The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team moved pretty easily through group play at this year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, and advanced to the semifinals after tough battles with Spain and France in the knockout rounds.
On the pitch the group’s speed, agility, ball skills and teamwork have been impressive. It’s also evident this is a squad that is not only extremely talented, but also organized, connected and unified in their ultimate goal. This is clearly the result of quality coaching.
Watching this team perform started me thinking how we as leaders can more effectively coach our teams to perform to the best of their abilities. It’s an aspect of leadership that is sometimes easy to forget — especially for new managers.
When people are placed into leadership positions without proper training, they often think their job is merely to get the work done — when it’s actually usually to get the work done through other people. They tend to fall back on what they’re really good at, which is being a doer. They don’t take the necessary steps to get their team to perform.
With the World Cup in full swing, it’s a great time for people in leadership to revisit how — or if — they are coaching their team to success. These three approaches can help.
Don’t Project Your Skills Onto Others
U.S. Women’s Team forward and leading U.S. goal scorer Alex Morgan is a force on the field, scoring over 100 goals in her international career. Her performance is so consistently high that it’s unreachable for almost anyone else in the world.
Now imagine a decade or more from now, when Morgan has retired from her playing days and taken a coaching position. If she tries to coach her people based on her personal standards of talent and performance, her players are never going to perform how she’s expecting them to, and she’ll never get the results her team needs. Her gameplan can’t be to merely expect someone to do something miraculous each match. She has to base her approach on reality.
Managers are often promoted because of being the best individual performer, which means they can come into the leadership role expecting that everyone be capable of similar feats. Leaders have to be careful not to project their own talent, their own work ethic or their own sense of ownership onto their team members.
As a coach, you have to assess the talent your team actually possesses and adjust your expectations, your teaching approaches and you feedback based on that reality.
Play To Your Team’s Strengths
Setting your people up for success means understanding what they’re really good at — then leaving them alone to do it.
Consider legendary former U.S. soccer player Abby Wambach, who is taller than the average player and possesses a great vertical leap. Put her up front in the center of the field and more often than not she’s going to score a goal using those unique skills. Hide her on the wing and she’s probably not going to be as consistently effective. The lesson here is: if you have somebody with great talent and gifts, you make use of those — and business managers should be no different.
This process doesn’t have to be complicated. Start by having a conversation with your employees, asking them what their favorite things are about the job and what they think their strengths are. You can also gather feedback from people around them.
Organizations are now flatter and more fluid. People don’t always have to be defined in a narrow area of expertise or a jack of all trades. There may be opportunities for people to grow or specialize, but you don’t have to make everyone good at everything. Play to their strengths.
It is also important to remember to give feedback along the way. When employees make a mistake, allow them to learn from the experience by asking questions, providing guidance — and most importantly, encouragement to try again.
Break Things Down Into Executable Actions
In training, a soccer coach designs activities so players work on individual skills, like shooting, passing accuracy or ball control. They also work on fitness, stamina, speed and strength. As a coach, if you want your team members to get better, you must provide opportunities for them to practice and build muscle around the skills that matter to their job.
To do this, coaches can assign people new types of work, give them group or individual training or pair them with others who can mentor them and serve as role models.
An elite soccer coach doesn’t just have her team play a bunch of games to prepare for the World Cup. The real work often goes on in the practice field. Likewise, if you want to get employees in a space where they can take on larger roles and move up in the company, they need to work on those skills they will need to thrive in those positions. In short, be the coach your team needs to succeed.
Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.