The Manager is a Coach fallacy

Posted by Andy Huggins on August 18, 2016

Let's establish the general conceived idea of a manager.

  • A leadership role
  • Makes decisions
  • Creates plans for team
  • Works with team to execute

Making the analogy to a basketball team, I live in Lexington, Ky so bear with me, I think a lot of people would say the above criteria is met by the role of the coach. They are the person in control, they make decisions, the make plans, goes over the plan with the team during practice in order to execute the plan.

I do agree that, it does seem to be the best fit. But this paradigm has issues. It fits the corporate structure of "top down" but I don't think it really works, or at least not well.

I like to think of the manager as the point guard on the court. Controls the ball, makes decisions, executes a plan by getting things in the right position.

I really like that in the point guard example, they are part of the team, they are participating...where a coach is on the sidelines.

The point guard fits the role of manager...how many times have you heard an announcer say "He's a point guard that really knows how to manage a game." Some point guards can really lead a team in scoring, think Magic Johnson, but they also typically have a lot of assists because they typically control the ball and can work to get people in the right position to score, or they can get the ball in the right position to setup a scoring opportunity. Meanwhile, the best coach in history will have zero points in a game.

I think the idea of a point guard managing a game, working to get his teammates in good position, making passes so players can take an open shot, or get an easy layup. Those are the managers I want to work for. A manager that feels they are a coach, not a player, says it all for me. A coach isn't on the team, he coaches the team. And that is a big difference. It doesn't necessarily fit the corporate structure, but maybe the corporate structure is outdated, or been steered off course.

Think about this, if you have an open office where the "team" is...is your boss/manager in the same room? Or is the manager off in their own office? What's the point of this separation? Makes you question things when upper management says "team" doesn't it? I know when I played on a team as a kid, all the players on the team played, the coach did not play.