Coaching vs. Managing

Coaching vs. Managing

How organizations are using coaching to transform workforce performance

When asked about his success over his 31-year career at Whirlpool, CEO Jeff Fettig echoes a refrain often cited by executives behind the world's leading companies.

"I am here today in part due to a handful of people who, before it was in vogue, provided coaching and mentoring to me early in my career. That helped me to develop," Fettig told Forbes1.

Fettig's experience isn't unique, but he is one of the lucky ones: Although more than 60 percent of organizations use some form of internal coaching, according to a survey conducted by the Conference Board, far too often coaching is a small part of the job description for most managers. Nearly half spend less than 10 percent of their time coaching others2.

"You can't be a great manager if you're not a good coach," management professor Monique Valcour asserts in an article for the Harvard Business Review3.

Being a coach doesn't come naturally to everyone, though. For many people, exposure to a coach has been limited to time spent playing youth sports, years or decades earlier.  As a result, coaching in the workplace can feel overwhelming and confusing.

The continual process of coaching

Coaching is the process of prompting improvement and growth in key performance indicators, whether related to efficiency, customer satisfaction metrics or a young athlete's long jump. True coaching is an interactive process, and it requires willingness on the part of the recipient to change4. It should prompt, urge, train, motivate, guide, facilitate and instruct. Excellent coaches know how to provide learners with the tools, feedback and opportunities necessary to improve and learn – and to do so without providing the answers themselves.

Managers frequently confuse feedback and coaching. Feedback is reactive, reflective and focused on information and data. Coaching is forward-facing and proactive, and it should direct attention towards tools and processes. The two are linked, though. Feedback creates self-awareness; without knowing about their past performance, employees won't understand how to move into the future. Effective coaching not only incorporates feedback about the past but also involves the development of plans for the future – i.e., an employee's goals.

Goals are also a unique but independent component of coaching and the associated performance improvements5. Setting goals that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound) gives coaches and learners a direction and plan and can have a powerful impact on performance. The emphasis on goals should also underscore that coaching is a process, not an evaluation.

Increasing recognition of the importance of employee coaching

Coaching has a long history in sports and education, but its application in management environments is comparatively young. In recent decades, however, it has seen a surge in popularity. This growing interest is evidenced by the burst of professionals providing organizational, individual and personal coaching. Membership in the International Coaching Federation, which promotes professional standards and ongoing education among its members, is currently growing by more than 500 members every month, and the organization has offices on five continents6.

A powerful tool to improve employee performance

Countless organizations are seeking to incorporate coaching strategies and structures into their operations, and many have seen remarkable results. When used correctly, coaching has been proven to enhance KPIs across industries and demographics. The business implications – and the opportunities—are vast.

  • Consider the coaching program at Oregon State University7. Among employees who received coaching, 92 percent experienced an increase in confidence and discovered possibilities they would have missed on their own.
  • When Waste Management, the leading provider of comprehensive waste management services in North America, introduced a new coaching initiative, the company saw improvements on a range of KPIs within four months: coaching compliance soared from 25 percent to 79 percent, and quality scores increased nearly five percentage points8.
  • Research published in the Leadership and Organization Development Journal found that coaching increases leadership effectiveness by as much as 60 percent9.

Limitless potential as a workforce optimization resource

Coaching is a tremendous tool for organizational success. The company that is intentional about aligning the goals of the business with a coaching program and tools can empower its managers to inspire and engage employees to move the entire workforce toward peak performance.

Adam Aftergut is a product marketing manager for NICE Performance Management, the leading software solution used by contact centers to improve customer satisfaction scores (CSATs) while reducing contact center operational costs.

1 Geoff Colvin, “How Top Companies Breed Stars”, Fortune,
2 Candice Frankovelgia, “The Key To Effective Coaching”, Forbes,
3 Monique Valcour, “You Can’t Be a Great Manager If You’re Not a Good Coach”, Harvard Business Review,
4 Diane Coutu, Carol Kauffman “What Can Coaches Do for You?” Harvard Business Review,
5 Adam Aftergut, “Better Performance Management with the Right Goals”, NICE, /engage/2016/6/better-performance-management-with-the-right-goals-2162
6 International Coach Federation,
7 Office of Human Resources, “Performance Coaching”, Oregon State University,
8 “Waste Management Case Study”, NICE, /optimizing-customer-engagements/Lists/CustomerSuccesses/Attachments/115/WasteManagement_Case_Study_(2015).pdf
9 Elizabeth C. Thach, “The impact of executive coaching and 360 feedback on leadership effectiveness”, Leadership & Organization Development Journal,