I love listening to some of the sports coaches speaking. I marvel at how the art of coaching has evolved and matured over the last 10 years to become a true profession. The coach of a professional sporting team is no longer just a passionate motivator who is, at the most, an amateur at managing the disciplines we associate with effective management of human resources.
The modern sports coach is a strategist who seeks substantive evidence to create, mould and justify their tactics and training regimes. He or she has a mission and is a designer of the journey that ultimately arrives at that mission. The coach has peripheral vision but clear instructions and an ability to deliberately implement individualised programs that somehow melt into the collective good. The coach is values driven and can influence or prescribe non-negotiable behaviours. A skill builder, game planner and delegator, the coach will masterfully manage a range of stakeholders whose expectations may vary from understandable to darn right outrageous.
But what I love most about the modern coach is that he or she no longer talks merely about winning or losing. It’s all about concentrating on the game plan. Constructing a team, building a culture and developing skills in line with team plan; a team plan that will bring home gold. The other day I heard a post-game interview with an Australian Football League coach. His team had just had a conclusive victory. He was asked how he felt two thirds of the way through the game when his team was losing by a considerable margin. He replied that he was unaware of the score because he was too busy concentrating on the team’s compliance to an agreed long-term set of disciplines. Play with flair, but within the construct of our disciplines was his mantra. In the end, his concentration paid off. It was a great insight into the modern coach.
Every effective leader has a commitment to a plan and a deep belief that the tactics and team disciplines that they install will get them first prize. This story, however, is especially poignant in a time of business uncertainty. It reminds us that at the frontline we may be unwise to become overly focused on the business results. That while profitability or achieving ‘great results’ is ultimately what keeps us in the game, managers may be far better to focus on building, monitoring and gently adjusting the team disciplines and cultures that will ultimately ensure that they can achieve the sustained level of performance that leads to successful results.