The importance of being a coach
The people who start and grow businesses from the ground up are generally fearless initiative takers. Nothing stops them. They do it all and if they’re good at it, they succeed – for a while, at least. Eventually, the business grows to the point where it has employees and then managers. But, typically, the boss keeps taking the initiative, keeps giving people a job and then taking it away from them a little bit at a time. And the very initiative-taking that built the business now limits its growth and drives good people away.
Here’s the thing. Initiative doesn’t exist in the air. It exists in people. And when we take it, we take it away from people. Good people leave in frustration and the rest stay and take “I don’t give a damn” pills. I see this happening all the time with clients. I’m in their office discussing challenges and opportunities and every 20 minutes or so one of their employees sticks their head in the boss’s office door and asks, “Boss, how’s it going?” At that moment, you know the whole business is screwed up.
“How’s it going?” is what bosses should be asking their team members because they, the team, have the ‘its.’ They have the projects, the initiatives that will move the business forward and the boss simply wants to know how the ‘its’ are going.
One of the biggest challenges as any business grows is for the founder to make that important transition from being a ‘player’ to being a ‘coach’. He or she needs to learn and then understand that it’s the players who take initiative and coaches give initiative. That’s how it works.
Give your people specific tasks and projects. Make sure they have the training and resources to succeed and they understand why the task or project is important. Ask them, “By when can we agree that this will be completed?” Document the completion commitment and follow up. The world is run by those who follow up. Let them know that you’re there to help and guide them, but at all times they will they keep ‘ownership’ of the task or project. This is how you create engagement and accountability.
In addition to tasks or projects with specific deadlines, give them ongoing responsibilities and then let them do their job. Every once in a while ask, “How’s it going?” Look for opportunities to praise and thank. Look for opportunities to coach without taking the initiative away. That’s the trick. And remember, your way isn’t the only way.
You’ll be amazed at how your good people will become ‘great’, and how non-performers will become obvious. So, what will you do to make the important transition from ‘player’ to ‘coach’? Remember, if there is a heaven, there’s an express lane for coaches. They build their business by growing people – and that’s a wonderful thing.