In almost every team sport I can think of, a coach is directly or indirectly involved in every play.
During practice, he or she is constantly modeling actions and behaviors that lead to success. During the game, he or she is either calling a play, giving feedback to an assistant, or instructing players as they come to the sideline, while constantly offering encouragement, rebuke, insights, reminders, etc.
Ironically, the game can still be played without a coach. Player ability isn’t compromised when a coach is not present. So why do we need coaches in the first place?
Simply put, it is because the perspective of the coach is greater than the perspective of a single position or function. If there is no coach, there is no greater perspective. If there is no greater perspective, the team is in trouble.
How can we avoid putting a team in trouble? It starts with your actions.
Do As I Do
When I was in college, I ran track and cross-country. I still remember our first practice. We had a six-mile training run; and as our team gathered, I noticed our coach was dressed in running gear. To my surprise, he ran the entire six miles with us. I was majorly impressed that he didn’t follow us on his bike or have someone drive a truck so he could sit in the back with a bullhorn and attempt to motivate with volume. Instead, he motivated by being in the trenches with us. Our coach’s mantra was never, “Do as I say.” Rather, it was always, “Do as I do.” He did not compete, but he certainly motivated us to.
What about you? Do you exclusively bark orders to your employees, or do you take time to occasionally roll up your sleeves and engage in trench work? I suggest the latter approach is much more conducive to long-term success. Just like my running coach, you don’t have to run the race. But if your employees know that you’re willing to sweat it out with them on occasion, the likelihood that they will execute at a higher level is most certainly increased.
Evaluate and Feedback
Can you imagine a coach being successful without offering evaluation or feedback? Put another way, can you imagine a team to expect victory if its coach never says a word or only gives feedback when asked? Successful coaches live within the tension of diagnosis and dialogue. They break down systems, analyze opposition, identify gaps, meet needs, etc. They also have enough emotional intelligence to differentiate between poor coaching and poor performance and they don’t blame players when coaching is the issue, nor do they enable poor performance when it is not.
In short, you can’t succeed as a coach if you’re trying to coach from the stands. So come on down to the sidelines, get in the trenches, evaluate and offer feedback. Come crunch time, your team will be ready to rock and roll.