This week, we have looked at the links between business and baseball for teamwork, the basics, individual skill development, and, today, we look at the importance of coaching. A baseball coach (or manager) performs many critical functions that essentially allow the team to perform at its maximum capability. So, what are those critical coaching functions and how do they relate to what we do in business? Take a look below.
A high-performing coach/manager/leader:
- Establishes strategic direction – In baseball, the coach/manager may take an aggressive approach regarding baserunning, or defensive positioning, or use of the bullpen. In short, the coach/manager establishes the approach to be used to achieve the goal of winning games. In the same way, leaders in our company must set the tone for how we will achieve our objectives. We must determine how our teams will be organized, who will do what, and when. We must determine how project assignments will be made, key priorities, and how resources will be used. As a key leader in our organization, are you providing the direction needed for your team to be most effective?
- Manages tactical (day-to-day) details – In baseball, the coach/manager must determine how the details of the game will be managed. For example, a coach/manager will determine when the batter should bunt or when the runner should steal. However, the coach/manager must allow enough freedom for the players to most effectively use their talents. A coach/manager cannot decide for the batter whether to swing except in rare cases. The play must use his own skills to make those decisions. In the same way, an effective leader sets the tone, but allows the team members enough freedom to make day-to-day decisions regarding their jobs. Over-managing (e.g., micromanaging) limits the creative abilities of the individual, stifles progress, and dis-engages the individual. Take a look at your own management/leadership style. Are you over-managing? Is your team limited because you cannot delegate key day-to-day responsibilities?
- Provides performance feedback – A great coach provides feedback on performance every game. This helps the player make adjustments before the next game. Likewise, a great leader provides continuous feedback to team members. Routine feedback tells an individual what is working well and what is not. It helps the individual modify behaviors, when needed, to maximize results the next time. Do you, as a leader, make it a habit to provide feedback to your team members? Could more frequent feedback help drive that steady progress we desire? If the only feedback you give is at the end of the year, that is too late to help your team member.
- Drives continuous improvement – Great baseball teams and individuals continuously strive for improvement. And, a great leader drives this. Are you encouraging and helping to drive continuous improvement. Are you satisfied with the status quo? What are you doing today to make your team better than it was yesterday (you have to be specific)?
- Encourages and motivates – Many baseball coaches are rah-rah types that encourage and motivate with passion. Others quietly do it and just as effectively. Don’t try to alter your style of leadership to match someone else. You are who you are! But, one way or another, find a way to let your team members know how you feel about them. Encourage them regularly. Help them see the progress they are making and the value they are adding.
- Ensures that mistakes drive learning – Everyone makes mistakes, even professional baseball players. A mistake, when used properly, can be the very best learning tool we’ll ever experience. Learn from these situations. Use them to prevent a similar future event.
- Solicits feedback and reacts – A good coach/manager will seek the opinion of others – other coaches, former mentors, experts, more experienced coaches, and, occasionally, his own players. Likewise, we need to be open to the opinion of others. We need to be willing to admit that we can learn from the experience of others. Do you frequently and willingly seek the opinion of others? One way to do this goes like this, “I have this situation that I am dealing with. My current thought is to deal with it by _________. Have you experienced anything in your past similar? How did you handle it? Am I completely off base with the approach I’m considering?” Give it a try. You’ll be surprised at the terrific feedback you get in return.
- Encourages innovation and individuality – Baseball is an individual performance game played in the context of a team. Similarly, our teams may function in the same way. Not every individual learns in the same way. Not every individual works at the same pace. Not everyone thinks in straight lines. It is often because of the individuality of our team members that our team performs so well. Are you seeking the individual contributions that each member of your team might contribute? Do you treat every member the same? Is there any way you can better solicit the innovation from team members?
- Establishes boundaries – A baseball coach/manager must establish limits and boundaries for his team members. For example, most coaches/managers limit when an individual may steal second base. Many managers limit the number of pitches or innings a pitcher may pitch. We must also establish boundaries for our teams and members. We must communicate our vision of the box in which they are to operate (that is, you can operate in the way you feel best within these boundaries, but you must discuss with me anything outside these boundaries). We actually help our employees operate with freedom when they clearly know what decisions they can make and which must include you.
- Achieves winning results – A great coach/manager is a winner! A coach/manager can do everything right, but if he does not win games, he cannot be consider great. In the same way, we must never lose sight of our goal – and that is to achieve the results our senior management team expects.
In baseball, the coach or manager sets the tone and direction for the team. In the business world, everyone that serves as a team leader or team member (e.g., all of us) should understand how great teams achieve great results. By understanding and applying these principles, we improve our chances of producing winning results. The key question is this, “What are you doing to make your team better?” No matter what team we are on, no matter what our title might be, no matter how long we have been with the company, there is something each of us can do to make our team better. So, the challenge is this…. Do one thing every day to make your team more successful. Are you willing to accept this challenge?