Have you ever been in a situation where you were the leader, all eyes were on you, the team’s prospects of posting results rested on the direction you gave, and yet you stood there completely intimidated by the task while hope slipped slowly away?
Yes, coaching my son’s Under-6 soccer team was a harrowing assignment. Years later, I still bear the scars.
Leading in business can often feel the same way.
The circumstances may be new. Stakes can be high. The weight of the obligation to deliver can seem overwhelming. You feel like you’re off your game, doubt replaces confidence and you’d give anything for a trusted someone to speak into you.
There are no shortage of sports analogies in business, but none are more naturally embedded than the concept of a coach.
- A good coach has the ability to teach through experience. I once attended a soccer coaching clinic by a friend who is a college soccer coach. My biggest problem with soccer is that I never played it. I didn’t know the rules, the terms, much less the skills necessary to play (or teach) the game. In the clinic, my friend put us would-be coaches on the field with a ball at our feet. We would be his players in this make-shift practice. Of course, he demonstrated and explained the drills but the magic was in having us actually perform (or try to) the various moves under his supervision. He coached us as he would his son’s Under-8 team which was simply a variant of how he coached his college players.The clinic gave us both a model of how to run a practice but also the emotional and physical lessons of learning a new skill. The result: I couldn’t wait to get to my first practice with my son’s fall U-10 team. There was hope!
- A good coach can recognize when you’re off your game. When Jack Nicklaus transitioned to the senior tour at age 50, having won a record 18 Majors on the PGA Tour, he was struggling. His long time swing coach, Jack Grout, had passed away and he was struggling to play well. Another coach, Jim Flick, who’d known Nicklaus and his previous coach for a for many years became an unexpected lifeline. Nicklaus recalled in an interview many years later.“I think we were walking down the 18th fairway, and he had watched most of the last nine holes, so I turned to him and said: ‘Well, Jim, what do you see? You’ve seen me enough. You’ve seen Jack Grout and how he taught me.’ Jim said, ‘Well, I don’t see Jack Nicklaus.’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’” They went straight to the practice tee and worked it out.
- A good coach brings discipline to the little things so you can perform on the big stage. Legendary UCLA coach John Wooden was famous for his meticulous preparation in every aspect of the game. One of my favorites was his insistence on teaching his players on the proper way to put on their socks and tie their shoes. It’s how he would greet new players on the first day of practice. Unconventional? Sure. But there was a practical reason for the lesson. Further, he had their attention when it came to other aspects of the game that would be more strategic.
Needing and securing a coach isn’t a sign of weakness or inadequacy for business leaders any more than athletes in a youth rec-league or the pinnacle of professional sports. It just makes sense, for the leader who wants to be at his or her best in moments that count the most.
At Milestone Leadership, our team of seasoned coaches helps leaders worth following up their games even more by honing in on alignment of personal values and capabilities with the needs of the business setting. We know being in top form for leading a team requires conditioning and a solid playbook—and a coach who knows the playing field from personal experience.
Associate – Milestone Leadership