First a quote: “A good coach can change a game. A great coach can change a life.” ― John Wooden
If you have been reading my missives for any length of time, you already know how fortunate I have been in my career. I have been supported and mentored by a long list of impressive colleagues, great leaders, and coaches… all have been influential mentors, not just in my career, but more importantly, in my life! Without their guidance and coaching, I would not be able to travel around the country, the world even, doing the work I have the privilege of doing; and that is helping others achieve greater levels of success.
While their coaching styles and approaches were all unique, varied, and diverse; they also shared important characteristics and philosophies including:
- Mediocrity was never ok. In one way or another, they always challenged those around them to do, and be, their individual best. One of them said it this way, “If better is possible (and better is almost always possible) than good enough is never good enough.” Many were tough, even demanding, others were gentler and nurturing, all expected myself, and others, to strive for continual improvement; for us to become our very best. Perfection wasn’t necessarily the goal, constant improvement was.
- They searched for untapped potential in others. Great coaches are always on the lookout for ways to help others grow and develop. My mentors were able to see more potential in me than I saw in myself. They helped me see, and believe in, that potential through “stretch assignments and projects,” encouragement, and frequent coaching opportunities. They seemed to know when to challenge, push & prod, and when to encourage, teach, and praise. All were masters at creating confidence in others. Henry Kissinger said it this way; “The task of the leader is to get their people from where they are to where they have not been.”
- Workers are way more than “just workers” or sources of productivity. Just like great athletic coaches see their players as more than “just players,” business coaches see their employees as more than just workers with work to be done, but also as people with dreams, hopes, fears, problems, aspirations and challenges. Great leaders know that outside of work, employees are also parents, community leaders, soccer coaches, volunteers, church leaders, heads of families and leaders in their own spaces. I once heard this philosophy stated in the following manner: “The conventional definition of management is getting work done through people, but real management is developing people through work.”
I offer basketball coaching legend Dean Smith as one example of this kind of “whole life coaching.” At the time of his retirement in 1997, UNC Coach Smith was the winningest men’s collegiate basketball coach with almost 900 career victories, 11 Final Four appearances and two NCAA Championships. Winning games was certainly important to Coach Smith, but so was developing his players as people and as leaders. Michael Jordon (one of the best basketball players to ever play the game) was coached by Dean Smith. The following is how Michael Jordon described Coach Smith after his death in 2015:
“Other than my parents, no one had a bigger influence on my life than Coach Smith. He was more than a coach – he was my mentor, my teacher, my second father. Coach was always there for me whenever I needed him, and I loved him for it. In teaching me the game of basketball, he taught me about life.”
Great athletic coaches know that being a great coach is about more than wins and losses. There is something bigger and more important than the game; it is helping grow other coaches, other leaders, other successful people. The same is true in the business world.
I am thankful my career, and life, are products of that kind of coaching philosophy. Business results were certainly important, helping me grow as a person and human being was a close second for many of my coaches. I am forever grateful for all the people who have helped shape my life, including my parents, siblings and my wife Becky.
“Coaches are sculptors. They might not shape marble, but they shape something more precious; people’s lives.” – Lee J. Colan
“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” – Ralph Nader
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being.” —Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
As always, how will you lead differently, or better, this coming week?
Have a great week!
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