The London Olympics will be starting soon. When I was growing up, during the Olympics (summer AND Winter games), the TV as on from the beginning of the opening ceremonies to the moment the Olympic Flame was extinguished. While we were not allowed to watch the games during any meals, we did watch as many events as possible; every human interest story, every interview, and every medal ceremony.
I’m still looking forward to watching the games, online, on TV, and on YouTube. And now that I’m a little older and think about things from a variety of angles, I consider the parents and the families of the athletes and marvel at how they have shapes their lives around one child’s ability and potential. I reflect on the role of the coach – a key part of the athlete’s success.
Yes – the athletes get most of the air time, but it’s usually the coaches that are able to get the medal winning performance from the athletes. What are the characteristics of a successful coach/athlete team? More importantly, how can you transfer those winning attributes to your role as a manager with your employees?
A strong coach-athlete relationship is viewed as a crucial factor in winning an Olympic Medal or producing a personal best performance. The coach and athlete develop a strong relationship and the coach creates a productive environment in which the athlete can be successful.
Managers can definitely take a page from the Olympic coach’s book and focus their attention on creating a strong manager – employee relationship. In the best scenario, the manager has already proven to the organization to have technical expertise, management skills, and organizational knowledge about tactics and skill development, much like a coach has a proven record in their specific sport and a solid background in training preparation.
But what is the key factor that differentiates the winners from the non-winners?
A high degree of communication and trust is a key ingredient in the success of the medal winning athlete. The coach who gets that medal winning performance out of their athlete works to develop that strong bond. If working with a team, the manager understands that different people needs a different style of coach, depending on the personal style and the progress being made. A great coach accesses a different style depending on the need of their athlete and a good manager has the same flexibility when working with employees.
Astute managers understand the employee centered outlook that allows them to adapt to the needs of their employees allows them to really leverage the talent and potential. They can be directive, use a listening/questioning approach, provide two way communications use collaborative problem-solving, or give reinforcement feedback. A great manager knows that all are of these styles are strategies that work, depending on the timing and the individual. The ability to adapt and to develop strong communication skills and develop trust is what allows managers and coaches to get the best out of the people whose talent they are influencing.