills of an effective coach, for example, Roffey Park Institute’s Manager as Coach Programme.

Why are both, manager and coach, necessary roles for an organisation?

It is important to have the roles of both within a team. It is all well and good having a manager who understands and sets clear goals and expectations but if the individual team members are not performing to their full effectiveness, it will be difficult to achieve the overall goals.

It is similar to the popular discussion of strategy vs tactics. I first came across this conversation at BrightonSEO and I found it interesting. The speaker spoke about not favouring one over the other, but that aligning the two concepts together can be most effective. This idea can be taken and applied to the coach vs manager discussion. The most effective and successful organisations will not believe in one concept nor the other but an effective coach and an effective manager. If not, then a skilled coach manager combines the two concepts.

How can I become a coach manager?

There are many ways one can learn the skills and qualities necessary to become a coach manager. It is important to develop an effective coaching management style in order to be a success. Management coaching can be learnt through many different programmes, courses and lessons available online and face-to-face by training providers, like Roffey Park Institute.

More Insights

Back To Top