Knowing what to say and how far to push, without pushing your team over the edge, is a delicate and difficult to master leadership skill. Like in sports, the key to being successful in business is having the ability to tap into the individual and collective strengths of your entire team.
Sports-themed motivational speeches have become somewhat of a staple in mainstream media and entertainment, even an on-going parody as displayed by John Oliver. Maybe for that reason, it’s become common practice for business leaders to incorporate sports analogies and vocabulary into their own motivational talks. For whatever reason, people are naturally drawn to an underdog story. Everyone wants to be part of that team who, in the end, surpasses everyone’s expectations. And, every manager wants to be that inspirational coach at the center of the win.
Coaches Know How to Draft an All-Star Team
Sports coaches rely on leadership principles to get the most out of each player. At the same time, they have to consider how the team fits together as a whole. One coaching principle that crosses over into the business world is to empower all of the “players” on your team so they can perform a variety of tasks. This thinking allows for the distribution of responsibility when it’s needed most; such as when a team member is away for an extended time, or to fill in gaps during a period of transition.
Another leadership concept to consider is a simple one: help your employees find what they are best at. Like the football draft every year, good managers need to piece together a high-functioning, capable team. Managerial training programs or leadership books are invaluable resources to assist managers in developing the skills to identify all-star talent.
Looking to someone like Tom Rath, author of StrengthsFinder, for inspiration, he is quoted as having said, “People have several times more potential for growth when they invest energy in developing their strengths instead of correcting their deficiencies.” This notion is simple, but often gets lost in translation. It is easy to apply this approach when the task assigned is an obvious mismatch to the employee. You wouldn’t ask your graphic designer to sit in as an HR benefits manager. But, when the intricate roles within a team are similar, delegating work becomes more difficult.
Bosses Think About Output, Not Personality
If your leadership style is to simply divide up the tasks based on workload and/or the quickest output, then you are taking a business-minded approach to leadership. What if instead, you considered each employee’s strengths and deliberately tried to focus on giving them a task that fell within this area. Sure, it’s easier to divide and conquer versus seeking to get the best out of each employee. But, how and what type of work you assign each employee has a lasting impact on their motivation to show up every day and do a great job for you.
Being that Yoh is headquartered in Philadelphia, I couldn’t help but to include a quote from Eagles head coach Chip Kelly. He states, “It (coaching) is creating an environment so the player has an opportunity to be successful.” Getting the most out of teams can be less about the most recent motivational techniques, and more about giving employees opportunities to succeed in things they enjoy and are naturally skilled to do.
Seems pretty logical -- if you give someone the work they are good at, then they are more likely to be successful. Spending time forcing, or worse, coercing an employee to complete a task will always be an uphill battle. That’s why it is important for leaders to identify early on what their people enjoy doing, what they are versed at and how they fit within the greater organization as there is a direct connection to their success in those areas. The real win-win comes when the company receives better production and more efficient work, and the employee gets true job satisfaction from achievement in what they do best.
David Bishop is a Business Analyst for Supplier Relations within Yoh. Moreover, he has been working in Staffing and Managed Services for ten years. In his free time he is a head boys’ varsity basketball coach and has a passion for using sports to help children of all ages learn leadership and applicable life skills. He runs local inner-city camps and is involved in leadership training for men. He is the father of four, and the cashiers at Kroger tell him he is a young and fun dad!