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.

2 Responses to “Leader as Coach – Helping Others Go for It!”

  1. Dawn: Your article reminds me of Kerri Strug’s famous gold medal vault in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. We all watched as she completed her first attempt and scored well on the last day of competition. In the process, she severely sprained her ankle on her landing. The American team had lost track of the overall score and believed that she would have to make a second attempt if they were to beat the Russians for the gold. It all came down to a decision between Kerri and her coach, Bela Karolyi. They were faced with a decision that had to be made within the next 30 seconds. She asked him if the team needed this. He said she needed to go one more time, “We need you one more time for the gold”. Americans at home in front of their television sets leaned forward and watched this courageous young girl limp to the starting spot, run full speed on the approach, execute her vault, and NAIL the landing almost scoring a perfect 10! She saluted the judges and then nearly collapsed from the pain of her injury. Her coach carried her to the platform to accept the gold medal with tears streaming from each of their faces, check that…all of our faces. Never have I respected more, the power that occurs between one with passion, skill, and commitment, and another that knows how to unleash it.

    Best wishes to you and all of the coaches at AvoLead!

  2. Andy: I remember being glued to the TV watching Kerri in amazement as she made that final vault. Thank you for making the connection and for the well wishes!

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