John Wooden, the famed basketball coach, said, “Young people need models, not critics.” Leaders are most effective as coaches when they model and demonstrate their values, beliefs, and expectation. But criticism should not be overlooked. Critic comes from the Greek word Kritikos, able to discern. Leader coaches know how to discern, how to perceive and recognize qualities in their people.
Leader coaches perceive the strength of team members and assign tasks and challenges to fit strengths. Marcus Buckingham in, Now, Discover Your Strengths, demonstrates in his research that coaching to strengths is more powerful than coaching to overcome weaknesses.
So what can leaders learn from coaches that will build the bench strength of their organization? Here are six lessons for being a leader coach.
Strengthen their strength: Discern strengths and abilities in your people and assign them tasks and challenges that bring out those strengths. We use assessments to pinpoint our strengths and weaknesses, but most development plans are aimed at diminishing weaknesses. Remember, weaknesses are less obvious when strengths shine brighter.
Commit to the long haul: Coaching is not a one time shot. Phil Jackson worked with his teams on and off season, developing talent over time. Competence grows with time, and as it develops, so does confidence. Lethargic leaders pray that people will “just get it.” Committed leaders willingly walk the coaching journey with their people. This builds far more than skill; it develops engagement and loyalty.
Challenge and encourage: Imagine the coach on the sideline, shouting directions, pushing the team, challenging them. Imagine the same coach in the locker room, praising, encouraging, and extracting the learning from the game. Leader coaches energize, challenge, support, and educate.
Develop individuals AND teams: While there is no “I” in teams, they are not an amorphous clump of thinking and feeling. Leader coaches walk a fine line – developinng individual ability while looking out for the good of the many; keeping both needs in mind simultaneously is the mark of great leader coaches.
Master a range of interventions: Coaching is not a fix all. Some players are suspended, and some are cut from the team. There is a time for discipline, delegation, counseling, teaching, challenging, and firing. Use the right approach for the situation; it will empower your coaching moments.
Have a game plan: How do you develop a game plan? Define your vision of team work, develop individual members decision making skills, and develop the players abilities to play a team game with lots of space for the individual.