Like most things in life, there are some universal skills that transcend occupations, careers or Industries. They help to distinguish the truly exceptional from the rest of the pack, they separate the mediocre from the Good, and then the Good from the Great. Whether on the football field or in the Board room, here are 5 universal skills that Great Coaches and Great Business leaders have in common.
1. The ability to Teach.
All coaches at the highest levels possess a tremendous amount of knowledge about the given sport they coach, and you would be hard pressed to find much in the way of strategy, technique or conditioning that isn’t universally known throughout elite coaching circles. Yet it’s not the teams with the coaches who know the most who win championships, but rather it’s the team with the players who know the most that usually wind up wearing the ring in the end.
What distinguishes the great leaders from the rest is the ability to clearly articulate the mission, the vision and the expectations of the organization in a way that resonates throughout the entire organization. Great Leaders have the ability to explain things in a way that simplifies the complicated, so that everyone is engaged in the pursuit of the objective. It’s hard to win Championships with players who don’t understand what’s expected of them, or with players who don’t know their assignments on a given play.
Likewise, you can’t meet your profit goals if your employees aren’t engaged with the company’s mission, and don’t understand how they contribute to the collective objectives of the organization. It’s the Leaders job to “Teach” the individuals within their organization what they need to do in order to contribute to the broader organizational objectives, how they need to perform the tasks required, and why they are being asked to do it. Teaching (training) leads to understanding, and understanding leads to engagement, and engagement leads to success.
2. The ability to hire Smart people.
If being a great teacher is an essential skill for great leadership, then hiring smart people would go a long way toward helping make teaching a lot easier. Great Coaches have a unique ability for finding the right-fits for their teams when it comes to player evaluations, and like a Great coach, Great Business leaders have the ability to hire smart people. It’s imperative to make sure that the people recruited into an organization possess the prerequisite character traits that align well with the organization’s core values, and the ability to learn quickly should be foremost when evaluating a new hire. Identifying smart fits for an organization isn’t easy. If it were, every organization would be world class – but great leaders have a knack for identifying smart people who often “click” in terms of fitting an organization’s core values and they enhance the team’s chemistry.
3. The ability to motivate.
Great coaches understand how to motivate their players, and more importantly, they understand that not all players are motivated the same way. Some players respond well to being challenged directly and rise to the occasion, while others will crumple if challenged too harshly. Some players need to be continuously praised, while others respond better to occasional criticism. The great coaches know that all players are different and a “one size fits all” approach to motivation simply doesn’t work.
Just like Great Coaches, Great Business leaders find a way to understand what drives the individual. Great business leaders continuously probe for ways to keep their people motivated, and they understand that motivational tactics tend to dissipate over time, so they are continuously developing new incentive programs. The same bonus plan run year after year may no longer resonate the way it used to, and a fresh compensation plan may be the shot in the arm that your team is looking for.
Great Leaders also understand that motivational methods need to change as employees advance within the organization. Just as coaches understand that motivating a rookie is a lot different from motivating a 10 year veteran, great business leaders understand that employee’s motivational drive can change as they advance in their careers. Great Business leaders understand how to modify their motivational methods so that they evolve along with their people’s career development.
4. The ability to develop relationships.
Great coaches inevitably leave lasting impressions on the players they come in contact with, and by and large, are usually some of the most influential people in the life’s of their players. Great coaches have the ability to develop relationships that transcend the playing field and extend into their players’ lives. Great Business leaders also have an ability to develop strong relationships with the people in their organizations. Listening effectively to better understand how they can support their employees in pursuit of their goals, investing the time needed to help them develop professionally, as well as personally, and establishing a trusting bond that extends beyond the 9 to 5 work day.
Great Coaches & Great Business leaders understand the positive impact that strong relationships have on highly functioning teams & organizations alike. You’re more willing to sacrifice, work hard, and battle for the people you have strong relationships with, particularly when you feel your leader is willing to do the same for you. Great leaders understand that their people have lives outside of work, and they work hard to help their people balance the requirements of the job with their family obligations. When two people go through tough times together, as well as enjoy the results of their hard work together, strong bonds are developed. Great leaders understand that strong relationships can make all the difference when it comes down to getting your team to go that extra mile in order to achieve great things.
5. The ability to develop Leaders.
Great coaches produce great coaches. Just look at someone like Bill Parcells. Parcells’ “coaching tree” has branched out to produce great coaches like Bill Belichick & Sean Payton, who in-turn have produced several successful NFL head coaches in their own right. Like a great coaching tree, a great business leader has the ability to develop great leaders throughout their organization, as well as produce leaders who go on to lead other organizations.
A good test of one’s leadership has always been to measure the number of quality leaders you’ve helped produce. Take a look at your “leadership tree.” How many top line leaders have you helped to develop over your career? Great Leaders have the ability to be as proud of their people’s accomplishments and development as they are of their own.