Powerful businesses stem from successful teams, and strong teams stem from effective leadership.
But all too often, people are placed in managerial roles because of their technical skills, without considering their ability to lead effectively. This can set managers up for failure, as they may not have learned and developed the necessary skills and tools.
A recent survey in the UK found that over a quarter of respondents who managed other people had never received formal management training. As research done by Gallup showed, the quality of the manager or team leader was responsible for at least 70% of a noted change in employee satisfaction with recognition and workplace relationships. This demonstrates the significant impact a manager's skills and abilities have on the team's engagement and motivation.
Effective people management involves several approaches, including setting clear goals and expectations, providing feedback and support, and helping team members develop skills and knowledge. These approaches are the marks of a good manager, but shifting to being a great coach requires doing all these things in a way that inspires and motivates the team to achieve its goals.
What takes a person from being a good manager to a great coach?
Just like coaching a sport, you must consider the whole and the individual. Each player has talents and aspirations, and a coach must tap into their mentorship and leadership skills to decide where each person’s skills would best serve the whole.
Across major league sports, it's common to see key players well-known for their prominent, sometimes abrasive personalities. But when success rides on the ability to work as a team, the coach must bring all the varying personalities together to flow as a cohesive unit.
The cohesion and trust required to pull an exceptional team together come from skilled coaching. A coach is a leader, but a leader isn’t always a coach. Coaches build bonds with each person, and each person will build bonds with the coach. In turn, the best will be brought out in everyone.
A coach who was exceptionally skilled at catering to the individual needs of his team was Phil Jackson of the Chicago Bulls. He has the outsized task of managing Dennis Rodman's eccentric behavior and the "Batman-Robin" dynamic between Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen. The Bulls went on to win six NBA championships between 1991 and 1998 and were considered a basketball dynasty during this era.
Later, Jackson coached the Los Angeles Lakers, where he managed two superstar egos in Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant while fitting the pieces around them to win five NBA championships.
Jackson was known for recognizing each player's unique strengths and utilizing them to the team's advantage. He was able to adapt his leadership style, whether it was handling the wild energy of Dennis Rodman or finding a way to manage the clashing egos of Shaq and Kobe.
Let’s take some lessons from Phil Jackson's technique and apply these lessons to your management strategy.
Get to know your team members on a personal level. What makes them tick? What inspires them? What demotivates them? Consider having regular one-on-one meetings or taking the time to get to know them outside of work. By understanding what they’re all about, you'll be better equipped to support and help them succeed.
Are you an external processor? Or do you like to gather information and come to a conclusion on your own? Understanding your communication style and those on your team will allow you to customize your conversations accordingly.
Be open to new approaches and willing to change when something isn't working. Assess your team members' unique needs and strengths and tailor mentorship and leadership strategies accordingly.
What makes a great coach is their ability to recognize the tools they have at their disposal and how best to use them individually and together. Coaches set the tone but also acknowledge that their team isn't going to belt out one single note—each player has their own voice. It's the coach’s job to make those voices harmonize.
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