Boss vs Coach

Is there a difference between a boss and a coach? Does one have more power than the other? Is one a more effective leader than the other? When you dive into the idea of what a boss is, it might surprise you that most people would rather work for a coach. But why? Because the characteristics between the two are drastically different, and one would rather lead from the side, while the other leads from within. One considers their people employees, the other considers them teammates. How we lead has a significant impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of our company, organization, and team.

How many of you can say that you have worked for, or currently work for, a coach? I am going to wager that very few have actually worked for a coach, or better yet, WITH a coach; as a coach is someone who works alongside the team. How often have you worked for someone you rarely see; someone who spends the majority of their day behind a desk. Actually, that is the perfect definition of a boss. “But, Wallaert, that’s their job.” Is it? So you’re telling me that leadership’s job is to sit behind a desk and delegate. Do we think that because that is all we have seen or all we have witnessed? I would argue that effective leadership is rarely, if at all, behind a desk. Effective leadership is among their people. 

You see, it’s easy to sit behind a desk and tell people what to do. It’s easy to look at peoples performance based on numbers on a piece of paper and determine if they are good enough or not. It’s easy to never invest time and energy into the people we lead. But what do we know about easy? Easy leads to nothing. Easy is the antagonist to progress and success. Easy is what the majority of people choose. To become better, to become smarter, to become healthier, to become more aware…that takes effort, the very opposite of “easy”. Being a “boss” is easy. Being an actual leader takes effort, time, energy, and hard work.  

As an employee, the odds of me working hard and dedicating myself to the company, when I only see my boss every now and then, is pretty slim. I will do as little as I have to, but just enough to stay off the bosses radar. I will not make waves, I will say “yes, sir” and “yes, ma’am”. I will make it look like I’m working hard, but in reality I am doing very little. In other words, I have no passion, no drive, no direction, and no support to be better. If my boss doesn’t care enough to invest in me, why should I invest in my job.

Now, is the previous example a little far fetched? Maybe. Nevertheless, I bet you would be surprised to find the majority of working people who have bosses feel this way. If they are earning a paycheck and not being called into the office, then they will only put in the effort it takes to keep it that way. However, being a coach creates an atmosphere of pride, hard work, effort, and a willingness to try. Coaches are seen. They are present for their team. Coaches don’t lead from behind a desk. They are on the floor with their team. They are investing time and energy into encouraging their team to be the best they can be.

A boss is usually clueless as to what is wrong and what needs to be fixed until it is too late. Bosses are reactive rather than proactive. If they are never part of their team, listening, observing, and investing their time into their team, then problems become headaches, roadblocks, and hiccups in a companies efficiency. On the other hand, a coach, having invested time and energy into their team, is more proactive. They can anticipate issues and cut them off at the pass. They are attune to what is going on with and among their team. They listen and observe. They have built a rapport with their teammates. Problems, for coaches, are few and far between. And if a problem does arise, it is usually dealt with quickly and efficiently.

The success of any company or organization lies in the effectiveness of its leadership. If leadership chooses to lead from behind the desk, choosing to not invest in their people, or be present and work alongside their people, then don’t expect your company to go far. If leadership chooses to be in the trenches, sit behind the desk only when needed, and invest in their team, expect great things. Coaching is a way of life. It is about genuinely caring about the people you lead. It’s about seeing their value and worth and encouraging your team to never settle for okay, as you work alongside them.

What role are you going to take in your leadership? Is it time for a change in the way you lead? Will you decide to see your people as teammates and come alongside them, or will you sit behind your desk and bark orders? Only one of those will lead to value, both intrinsically and extrinsically. So what’s it going to be? Coach or Boss?

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