Have you ever thought your team had more to give, but you weren't quite sure how to get it out of them? Have you ever wanted them to play to their potential but didn't quite have the right playbook to make it happen? Have you ever felt frustrated that, despite your best efforts, you're still barely able to move the needle on your team's performance? Me too.
In fact, I've devoted my career over the better part of the last decade to studying leaders of highly productive teams in hopes of finding the answers to getting over these hurdles. And frankly, my research team and I were caught completely off guard by what we discovered.
Our research indicates that the fundamental difference between world-class leaders of highly productive teams and most managers doesn't necessarily have to do with their IQ, strategic vision, or operational prowess as one might expect. The fundamental distinction comes down to one thing: their approach. They don't act like managers—they act more like a coach.
There are basically four different types of managers, and each has a very distinctive style or approach:
Nice-Guy Manager: Nice-guy Managers are more concerned with being liked by their team than they are with getting results from them. They're typically perceived as laid back, mellow, hands off—maybe even, at times, a bit disengaged. Under the Nice-guy Management approach, A players flourish, while B and C players flounder due to the lack of structure and proper management reinforcement.
Micro-Manager: A micromanager cares more about making sure his people do things perfectly than he does about helping them improve their performance. Micromanagers are typically perceived as being distrustful, controlling, uncaring, and bossy. The micromanager's approach causes his team members to do just enough to get by and fly below the radar. With this approach, it shouldn't come as a surprise that micromanagers typically have the lowest level of productivity and the worst rapport with their teams.
Do-It-All-Manager: The Do-It-All Manager doesn't fully trust the abilities of his team and believes "if you want it done right, you better do it yourself." As a result, he behaves more like an individual contributor on steroids—often burning out in the process due to his ever increasing work load. While this approach may allow him to deliver short-term results, in the long run, he ends up failing because he's the one doing all the work and stealing all the glory. Slackers may thrive under these conditions because it allows them to hide, but A players won't tolerate this approach and will inevitably leave.
The Coach: World-class coaches may not always have the best talent, but they always seem to get the best out of the talent they have. And the reason is surprisingly simple: coaches get the most out of their teams because they consistently put the most into their teams. They believe in their people, want them to succeed, and are committed to coaching and developing them so that they consistently perform to the maximum of their abilities. Thus, the Coach consistently achieves the highest level of productivity, while at the same time earning the highest level of trust and rapport with his team. Everyone thrives in this environment.
To become a coach follow this simple three-step framework:
Step 1: Change Your Approach
How you think—your mindset—controls how you behave. For example, if a sales manager believes that her job is to make her numbers, she might behave more like a "Do It All Manager" and cherry pick the best deals. Conversely, if she believes her job is to coach and develop her team in order to help them consistently perform to their highest potential—she will take a different approach and act more like a coach.
It's important to remember, however, that coaching is not merely something that you, as a manager, must do. A coach is someone that you, as a leader, must become. When you assume the role of coach as part of your identity and decide this is not just what you do, but who you are, your behaviors will change automatically and dramatically.
Step 2: Create the Environment
Once, you've adopted this new "coach" mindset, the next step is to create an environment that's conducive to coaching. Look for the hidden friction points in relationships that may prevent team members from being receptive to constructive coaching and developmental feedback. Remember it's critical to "pull the weeds before you plant the seeds." Hit the reset button on your relationship with each team member by being the first to put your cards on the table and ask, "How am I doing? What can I do better?"
Remember: To get your team to become coachable, you must first become coachable. To get your team to open up, you must first open up. To get your team to embrace developmental feedback, you must first embrace developmental feedback. As a coach, you set the standard for your team to follow. And your personal example is the most powerful leadership tool you have.
Step 3: Transform the Conversation
And finally, once you've created an environment that's conducive to coaching you have to lay the foundation for a weekly coaching conversation. Here are a couple keys points to keep in mind:
Don't just celebrate the touchdowns, celebrate the first downs
Long-term success requires short-term focus. And the fastest way to improve performance is to help your team set weekly process-oriented goals and then positively reinforce small, incremental improvements. Stop focusing so much on the prize that you forget about the process.
Embrace mistakes as coachable moments
Building a highly productive team can only be achieved through the identification and perfection of seemingly small things consistently done right over time. However, we learn far more from our mistakes than we do from our successes. So as you're evaluating your team's performance and giving them positive reinforcement, it's also important to take note of their mistakes as well. But keep in mind the objective here is not to criticize; it's to coach.
Brian Souza is the author of The Weekly Coaching Conversation and founder of ProductivityDrivers, an innovative corporate training company specializing in improving employee performance and bottom-line results.
[Image: Flickr user Thomas Leuthard]