As leaders, shouldn’t we be more of a coach than a manager?

Categorized as Leadership

I was watching a TV series just now and a scene stuck in my head… got me thinking.. 

The main character is a high-school basketball coach whose team has been on a losing streak. The team gets a foul shot and the kid misses the first shot. Before the next shot, he looks back at his coach and the coach stands behind him, rock-solid in his support for this kid.. Rock solid in his belief in this kid.. Doesn’t lose his calm, doesn’t berate him on losing the shot.. Just a clear “I’m here for you, we can do this, YOU can do this”.

This made me think of the times I failed my team..

The times I failed to be a coach.

As a fair warning – I know NOTHING about sports, and some of these terms probably won’t even make sense.

Sure, there are ups and downs in business. Sure, you win and lose clients.. Sure, your team makes mistakes. Even YOU make mistakes, for God’s sake.. 

But you don’t berate or belittle them.. You COACH them. That’s what you need to do. That’s what they need at that moment.

If they could do everything as well as you do.. They wouldn’t be working for you. They’d be running their own show. They’d be working for someone that pays them much more than you do. They’d be working for a household brand name – not you.

You are in your role because of what you can do and what you have to offer to others. 

Understand that, internalize that and try to remember that each time your teams’ chips are down.

Be a coach, be that coach.. Support your team.

This is not to say that you should accept mediocrity. Your team is only as strong as the weakest player. This is not to say that you shouldn’t remove or replace teammates that are just not cutting it. 

As a leader, your job is to build a team, train that team, support that team in every possible way, and also to eliminate the weak links that are simply not cutting it despite all the training and support that you and your team has provided.

As someone that has started and led 2 businesses, I have made countless mistakes.. And I still make many mistakes.

This certainly is one of the worst. 

Eliminate the weakest link – make your team stronger

I have not proactively eliminated the weakest link. When I failed to do so, the team as a whole just couldn’t get ahead. The team as a whole always had to drag the weakest teammate. There were several team members that could’ve shone brighter, gone even further in their professional careers, bettered themselves. But they were held back by the weaker teammates despite their trying to help these folks out.

They needed their coach to help them. I failed them as I was more of a manager during those times – when I really should have been a coach.

Don’t make this mistake. Your job is to recruit the team, train each team member, push them harder each day, help them shine on the courts while you stand on the sidelines. Whether you like it or not, your job is also to let go of people that are just not moving up.

Always be on recruitment mode

Your job is to be in recruitment mode every day. Do you want star players on your team? Sure.. so does everyone else.. But you cannot recruit star players in one day.. You need to court them… sometimes it takes years of “dating” before they agree to join your team.

Just because someone is not ready to join your team yet, don’t give up. Stay in touch.. You might not be able to hire them yet. You might not have a position that’s interesting enough for them yet. You might not even be able to afford them yet.

Don’t give up. Understand these star players.. Understand what makes them tick.. Understand what it would take for them to join your team.. Stay in touch… Build your firm to the level where it is interesting enough for them to join you.. Even if you end up never being able to hire them.. Your firm will get better and stronger. And you’ll only have them to thank for that.

Always be in training mode

I have made this mistake many times myself. I hired people, started training them and as soon as I thought they were able to handle themselves well, I let things slip. I assumed that they no longer needed my help and can do their jobs well enough.

That’s a mistake. There’s a reason that players train daily/weekly. They don’t train because they don’t know how to do their jobs. They train because the only way to be the best in their field is to train harder, smarter and be more regimented in their training than their competitors.

And the coach never leaves their side.

That’s what you need to do as well. No matter how good your team is, NEVER stop training and NEVER stop training WITH THEM.

Support when needed, admonish when appropriate

I don’t believe that you should coddle anyone. I don’t believe in giving out medals for participating. We are here to win the game, not just participate.

There will be times when you will have to admonish your team.. Those are times when you are training.. And training hard.

When the game is on – be the supporter. Scream and shout out your support.. Don’t berate or belittle while they are on the courts. Don’t let them lose their confidence. Don’t let them lose hope. Don’t let them feel that you don’t have their backs.

Sure, they will make mistakes on the courts. They will win some games and they will lose some. You will have a lot of time to analyze the game, shore up the mistakes, fire teammates, regroup and rebuild.

But don’t do that while they are playing. Support them through the game – whether they win or lose.

Be the coach that they need on the court.