When I ask successful athletes, “What is the one thing that helped you achieve this high level of accomplishment,” they almost always respond, “I had a great coach.”
I find it is the same in business. Leaders who have been able to achieve high levels of success almost always respond in the same manner. “I had a great manager, supervisor or mentor.”
The best coaches teach the skills and spirit that define a true athlete. Coaches are role models and character-builders. They help people find their own strengths and abilities. They also show people how to build upon those strengths, and improve every day.
Usually great coaches operate out of the spotlight. In fact, many former star athletes make their living by coaching today’s Olympians, and yet remain in the background.
Some of the most inspiring coaches I have seen are in the Special Olympics. These wonderful coaches bring enthusiasm, commitment and a positive attitude to each practice, each event and every competition. They enrich the lives of these special athletes in many significant ways. The skills and confidence the coach brings to these people through sports often impacts many other areas of their lives positively.
Each manager should strive to be this kind of a coach and use this approach in their job. Many managers see their role as telling their staff what to do, how to do it, and when. Then do an appraisal of their performance at the end of the year. Imagine if our Olympic coaches used this same tactic.
The manager who practices constructive coaching behaviours will ensure that every employee knows their title, their overall role in the organization and how that role fits into the big picture. Great managers make sure employees can articulate their responsibilities, the goals they have for the upcoming year and what support they need from their manager and organization in order to be successful.
The following additional behaviours make a manager a good coach:
1) They do not always need to be in control. They form a partnership with the employee that results in good choices for the organization and personal growth for the employee.
2) They are a resource for information, support and reassurance. An employee will seek input from their manager when they are uncertain about how they handled a particular situation,or needs input prior to handling a delicate issue.
3) They help staff develop their own answers. Employees often know what is the right or the appropriate thing to do. The manager’s job is to draw the answer out of the individual. If you give the person the answer, they are less likely to take responsibility for the solution.
4) The really great manager is one who makes each staff member feel great. This is what coaches do whereas ordinary managers make their employees feel small.
Interestingly enough, people at the top of their game, whether in sports or business, continue to engage a coach years after they have reached a high level of success. They tell me it’s because they are so focused on the ongoing execution of their responsibilities and require someone to be watching the big picture for them.
Was there a mentor, teacher or coach who made a difference in your life? The one who gave you the courage and determination to strive to be your best? The one who helped shape both your performance and your character? You can be that important person in someone else’s life.
In my seminars, I often talk about my uncle Ned (Edward Sherren) who was a great inspiration and guide for me. I once asked him after some wise advice, “How can I ever repay you for everything you do for me”. He responded, “by helping another young person who comes to you for help when you are older.”
My question for managers this week: Are you a guide like my Uncle Ned, or do you make your employees feel small? What are you doing to bring out the talent, skills and confidence in your employees so they can grow and achieve the greatness they deserve?