Archive for January, 2009

Leader as Coach – Helping Others Go for It!

This past weekend, I sat in the stands holding my breath watching my daughter compete in her first Trampoline and Tumbling (TNT) event of the season. This year she is competing as an upper level athlete, which means the feats she has to complete in each of her passes are complex. In fact, from my perspective as a parent, they are down right scary! And, because of their complexity, they often take the athlete longer into the season to perfect them.

I was holding my breath, because I knew the next pass my daughter was to take on the double mini was one she had NEVER connected and landed to date. I knew she was anxious about it, and I was terrified. Would she take the easy way out and do a simpler skill, knowing it would lower her points? Would she get scared and interrupt, getting a zero for her efforts? Or, would she overcome her fear of never having done this pass,–of failing–and go for it?

What does it take for us to overcome our fears? To resist the easy way in pursuit of a greater payoff? As leaders and coaches, how do we encourage others to stretch themselves out of the familiar and into the unknown?

It takes encouragement. It takes an unwavering belief that with the right knowledge, training and support, it is okay to take calculated risks and fail in order to grow and try again. As leaders we develop these skills in those we lead, those we coach by:

  • Setting realistic stretch goals: Whether it is performing six back handsprings in a row or taking on the next high profile project, leaders have to challenge those they coach with goals that stretch them to explore and expand their potential. They have to convey their solid belief in those they coach to be successful.
  • Providing resources and support: Just as the coach must ensure the athlete has the appropriate equipment for training, the knowledge to try a skill and the “spot” to soften a fall, the leader as coach must do the same. They must ensure any knowledge gaps are addressed and that resources such as time, staff and equipment are available for success. They must also provide just the right amount of support. Not too much so that the employee does not stretch, but not so little that they feel they have been abandoned.
  • Giving ongoing feedback: The coach provides the athlete with feedback after each attempt at a skill. Sometimes the feedback is about what is right and sometimes the feedback is about what needs to be corrected for success. As a coach, the leader must also provide ongoing, effective feedback, both positive and corrective. It must be timely, coming quickly linked to the event or project milestones.

By providing the above, the leader-as-coach can effectively develop employees for success in the organization in current and future roles.

So, you may be wondering about the rest of the story. She went for it! It was a beautiful connect with a rough but semi-controlled landing that won her a third place medal. More rewarding than the medal, however, was the pride and excitement of both her and her coach at her success. Even though it was less than perfect, they were thrilled at her effort and the small success that will lead to greater accomplishments in future meets.

Leaders-as-coaches must also celebrate the successes. These successes set the stage for future growth and new stretch goals as the process of development continues.

Pre-Inauguration Thoughts

Obviously, the biggest leadership topic in the news is Barack Obama’s inauguration. As a country, we have such high hopes for his success given the challenges we face. Will he be able to deliver plans and actions that address the problems facing our nation here and abroad? It’s not as simple as thinking he “can do it,” because Congress and the Senate also play a role. However, it feels great to have optimism and HOPE that positive change is on the horizon for each of us.

Coaching and Talent Development: Wake Forest Basketball

Wake Forest University’s Men’s Basketball team will likely be ranked #1 in the country when the new polls are published (only the second in school history). They displayed toughness, poise, and confidence in their win over Clemson this past Saturday. Dino Gaudio and the rest of his coaching staff are responsible for Wake’s return to the national spotlight in basketball. But magical thinking is not how they arrived at this point. Skip Prosser and Dino had a vision and a strategy before Skip’s death. A critical foundation was the right combination of players. Clarity around their “talent needs” drove their recruiting efforts. They were able to recruit some of the most highly sought after players across the nation for the 2008/09 freshman class. But it’s not just about the talent in the freshman class, it’s also combining those players with the best of what they already had, and constantly assessing, planning, and adjusting every year around that talent. Which brings me to the question: How well do corporate leaders proactively recruit for the constantly shifting talent needs on their teams?