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Leadership Development 05 November 2014

Coaching for results on and off the field

Coaches in sports and managers in professional settings have one main thing in common – they’re both coaching people for results. Undeniably, both roles have a profound effect on a team’s culture, morale, effectiveness, productivity, and both are ultimately held accountable for their team’s results.

In the office and on a field, it is important for leadership teams to employ a blend of thinking and feeling preferences in order to understand how to motivate each style of person on their team. In professional sports, the way this thinking/feeling blend might exist for a team would be to employ a Head Coach, who may be less people driven and more results focused, and a team of Assistant Coaches who are more player focused and relationship driven.

At Insights, we have quite a few former and current athletes within the Insights staff and on our leadership teams who make up a very well-rounded group of feeling and thinking preferences. For instance, CEO Andy Lothian is an avid golfer, Customer Experience Director Lynne-Marie Howden completed her first full marathon, UK General Manager Alex Keay competes frequently in triathlons and endurance events, and US Sales Director Don Johnson is a ranked tennis player. This leadership is combined with a staff that is already comprised of ex-Olympians, former professional hockey players, former collegiate basketball players, former collegiate tennis players, former collegiate soccer players, former collegiate swimmers, and former collegiate softball players.

To be a great coach though, you need to know more than just the knowledge of how to motivate your players based on their thinking/feeling preferences. Every coach needs to set about on a journey of building trusting relationships to maximize results.

Here are three things we recommend managers to consider and learn from coaches in sports:

1) Assess your team’s culture and dynamic before making change.

When a new coach takes over a team, it is important for the coach to acknowledge the existing dynamic and team culture before he or she can institute change. By adapting to the existing dynamic and then setting a path for the direction of the team, players will be less resistant to change. Scottish tennis champion, Andy Murray, felt the pressure to impress his former coach and former world number one player, Ivan Lendl. Murray expressed, “The first few months when I was working with him, you’re kind of nervous going into practice sessions and stuff. That’s a good thing. It shows that you care and want to impress him.”

2) Treat every player fairly but not necessarily equally.

The best player/coach relationships happen when the dynamic exists that the player wants to “make the catch” for their coach and the coach wants to “call the right play” for their player.  When coaches get to know their players for who they are as people, the relationship that develops can be extremely positive. Think of the end of a championship match when the winner runs toward their camp. Who gets the first hug? Mom or Coach? Often, it’s coach.

3) Inspire your players to reach beyond their tactical skills.

Here, we were reminded of a quote from the 2004  movie titled “Miracle” based on the 1980 winter olympics where the American Hockey team, considered an overwhelming underdog in the tournament, won the gold medal over the highly favored Russian team. Responsible for much of the team’s success, American coach Herb Brooks, offers the following to his team before their final game:

Great moments…are born from great opportunity. And that’s what you have here, tonight, boys. That’s what you’ve earned here tonight. One game. If we played ‘em ten times, they might win nine. But not this game. Not tonight. Tonight, we skate with them. Tonight, we stay with them. And we shut them down because we can! Tonight, WE are the greatest hockey team in the world. You were born to be hockey players. Every one of you. And you were meant to be here tonight. This is your time. Now go out there and take it.
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