What Makes a Good Coach?


Below are comments from employees in two different departments.

“Our manager, Gardner, is patient and always gives you a second chance.”

“He takes as much time as you need to help you work through things.”

“When we fall short, Gardner recognizes our challenges and encourages us.”

“Gardner is always there for you.  You can count on his support.”

Employees from the other department shook their heads and chimed in:

“Well, you know where you stand with Jasper but he is not too patient.”

“Jasper will show you how to do things and then he expects you to do them.”

“When Jasper praises you, you know you have earned it.”

“Jasper does not hold grudges, but if you violate policy you can expect a write-up.”

Good coaching, I think, is about achieving goals.  Good coaches set specific expectations.  They train and support their employees.  When employees falter, good coaches are quick to help but their interventions are usually brief and to the point.  While effective coaches relate well to their employees, they enforce the rules consistently and fairly.

Gardner, who is popular, may not get the most out of his team.  By contrast, Jasper is likely do what he has to do to get results.

 

 

Lead or Sell Ice Cream?


“Leadership is not as glamorous as it appears,” said a frustrated Vinh.

After six years as a very productive and popular employee, management promoted Vinh to lead his department.  Employees were very pleased because they liked him.

Several weeks after Vinh’s promotion, some external surprises shocked the company. A new competitor, with state-of-the art service, invaded Vinh’s territory.  An unexpected governmental regulation choked some formerly, seamless processes.   To cope, Vinh asked his team to adjust.

“Some of my former friends got mad at me,” Vinh recalled.  “I explained to them why we had to change but they could not understand.  My friends shunned me.  The work environment seemed hostile.  I dreaded my job.”

Apple founder, Steve Jobs, once said if you want to be a leader and win, you must give up the right to be liked.  Winning leaders have to make tough decisions.  Even though a team may eventually be better off because of a leader’s decision–no matter, someone will always be unhappy.

Normal people leading normal lives can seek both comfort and popularity.  Leaders must give up both and strive to win.  As Jobs said, “If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader; sell ice cream.

 

 

The Leader–Boss? Servant? Partner?


I’m a servant leader,” declared Braylon.

“What does that mean to you?” I asked.

“It means that I put my people first.  I identify their needs. I want to help people grow, to reach their potential.”

“What do you do if there is a conflict between a member’s priority and the company’s mission?”

“I advocate strongly for my people.  I take care of them; they will take care of me.”

Robert Greenleaf coined the term “servant-leader” in the 1970’s.  Some, still today, invoke the concept to argue against what they see as top-down power.

Effective leaders utilize many servant leader concepts, for example:  listening to, empowering, and developing employees.  However, full-blown servant leadership may not sink employee efforts to a common mission.

Teams require members to bend some of their needs to achieve teamwork, as in, subordinate personal aspirations to team goals.  Effective leaders strive to make all better off by influencing, persuading, cajoling, and evening requiring employees to seek first the mission.

Perhaps it is better to think of leader-employee relations as a partnering, as in–we both have skin in the game and we both have a lot to gain, but it is my responsibility to ensure that we strive together in this journey.