Coaching: More than Just a Title - Management
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Coaching: More than Just a Title

Written By Mitch Harper

Article Date: 11-01-2007
Copyright(C) 2007 Associated Equipment Distributors. All Rights Reserved.


Effective coaching in management means building synergy through others, no matter who's on the team.

There is a great buzz word in industrial sales management today called "coaching." It's so prevalent that we label anyone that has responsibility for someone else's action as a coach. Certainly there is more to coaching than just renaming a supervisor a coach! It is easy to change the title and find some comfort in thinking that the job is being performed differently. However, there is a significant difference between being a supervisor and a coach.

By definition, a coach is: "designed to assess and improve performance of an individual or a team. It is very important to improve the skills of the person which can be achieved through proper training by which he can achieve organizational goals and also enhance his knowledge and skills."

The definition is a clear example of what a coach is, but probably more important, it leaves out what coaching is not. To put it bluntly, coaching is not doing. Many of us may have come from a physical work environment in which we have performed a task. This can lead us to find worth in the doing aspect of any job. Part of this value is in seeing a task to completion. When those individuals become managers they may not lose their habits easily. Due to this fact many new and even experienced managers find fulfillment in doing the job rather than working through individuals.

Add to this fact that working with others may take more time than performing the duties yourself, and doing becomes all the more attractive. Doing is sometimes more expedient and easier than coaching an individual or a team to succeed.

Back to our definition - if coaching is not doing, then it requires working through others to improve their performance in order to reach organizational goals. There is probably no more difficult and yet rewarding task in the industrial world as working through individuals.

Our job as a coach in the equipment distribution industry is much like a professional sports coach. Think about an NFL head coach. No matter the physical skill of the coach, he is not involved with making tackles, blocking, or any of the other basics of the game of football. At the end of the day the coach is challenged with working with players through a variety of techniques in order to get them to perform individually as expected. Additionally, the coach is challenged with getting individuals to work in concert with each other - if one player has an outstanding game but the game is lost the coach has not achieved success. So a coach is responsible for maximizing individual performance while at the same time keeping the team performance as the paramount goal.

In a dream world, you could pick your team much like a professional sports draft. You'd have the ability to replace some lower-performing players with more skilled players. However, you would still most likely have those players that we would call developmental. When you consider the constraints that businesses face - a payroll budget, the business itself, other employees, market conditions, products or the management team - the dream world slips even further away.

Coaching involves helping individuals achieve more than is overtly obvious. The best coaches are the ones who can take another coach's players and do more with them than the previous coach. A good coach doesn't just hire talent. A good coach can take what skills he has on this team and make them better - or, better yet, get them to work together in such a way that their performance as a team is far better than any individual stars.

No one has done this better than the infamous college basketball coach Bobby Knight. Love him or hate him, he has proven to be successful. Due to his personal actions he was fired after remarkable success at Indiana and landed at Texas Tech, a midsize university in west Texas. In his initial season there, Texas Tech went from 11th in the Big 12 Conference to a tie for third and posted a +14 victory margin. Texas Tech's 23 wins during Coach Knight's first season represented his 25th season of winning 20 or more games and were the most single-season victories seen by Texas Tech since the 1995-1996 season. The team also earned an NCAA Tournament berth.

The point is that Coach Knight, for whatever reason, got more out of those same players than the previous coach.

A coach is responsible for setting strategy and measuring results in order to achieve the organization's goals. Think back to the NFL head coach scenario. We would never imagine that an NFL head coach would show up on Sunday and say to his team, "I don't know exactly what we are going to do today - let's just go out and have some fun and see what happens!" That would be insanity!

Coaches walk the sidelines with plays for given scenarios and listen to other coaches in the press box who see things unfold on the field. The coach begins with a basic strategy, gets feedback during the game via their measurements, and makes adjustments - all the while working toward leading his team to a common goal - a win on Sunday.

Think about this in your dealership. We should have a clearly articulated goal from our company ownership. But as coaches, have we provided a clear strategy to our people? Here are a few questions that may help you decide if you have:

  • Can I define our strategy?
  • Could our people with no help form me, articulate our strategy?
  • Do individuals know how they contribute to the strategy?
  • Has our strategy kept up with the changing times?
Strategy involves working with our current talent base. Some may have a superstar and some may have an average-worker employee base. When we have a superstar on our team it is important to surround him or her with individuals who will help the whole team get better results.

As an example, for a number of years, Michael Jordan was known as the best player in the NBA to never win a World Championship. Individually, he won scoring titles and had accolades poured onto him. But one thing remained: Michael Jordan did not have an NBA title. Coaching was solid and the other players were solid, but the team as a whole did not function as it was intended. Not until there was alignment between the coach, players and strategy was there a championship.

And the amazing thing was that once this was achieved, several more titles followed. In fact, the Chicago Bulls won six NBA World Championships between 1991 and 1998. During these title runs, the coaches had to continually make strategy adjustments based on the talent that the Bulls retained and the competitive environment. So whether you find yourself forming a team, rebuilding or continuing a winning tradition, consider the strategy of coaching individuals along with the team.

Being a coach is about much more than changing your title. It's about working through individuals so the team achieves more.


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