It has been argued that good leaders don’t just manage. They inspire, transform, think big, and show their people the respect they want to earn. Leaders don’t just parcel out daily tasks and wait for them to be completed. They work with their employees. The most influential leader coaches their team with skill and intent.
Good leaders have mastered the art of results-driven management without sacrificing teamwork or the daily work that needs to happen for goals to be met. In other words, good leaders are great coaches. If you want your work teams to succeed, start coaching, not just leading. Doing so will get you and your stakeholders the results you want.
Great coaches always start with a goal, whether that’s winning a championship or improving the skills of their team members. No matter if you’re putting together a team for a specific project, or it’s the team of people you lead daily, set goals for your team.
Goals can be milestones for a product’s development or daily numbers for a sales team. Good coaches structure the team’s practice or work around these goals no matter what. This long-term thinking is one of the things great leaders do.
Great organizational coaches will also inspire their team members to set individual goals for themselves. These goals don’t always have to benefit the organization, but they should, at least peripherally. A great coach will encourage a team member to seek that advanced degree. This is equipping a team member instead of just expecting a team member, which is how an exceptional coach gets his team to act.
Once a coach has set these expectations for his team members, he must communicate them. Not all managers are great at communicating, and good leaders are better at it. They typically communicate regularly with their employees, ensuring they know what’s expected of them.
However, a coach adept at communication will involve his team members in the communication process. Inviting players to get involved in all process steps, from goal setting to evaluation, is how you build a hard-working team, sports or otherwise.
Many of the best coaching philosophies include collaborative communication among coaches and players. This same collaborative communication should be cultivated among leadership and employees. On the field or the court, coaches ask for input on designing plays and training programs.
In the workplace, coaches ask for input on nearly anything. A product team needs to communicate with each other about the status of a project. If your organization is struggling with motivating its employees, one of the simplest ways to open these lines of communication is to ask what employees want. There are times when that’s all it takes. A coach will ask what team members wish to succeed and what they need.
How many interviews with famous coaches have you seen where they say they’re going to focus on positives after a loss? It seems humorous after hearing it so many times. However, they say it for a reason: focusing on the negative is disheartening.
If your team is struggling, take a page from the coaching playbook and focus on what your team has done well. Great leaders look for the good in their team members and use that to motivate them to overcome a defeat. If that defeat is a failed beta test, a product team coach should first focus on what was completed successfully.
Second, the coach should move on to what needs to be changed, improved, or scrapped without pointing fingers. If you can avoid negative language at all, do so. The best leaders are always positive, and this projects enthusiasm. Enthusiasm, in turn, motivates. This is what coaches want more than anything: motivated team members who will do their best work for the team.
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Hattie is a writer and researcher living in Boise, Idaho. She has a varied background, including education and sports journalism. She is a former electronic content manager and analyst for a government agency. She recently completed her MBA and enjoys local ciders.