The HR people will tell you that the role of management is changing from ‘controller’, ‘decider’, ’causer of action’ to being an ‘enabler’, a ‘coach’. HR think workers and managers should have a different relationship.

But beware. We have seen many ‘command and control’ organisations tell their managers to stop controlling and start coaching. What happens? It used to be that the manager would turn up and dictate/shout/decide when there was a problem, now he turns up to ‘coach’. Has his behaviour really changed? Often, the answer is only superficially – at least he doesn’t shout!

The manager’s behaviour won’t change in any real sense unless his thinking changes – his thinking about how to use measures, how to understand performance problems and so on. A coach who still has traditional thinking (about managing performance) will only be a ‘command and control’ manager wearing velvet gloves. This is no change.

We advise organisations not to join the ‘manager as coach’ band wagon.

Why? Because if a manager turns up to coach, the first problem that he has is that his people don’t know what they don’t know. Is a new way of working supposed to spring from their minds? How can this happen if they are not given the means to look at things in a different way?

The better role for management is to act on the system – to work on the work with the worker. No therapy-coaching required. However, and interestingly, when managers learn to work on the work with their workers, the relationship between managers and workers changes. Culture change is free.