Coaching on the Field & in the Office

by Stew Bolno, MBA, EdM

Spring training has ended (in baseball, not corporations) and the season has begun. Throughout Spring Training, baseball players most likely heard one of the most repeated expressions stated by managers and coaches: "We need to work hard on the fundamentals." The smartest and most accomplished players will understand the value of this message, take it to heart, and will practice the fundamental skills over and over again.

Coaches on the baseball field earn their keep by gaining trust and influencing performance outcomes. They do so by communicating wisdom while demonstrating effective interpersonal skills. Much of what the best baseball coaches do can be adapted by those of us in the business world.

Strategies employed by winning coaches include:

Partnering with the Players

Your success as a coach depends on improving the performance of the person you are helping. Therefore, your attitude, behavior, and language should indicate that your relationship is about helping – not directing. A coach does not hit, catch, or run for the player. The job is to help the player perform all of these skills at a high level of competence. When you, as a coach, are able to gain the trust of your players, they will be more willing to go the extra base in order to improve their productivity.

Problem Solving to create Trust

Baseball is a game of statistics. It is relatively easy to identify the areas of weakness. Sometimes, in business, we have the same advantage, as the weaknesses are often observable or measurable. However, where statistics are not available, ask your new partner where he or she experiences the most frustration. Generally, the reason for frustration is a lack of success. Asking the right questions, in the right way, will help to create motivation on the part of the player. This motivation is essential for the coaching process to work.

Preparing for Success

Once the challenge has been identified make certain that you have a clear vision of the end result. Stephen Covey said it best when he declared, “begin with the end in mind.” When the end goal is stated, it creates a balanced alignment between the coach and the person asking for the help. Preparation is strategic and tactical. If you wish to avoid errors, make sure your partner is on board with the what, how, when, and why of the effort prior to the coaching events that will be taking place in the future.

Praise Performance

When a player is successful on the baseball diamond the teammates applaud, the fans cheer, and the manager is likely to provide more opportunities. The same thing has to be done with the partner you are coaching. New habits need to be reinforced to ensure that they are instilled and ingrained. As improvement occurs, make sure that you acknowledge and celebrate the small hits as well as the home runs. Achievement creates confidence and encourages the individual to step up to the plate in pursuit of greater challenges.

Coaches are essential players on any winning team. They spot weaknesses and seek opportunities. Sometimes the player being coached is a star and sometimes, that person is the least talented individual on the team. However, when done well the average player always improves. Are you ready and willing to help your players on your team improve as a result of your coaching conversations?