I love the game of baseball. National pastime and all, it is my favorite sport. To completely confess, I am also a New York Yankees fan. Growing up in Connecticut you have a choice: The Red Sox (Satan's demons...) or the Yankees. It was an easy choice.
My baseball diversion was to make note of the fact that in baseball the lead guy is called a manager. In other sports such as basketball and football, they are a coach. In business virtually everyone is called a manager. Very rarely is a leader defined as a coach and if the term is used it is often the front line manager or "lead" that is called a coach. Why the distinction? Who knows? Business needs far more coaches than they do managers. Let me rephrase; they need far more "coaching" than "managing". Leaving baseball behind ( I know the manager "coaches". ), let's focus on the difference between these two terms in a business environment.
Coaches make employees better- A coach helps an employee get better and thus helps to increase their performance. At least that is what a good coach does. Coaching is really needed to make one thing happen; change behavior. That is what a great coach does. They help employees change their behavior. That could be an increase in use of skills, attitude, attendance, or simply anything that gets an employee to change a behavior for the better of the employee and betterment of the company. Some coaches do this with high energy, high expectations or simply high involvement. They are active in the process. When employees change behavior in areas that are beneficial to a company you get better productivity, quality and most likely profitability. The more employees impacted by a single coach or a group of coaches that can truly change behavior the better the results. You already know your good coaches. They are easy to pick out and you see the results.
Managers "manage"- Yes, this is going to be negative. Managers move resources around. Resources can be people, things, ideas. Unfortunately a bad manager can make a person feel like a thing. Managers by nature do more watching and telling than actual coaching. They often manage problems and reports. As a result they get movement but it is often not sustainable or worse in the wrong direction. When you manage vs. coach you have a tendency to be at the beginning of a process or performance or at the end; you rarely are a participant. As a result most work (sometimes harm) at the front or back of an event or process. Behavior is rarely changed because the manager is not involved with the work product. We are not saying that all leaders need to be actively involved in every step of their employees, simply that if you want behavior change it must be done through coaching and not managing.
Are your supervisors and managers more like the coach above or the manager? If they are like coaches the sky is the limit for you. If you are doing well; keep going. If you need to make changes; no problem. Coaches can change behavior. If on the other hand, they seem more like managers, then if your doing well your managers will be able to tell you. If you are doing poorly, you are at risk because while they can tell you how poorly they are doing, they can rarely help you fix it. Why? Because with employees it is very hard to manage your way to changes in behavior. You need a coach.