Want to be a Hall of Fame Coach? Make This Touchdown Now!
No sports coach would dream of coaching only some players. From rookies to the best quarterback, sports coaches train all of their players. So why is it different in business? Why do we resist the very idea of coaching and developing all our team members to be their best? And how can we change our approach to becoming Hall-of-Fame-worthy coaches for our team members?
Hall of Fame coach Bill Walsh, head coach of the San Francisco 49ers from 1979 to 1988, is one of the greatest football coaches of all time for four reasons:
- He took a perennial losing team and made it a consistent winner.
- He introduced and taught a new approach to football (the “West Coast Offense”), which remains the dominant style of play nearly 40 years after he initiated it.
- In 10 seasons with the 49ers, his team won six division titles, three conference championships, and three Super Bowls.
- Often overlooked, but as significant: 29 people in Walsh’s coaching tree went on to become head coaches. Twenty-six of them coached against the 49ers; six of them won at least one Super Bowl.
In other words, Bill Walsh was a Hall of Fame coach not just because his team won many games. He was also a Hall of Fame coach because his coaching impacted his profession for decades after he retired from the 49ers in 1988. Nearly 30 years later, the deep impact of his coaching is still evident.
How can you score a touchdown and be the “Bill Walsh” of your own company and industry? How can you leave a legacy of coaching and professional development that is profound and lasting?
Start by making a commitment to coach your team members to be the best they can be, regardless of whether they stay or go or compete against you.
Coaching your team members will increase and accelerate their leadership development. Whether or not those team members stay with you, coaching them (both in the context of their current positions and as a means of preparing them to take on greater roles within your organization) shows your commitment to highest-quality growth – for your company, your team members as unique individuals, your community, and the world at large. Coaching, ideally, is meant to maximize professional ability – to produce effective leaders – even if those leaders leave your organization.
Score the winning touchdown with your coaching by doing these 4 things:
- Understand What Excellent Coaching Is and Is Not
At its most basic level, great coaching is nothing less than understanding your people and your industry deeply enough to help them reach their ultimate potential – whatever that is and wherever it can be achieved. Excellent coaches:
- Empower but do not dictate detail
- Are aware of the details but do not micromanage
- Insist on maximum effort and high quality, but they do not set unrealistic expectations
- Require regular reports but are not control freaks
- Correct mistakes – not to criticize but to improve
- Understanding Your Team Members, Intimately
Exceptional coaches talk deeply with their team members. They know more than names and job titles, and they spend time learning about their team members’ dreams, desires, and goals. They listen and engender the trust of team members by demonstrating that they value people over profits. These coaches willingly share any and every insight they’ve learned that will help someone else succeed at the highest level and to the highest degree possible.
- Hire People Who Have the Potential to Lead a Company
The best coaches don’t hire people based on their ability to be assistant coaches forever. Rather, they hire people based on their potential to be head coaches themselves; they’re excited, not threatened, when they find someone who has the potential to exceed their own level of success. They help find opportunities for leadership development and growth, even if that means the team members must leave the organization to gain those opportunities.
- Coach with a Focus on Maximum Leadership Development
Excellent coaches focus on leadership development as their primary objective.
- They look for rough diamonds whom they can help shine, not just those gems that already shine.
- They look proactively for opportunities to share important responsibilities with their employees at all levels within their organization.
- They analyze every policy, procedure, practice, and assignment by asking what leadership skill it will help develop.
- They tailor development to the individual team member and his or her ultimate goal.
Coaching for leadership development includes aspects that can be measured – such as how much time is spent in activities that are classified as leadership development efforts. However, this type of powerful coaching goes far beyond what can be quantified. It includes an intangible element of real and deep concern and consideration for others – an authentic commitment to creating opportunity and lifting people up. In the end, it is the intangible that becomes the recognized legacy. It also becomes a widespread reputation, attracting those with exceptional talent who desire the opportunity to be coached by someone who can help them achieve even more.
If you really want to get the best out of your people, your coaching efforts should reflect that priority. Your leadership development program should:
- Begin at the entry level. Don’t wait to start your efforts. Develop managers early on in their careers, so you have a pipeline of well-developed leaders.
- Cultivate unique skills. Each individual has something special that can be leveraged. By developing leaders one-on-one, you are well positioned to cultivate their unique skills for your organization.
- Focus the efforts to deliver business results. Align your coaching efforts with your business strategy. Ensuring the successful outcome of the development work will lead to tangible business results that give credibility to the investment.
Bill Walsh is remembered by football fans for the Super Bowl teams he coached, but he is memorialized by the 29 other head coaches who attribute their collective and individual successes to him.
So, ask yourself again why you should invest in your team members. Then truly invest in them. Let them be your ultimate legacy, no matter where they end up fulfilling their dreams.
As the CEO & Founder of East Tenth Group, Michelle leverages 25 years of business and experience as a strategic advisor and executive coach to help drive actionable people solutions and provide practical insights on business strategy to senior leaders. she and her team and are fiercely committed to the development and growth of people and companies because we believe that when people thrive, business thrives.