Five things managers can learn from great sports coaches.

    November 21, 2016

    In a recent article, BBC Capital pointed out the relationship between performing well in sports and performing well in a career. The article explains that the discipline, self-motivation, and other abilities and traits necessary to succeed in sports—even at a recreational level—are key to succeeding professionally, too. 

    But if employees can learn from athletes, isn’t it logical that managers can learn from coaches? After all, the occupations share the same goal: managing a team to achieve a specific goal. Read on to find out what five things managers can learn from great sports coaches.


    1. Display passion. The best coaches are known for their passion toward their sports. Many spent years as players before coming coaches, and they’re constantly studying new ways to improve speed, agility, and strategy. Each has in-depth knowledge of his or her sport and has a large, detailed frame of reference to draw upon. Similarly, as CNN points out, managers can also allow their passion to shine through in their work. Showing you’re passionate about your company, your people, and your field can help you inspire others and encourage them to perform better.
    2. Focus on the individual. Teams are made up of individuals. A good coach knows precisely what each individual needs to do and how well he or she needs to do it in order for the team to win. Likewise, you need to not only understand the responsibilities of your employees’ roles; you also need to know their strengths and weaknesses. By focusing on your individual employees and helping them hone the skills they need to perform well in their specific roles, you’re in effect strengthening the building blocks of your team and creating a sound foundation for success.
    3. Determine the team dynamics necessary for success. Though a team consists of multiple players, not all of them interact to the same extent. In fact, some may not even need to interact on the playing field at all. Good coaches know which players need to interact and in what manner, and they concentrate on developing those interactions. As a manager, you can do something similar. Determine which roles require interaction and synergy, and focus on helping your employees develop those interactions until they work seamlessly together. If you notice any unnecessary steps in a specific activity, remove them and streamline the process. This enables you to improve the overall efficiency and performance of your team.
    4. Be a buffer. Coaches are always expected to speak out about their team’s performance. They praise their players when they’ve won and defend them when they’ve made mistakes. Similarly, your function includes relaying compliments and other communications from other stakeholders, as well as standing up for your team when necessary. By acting as a buffer between them and third parties, you show your team that you care, which in turn can help build loyalty and trust.
    5. Set up successes for people to build upon. Good coaches know that big victories stand on the shoulders of numerous smaller victories. They set attainable goals and praise their players when they achieve them. By doing so, they create a culture of success. You can do the same thing by challenging your people to improve their skills in a manner that’s realistic. Use work-related developmental assignments that require them to stretch their skills and knowledge until they become increasingly proficient. Allowing them to consistently improve enhances individual confidence while simultaneously preparing the team for higher performance.  

    As swimming coach Gregg Troy, who’s coached a total of 68 Olympians, says, “I don’t plan on being disappointed. We plan on being really good, and obviously we plan on winning.” Though business victories might not earn you medals, they’re important nonetheless. And by continuously giving your people the guidance and tools they need to succeed, you can lift the performance of your entire team to the next level.



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