With Wimbledon in full swing and a busy summer of sport ahead of us, it’s a perfect time to think about the relationships that elite athletes have with their coaches, and the roles they play in making them a success.
Having an inspiring mentor who can lead you down the path to glory and can bring out the very best in you can mean the difference between playing in the finals on centre court and getting beaten in the first round.
Leadership lessons from sport
So as managers, what can we learn from professional coaches that we can transfer to the workplace? We recently welcomed Sally Gunnell, OBE, Olympic gold medallist to speak with our employees and clients about her experiences in athletics. She provided parallels between her relationship with her coach and how managers can work with their staff.
Sally Gunnell, OBE, Olympic gold medallist:
“My coach played a pivotal role in my development as an athlete throughout my career, cultivating the drive, determinism and passion required to excel in the world of athletics. Workplace managers can have the same impact on their teams – providing the guidance and nurturing required to help employees aspire to greatness throughout their careers.”
Everyone has a coaching style and as managers, it’s our job to identify our strengths and weaknesses and tailor our approach for the individuals on our teams. It’s only natural that as individuals employees will have different approaches to work, as well as how they prefer to be managed.
Four key types of coach
- Definitive coach: Competitive and results focused, with high expectations of employees to be the same, this coach allocates project roles that play on individuals’ strengths, although often fails to provide enough information for employees to achieve desired outcomes.
- Collaborative coach: Generous and an excellent listener, this coach leads the team to find its own solutions, building staff members’ confidence and generally working within well-established parameters.
- Persuader coach: Encouraging brainstorming and independent thought, this strong negotiator is innovative by nature and rewards their team for doing the same. Always looking to provide solutions, sometimes persuader coaches take on more than their teams are able to manage.
- Diagnostic coach: Extremely organised, this coach is consistent day-to-day and encourages the team to update their skills and use critical thinking to create solid business strategies. When mistakes occur, however, this coach may become overly critical and employees may lose confidence and become risk-averse.
You can find out your coaching style by taking our quick online quiz.
Want to improve your coaching prowess?
- Understand that coaching is part of your responsibilities as a senior professional and make time within your busy working day to communicate with your team.
- Map the attributes that you discover from the quiz onto the personalities of your team: who will respond best to which of your qualities?
- Accept that you may need to amend some of your behaviours to meet individual needs
- Recognise that coaching is about ‘showing’ not just ‘telling’: it’s all about being an effective role model
- Look for inspiration from the resources available to you: your boss or your HR professional will be happy to help
Just as Wimbledon’s tennis stars will invariably experience highs and lows throughout their career, so too will business people as they strive to reach success. But ultimately it will be a good career coach that will help keep them on an upward career trajectory.