Bridging Leadership Lessons from the Workplace and Those Experiences Shaping Today's Youth and Tomorrow's Leaders
My philosophy to coaching has been “Coach to develop, not coach to win.” I feel that this has also been my approach to leadership in the workplace as you view situations and challenges as opportunities to learn and for people to grow. Whether at work or on the court, people do best when they are deciding, failing, and improving themselves, not being told what to do by a coach step by step.
While most instruction should take place in practice and the games should be left to the players for them to demonstrate what they have learned, I have used the games to teach and reinforce behaviors and techniques that are needed to succeed in specific, live situations. This is easiest to do in blow-outs (regardless if you are winning or losing) because the external pressure to win is eased and you can embrace the moment and be present. You can take the time to explain without causing too much of a distraction to the natural competitiveness of the players as the outcome of the game has already been determined.
Over time, I realized that this approach of teaching and explaining isn’t appropriate in all situations. During a hotly contested game, engaging the players at such a level had an opposite effect in that they were not thinking but waiting to respond to my instruction. This is commonly referred to as “joysticking” where in computer game lingo, you take control of the joystick, and you are playing for the player instead of letting them play for themselves. In the work environment, you can relate this to micromanaging or an autocratic leadership style of command and control.
I found myself being motivated by the outside noise and ancillary feedback and not the true outcomes. Listening to the referees, other coaches or family watching I was coaching and leading to their feedback. “You are constantly teaching. I love watching you coach. Teaching them the right way.” It was like a drug. The more compliments I received, the more active I became and the more I lost my focus on the players and their development and growth from overcoming challenges on their own.
I kept telling myself that I am still coaching to develop and not coaching to win, but I realized that I was actually coaching to feel good. I was coaching for my own ego. That is the demise of all good coaches - where you become bigger than the game, where you become bigger than your players. I had written previously about the moment I realized that I had unintentionally created an environment that was not conducive to growth in Losing Sight of Your Vision. The moment I realized I was not being true to my purpose.
I still coach aggressively during the games. Reinforcing and explaining the behaviors I want to see and allowing the live examples to be used to focus on the “why” something is important. But controlling every move and not allowing them to try on their own is what I have focused on limiting. To step aside and allow them to fail and then talk later, during a break or after the game, why it did or didn’t work.
Successful and impactful leadership in sports and the workplace looks and feels similar and it’s only possible when you are helping others reach their potential - when their development becomes bigger than your outcome. Today, servant leadership is the foundation upon which a successful team is built. Through their empowered growth and willingness to fail is where improvement begins. As a leader and coach your purpose must be on assisting and helping your team find and strive to reach their potential. Coaching to Develop is what will enable them to Win, Beyond Today.
Tom Brown - a husband and a father who is simply trying to make a difference. Using my experience as a Manufacturing Executive to connect leadership from the boardroom to the hardwood to help teams grow and develop to make a difference in the lives of others.