jesse orrico via Unsplash

It’s That Mad Time of Year to Channel Your Inner Coach for Team Wins

Seventy-four percent of direct reports strongly agree that there is a sense of team spirit when leaders ensure they grow and develop in their jobs, according to Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, coauthors of The Leadership Challenge. It’s hard not to get behind this statistic when you consider Kouzes and Posner have been tracking this data for forty years. Not to mention…it’s March.

If you can see the hardwood floors and hear the squeak of high-top court shoes in your mind, then you’re likely debating if you should join a pool for the men’s and women’s college basketball tournaments. There are two things these tournaments are never in short supply of, and they are great teams and fantastic coaching.

When I think about the direct reports in this workplace research whose leader is vested in their development, it’s easy to imagine the same could be said of coaches and their athletes. John Wooden is a classic example and a fitting role model, given the time of year.

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“People want to believe you are sincerely interested in them as persons, not just for what they can do for you,” said Wooden. That simple philosophy of putting people first before you consider how they contribute to the team is a critical mindset and differentiator.

Wooden liked investing in the individual; it’s why he was more intent on identifying players who had the potential to make other players better rather than looking for great “soloists.” In short, building a team of selfless athletes. Wooden’s search for the selfless player helped him develop others in a compounding fashion; he wasn’t the only multiplier on the court — if selfless players were a rising tide, then all boats lifted.

Stanford’s Hall of Fame coach Tara VanDerveer also sees the need for taking a page out of Wooden’s playbook. VanDerveer has been known to schedule off-season communication workshops to improve one-on-one communication and player development on and off the court. This is one of several formalized events she plans regularly to develop chemistry among teammates and esprit de corps.

People want to believe you are sincerely interested in them as persons, not just for what they can do for you

John Wooden

VanDerveer and other coaches in her sphere have shared similar practices because they know that investing in the person is as crucial as creating a close-knit team. That individualization is especially helpful with teams representing diverse backgrounds. It wasn’t uncommon for Washington State’s late June Daugherty to have players representing as many as seven different countries in the past. Seeing her players as people first with varying worldviews and behavioral norms was critical.

In the spirit of great coaching practices, consider how much you’re investing in your people first before you look at them as part of one team. Challenge yourself to explore how their behavior and performance elevate others around them. What can you do to grease the wheels and help your team members perform their best? Maybe it’s time to channel your inner coach. If it helps, try catching the next tip-off.

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