Watching the baseball playoffs makes me think back to the times when I played on teams in school. In particular, it makes me think about what coaches do to help their teams win. If your coach was any good, he or she did all of the things listed below:
- Make sure you know the rules of play
- Get you in shape
- Drill you on plays
- Figure out your strengths
- Define your role
- Challenge you to improve
- Boost your confidence
- Build team camaraderie
- Help you win during the game
- Think long-term about the team’s needs
A leader-coach does all these things. I want to focus on two here: Drilling you on plays and helping you win during the game.
When your actions affect hundreds of people, you need to be drilled in advance so you’re prepared to do the right thing: how to communicate, who needs to be in the loop, what pitfalls to avoid, how to detect early signs of trouble. A leader-coach will take his or her team through simulations and exercises designed to get you prepared. At HSBC Bank, for example, managers are drilled on how to handle cross-border disputes. At Sprint, IT managers are drilled on crisis management. It’s easy to see how this investment can pay off. At Sprint, dozens of network problems are headed off each day because their teams are prepared.
Leader-coaches also help you win while you’re playing the game. They provide real-time feedback as you’re handling an issue, offering support and giving useful insights. Their doors are open, they keep their heads, they offer perspective. I’ll never forget how one of my first bosses helped me deal with deadline pressure. “Look,” he said with a grin. “The beauty of the business is that everyone forgets what you did after 24 hours. So if you screw up, you can make it right in a hurry.”