Ever felt like your team isn’t achieving their full potential? Pretty sure you could get more out of them, but don’t know how to pull it out? This is a pretty common challenge that most managers deal with at some point in their professional career. When faced with this dilemma, most managers immediately look to the composition of their teams. Maybe they are lacking a certain skill set? Or maybe it’s the absence of a catalyst player that the team rallies around. While the makeup of the team is important, sometimes the best way to get more out of them isn’t by swapping members. Sometimes it’s about altering your approach.
According to a recent Fast Company article by Brian Souza, “research indicates that the fundamental difference between world-class leaders of highly productive teams and most managers doesn’t necessarily have to do with their IQ, strategic vision, or operational prowess…The fundamental distinction comes down to one thing: their approach.” He believes that the key difference between good managers and the world-class leaders is that the former stresses managing, whereas the latter emphasizes coaching.
According to Souza, if you analyze the very best teams you will see that their managers play down “managing” and instead stress the importance of “coaching”. But just what does “coaching” mean you might be asking. Well Souza outlines several key characteristic of coaches.
Approach – Coaches have a very different mindset than managers. For example, if a manager believes his or her job is to make his or her sales numbers, then they are going to focus on only cherry picking out only the best deals and fail to include their team. Things like establishing trust, rapport, and professional development fall to the wayside in exchange for achieving their goal. However, if they believe their job is more to coach their team, they will stress career development “in order to help them consistently perform to their highest potential.”
Environment – Coaches try to establish an environment that is conducive to coaching. Coaches make a point to try and find the hidden friction points in relationships that may prevent team members from being receptive to constructive coaching and developmental feedback. It’s important for coaches to “pull the weeds before they plant the seeds.” Souza suggests that to become a coach, managers should try and hit the reset button on relationships with each team member by being the first person to lay your cards out on the table and ask “How am I doing? What can I do better?” Souza points out that in order for your team to become coachable, you must first become coachable. To get your team to open up, you must first open up. To get your team to embrace developmental feedback, you must first embrace developmental feedback. Remember that you set the standard for your team to follow and that personal example is the most powerful leadership tool you have.
Conversation – The last thing separating coaches from managers is the conversation. Once the environment has been created, coaches then set out to lay the foundation for the conversation. We are all taught that communication plays a substantial role in team success. What we may forget is to celebrate the short-term successes not just the long-term ones. Souza likens it to football, saying “don’t just celebrate the touchdowns, celebrate the first downs.” He believes the fastest way to improve performance is to help your team set weekly goals and then positively reinforce small, incremental improvements. It’s as much about the journey as it is the final result.
Remember that becoming a coach is not merely something managers must do. A real coach is someone that you, as a leader, must become.