Moving from Boss to Coach

Published: Sep 13, 2019
Modified: Apr 09, 2024

By AMA Staff

“Because I’m the boss” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Today, effective managers realize that if they want to engage and motivate their people, they must form a partnership with them. That means evolving from a boss into a coach—the end of top-down management.

More and more, managers are learning to relinquish the traditional role of “boss.” They understand that workers will perform and grow when managers become partners in the process of work and the process of learning.

The following excerpt from AMA’s seminar Improving Your Managerial Effectiveness provides some insight into how management is evolving from the old top-down model to a more collaborative approach.

Transactional vs. Transformational Coaching:

Old Model (Transactional) Management
In the old model, the culture was expressed by, “I’m the boss, that’s why.” This kind of transactional manager used the “DIM” model:

Transactional managers used reward and punishment as a primary means of getting what they wanted. People followed transactional managers because they produced result but long-term benefits to the organization seldom materialized. People followed out of fear—fear of adverse consequences. They worked hard and complied, but the commitment was superficial.

This model is an expedient form of management. The downside is that it can become a habit that’s hard to break. Managers who rely on authority—positional power—in the organization get results. They don’t develop skills of influence, however, and when there is a change in the power structure, they lose their effectiveness.

Many new managers can’t understand why their new title doesn’t automatically give them the credibility, respect, and buy-in they thought they would have. Faced with the challenge of performance, they fall into the trap of mutual exchange and reciprocity. They get what they want because they give others what they want. Management becomes a simple series of transactions.

Transformational Coaching
The book The Heart of Coaching,* by Thomas G. Crane presents a more effective model of managing for growth and development—Transformational Coaching. It is based on the partnership of manager and staff supporting one another to continue to learn, to grow, and to transform one another to meet today’s challenges and tomorrow’s opportunities.

The seven competencies of a transformation coach are summarized below, along with some insights on how they influence others in the learning workplace.

1. Clear. The coach consciously eliminates ambiguity and mixed messages. It is essential that the communication process through which the coaching is delivered is effective at creating a shared understanding. The coach pays attention to how the messages are interpreted by the colleague and uses active-listening skills to ensure understanding.

2. Committed. Commitment to the colleague’s success is the foundation for trust and rapport in the relationship. This helps the colleague to build personal confidence in the security of the coaching relationship and creates a safe environment for risk-taking.

3. Courageous. The coach acts with courage in the face of interpersonal or organizational challenges. Being open and vulnerable helps to establish and maintain trust. Coaching requires the skillful confrontation of issues that may be uncomfortable to address. Facing issues head-on is an accountable behavior that moves people and the organization forward.

4. Challenging. The coach brings out the best in people by looking for positive ways to stretch and develop their skills. The coach encourages people to move beyond their personal zones of comfort by constructively challenging their attitudes, beliefs, ideas, and behaviors.

5. Collaborative. The coach works to nurture a partnership that “levels the playing field” in order to create an egalitarian, high-trust relationship that transforms the way the coach and the colleague work together. This creates the environment for more open and candid work on the issues that inhibit performance.

6. Compassionate. Fear inhibits people from performing up to their potential. As the coach accepts, forgives, and allows reasonable freedom to make mistakes, fail, and learn, a safe environment is created that supports learning, appropriate experimentation, and growth.

7. Congruent. The coach must be consistent in words and actions in order to be a positive role model of the attitudes and beliefs valued by the organization. People pay more attention to what others do than to what they say. If there is perceived disparity, trust is lost.

*The Heart of Coaching, Crane, FTA Press, 1999. Used with permission.
© Copyright 2002 American Management Association. All rights reserved.

About The Author(s)

American Management Association is a world leader in professional development, advancing the skills of individuals to drive business success. AMA’s approach to improving performance combines experiential learning—“learning through doing”—with opportunities for ongoing professional growth at every step of one’s career journey. AMA supports the goals of individuals and organizations through a complete range of products and services, including seminars, Webcasts and podcasts, conferences, corporate and government solutions, business books and research.