Little League season is in full swing and I haven’t ventured
anywhere near a field. My kids are too old for this game. But I have spent many
years on the sidelines watching coaches motivate youth from t-ball to track,
local playgrounds to state-wide competition. The consensus in our home is that
adult paid coaches are much better than the volunteer parents but along the way
we have been fortunate to experience stellar examples from both perspectives.
Parallels abound between sports coaching and the workplace.
The best coaches are everywhere in the game all the time. They seek out
opportunities to guide, correct and help individuals grow. NHL and NBA coaches
may be on the sidelines now during playoff season but they have been giving
specific direction and advice since the first day players reported for
Opportunities for coaching present themselves with a
meeting, presentation or report. Sharing observations after an appointment with
a client expands knowledge and valuable input before the next visit. Weekly
meetings with direct reports allow time for updates on progress, praise and
redirection. Frequent personalized feedback has a significant impact on
performance. The format and tactics won’t be the same with every employee, some people require detailed explanations while others will be better off with a demonstration.
We cringe when we remember the screamer. The manager who
believes that feedback is only negative and must be delivered at high decibels
in front of a crowd does not inspire excellence. Fear and loathing are more
likely to be the result. Gossip, whining, attendance issues and a drop in
performance go along with this territory.
Coaching does not always come naturally. It’s easier to just
let people do their thing and go about your own business. Many managers
mistakenly believe that employees instinctively know how they are doing; they
assume that if they don’t give feedback people know they are doing a good job.
In a recent worldwide Gallup
study participants were asked to rank a list of employee engagement items. The
bottom ranking, out of twelve choices, went to, “In the last six months,
someone at work has talked to me about my progress.” Employers, unlike good
athletic coaches, are not providing regular individualized feedback.
It’s never too late to start coaching. Check your day,
review your calendar, look at your team and identify ways to review results and
coach for the next level. Model behavior of the best coaches you have seen and
don’t be surprised when outcomes exceed expectations.