Be a Coach, Not a Supervisor; Here’s What It Takes

Be a coach, not a supervisor

What’s the difference between coaching and supervising? Most of us value those who coach us. We believe our coaches want the best for and from us. When our coaches say, “handle that ball differently,” we listen and try to do what the coach says. We feel we and the coach are on the same team. In contrast, many employees don’t like being supervised. When their supervisor says “do that differently,” many employees resent it, thinking, “What’s wrong with how I do it?”

Give your employees attention

Coaching requires you to be there for your employees, as their guide and resource. If you closet yourself in your office, leaving your employees with no one easily accessible to answer their questions, give them support or guide them, you ignore the supervisor/employee equation.

Let’s say you supervise five employees. If you guide them all to work a productive forty hours, you and your team have two hundred and forty hours of productivity. If, however, you focus on your work and ignore your job as team coach, some of your employees may start to coast. Some employees may then continue to work productively for forty hours, however others may slide to only thirty hours of true productivity, for an average of thirty-five hours. If so, your five employees generate one hundred and seventy-five hours of productivity, forcing you to work sixty-five hours a week to make up the difference.

Forgetting you’re the role model 
As the supervisor, you model the behavior you want to see. Do you want employees to show up on time? Do so yourself. Do you text or Internet surf during the day? If so, expect your employee will as well.

You need to act with integrity even when an employee drives you crazy. If, as a supervisor, you complain about one employee to another, the second employee wonders “What are you saying about me to my co-workers?”

Forgetting employees like to win
Why do so many of us put more effort into sports or at the gym than we do at work? In sports and at the gym, we have goals. We make a basket, score a goal or complete ten minutes at 2.5 miles an hour and incline three on the treadmill.

Employees, too, like to win.  Have you told your employees what goals they’ve met or how well they’ve done this week? If not, do so today.

Forgetting to develop – yourself and your employees
Being a supervisor has a beginning but no end. You can’t rest on your laurels. Instead, recognize and own your mistakes and make yourself better every day.

Help your employees improve as well. Give them feedback and growth opportunities. If you do, you’ll keep them longer.

Don’t burn your employees out
Some supervisors overwork their best employees. If you do this, you punish your best employees for giving their all. Be a coach; act in your employees’ best interest. Every so often, give your employees a break. They deserve it.

© 2020, Lynne Curry

Lynne Curry is the author of “Beating the Workplace Bully” (AMACOM, 2016) and “Solutions” (both books are rated 4.8 out of 5 stars on Send your questions to her at or follow her on twitter @lynnecurry10.

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