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Are you a Manager, Mentor, or Coach for Your Team?

By Numly - Leadership Coaching Group
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Managers, coaches, and mentors are three different roles critical for the success of a business. Often the terms coach and mentor are used interchangeably due to the lack of clarity between the two roles. But from the perspective of goals, relationships, and expectations, these roles are significantly different from each other.  

When leading a team, you will have to choose your role based on what your team needs. It could be a permanent role or just a situational adaptation, but it is imperative to build an efficient team. 

Here in this article, we will discuss the major differences between the three roles to help you understand the demands of these roles and pick the right one for yourself.

Who should you be? A manager, coach, or mentor?

As a person leading a team, being a manager is good for getting the tasks done. However, building a team that would remain efficient and high-performing in the long run demands much more. They will need a mentor who can upskill them, contributing to their growth and career development and a coach who can motivate them and guide them into becoming a better version of themselves. 

As a coach and mentor, it is easier to motivate and engage teams, making them feel motivated. It also promotes loyalty and employee retention in an organization. 

Having said that, being a manager, mentor, or coach is more than just managing, training, or guiding. To understand which type of relationship your team needs from you, you must understand the subtle yet critical differences among these positions.

What are the differences between a manager, mentor, and coach?

Let’s understand the nuanced differences between these roles 

Parameters Manager Mentor Coach
Purpose Managers focus on completing tasks or achieving a goal. It is mostly result-oriented. Mentoring focuses on the development of a particular skill that would be mutually beneficial to both parties.  A more personal relationship is fostered to achieve both professional as well as personal development of the team members. 
Timeframe It is a need-based role. It generally has a fluid timeframe.  It is usually a long-term relationship.
Type of relationship with employees Strictly professional Professional Professional or personal
Approach Authoritative  Development-based Performance driven
Types of leading styles Based on the desired output, a manager focuses on work delegation, persuasion, collaboration, team participation, and alignment.  A mentor can play the role of a cheerleader, challenger, educator, or ideator based on the requirement.  Coaches can be assertive, expressive, or spirited based on the need.
Work structure This role has more of an organizational structure critical to its success. It is strictly formal.  Work structure is usually formal. An informal approach could be made based on the situational need.  Work structure could be formal or informal based on the need. 


Can you play more than one role? 

Nurturing a relationship with your team takes effort. You may have to play more than one role or wear more than one hat at times.

Given the goals and relationship dynamics within a team, you can choose the role you need to play. For example, there might be times when your team is stuck with a problem and is losing motivation to drive work. In such a case, you can motivate them by being a mentor. You can share your experiences with them and guide them with valuable insights that might help tackle the situation. You can also take another approach where you don’t simply jump in and tell me what to do. Instead, you ask them coaching questions. Help them find the solution without directly feeding them answers. This way, you can be a coach, contributing to their personal and professional growth. Your team will be more confident, motivated, better equipped, and self-sufficient to troubleshoot problems in future tasks assigned to them. 

So, even if you hold a managerial position, you must step into the shoes of a coach and mentor if you want to connect with your team. Organize one-on-one meetings with each of the team members and listen to what they have to say. It could be a problem they are facing or feedback that they might have about you, the team, or the system overall. Such a meeting will help you prioritize things, making it easy to create an action plan. 

Train with the experts

If you think you do not have enough knowledge about being a coach or mentor. You can always take help from the experts in the field. The experts will help you build the power skills to try out innovative approaches for solving your team’s problems.

Start a 60-day pilot of NumlyEngage™ to improve your leadership skills and become effective coaches for your teams.

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