In 2019, New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick was the highest-paid coach in U.S. sports with a $12 million annual salary. Dabo Swinney negotiated a $93 million, 10-year coaching gig at Clemson University. The general public supports this monetary reward and status for the winning coaches, but is there a coaching reward (return) for the small business owner? Effective coaching creates a positive workplace. A small business owner who learns how to become an effective coach will develop a highly productive team. The employees will perform at their highest level because they feel they are part of the team, not merely employees on the team. This top-performing team tends to offer outstanding customer service, and the result is higher revenues for the well-coached team.
Effective Coaching is as crucial for developing and improving an athlete’s performance as it is the employees’ performance. When someone mentions the word “coaching,” the most often image that comes to mind is the inspirational athletic coach. Demanding and supportive at the same time, the coach works hard to develop the players. He or she insists on high standards and a great deal of effort. In return, the coach imparts knowledge that will help athletes grow.
Managing employees is not the same as coaching a team. A manager is more involved in the “game” than an athletic coach, and management does not necessarily stay on the sidelines. The gap between the experience of supervisors and the employees may not be as significant as between coach and athlete.
The employees need to be challenged and supported. But there are factors that make coaching a challenge for the small business:
- Degree of flexibility by the management team
- Changing work climate
- Diverse workforce
- Increase difficulty in gaining commitment
- Lack of clarity
- High expectations of employees.
- The accelerated pace of the business environment
Effective coaching requires the ability to analyze and understand what needs to be done. The business coach must monitor progress towards meeting objectives established with employees. The coach must know how to delegate effectively and provide appropriate feedback. Effective coaching is an enabling process, and inspires individual employees to do more, enables or helps the business grow to achieve the company objectives. For this to be possible, the supervisor must understand what needs to be done. Then the supervisor works to monitor progress made toward those goals, reviewing and resetting objectives when necessary. Is it worth the time to develop your crucial management into an excellent coaching position? Yes, but the challenge is that there’s no single or ideal answer in handling most situations. Every action a manager takes has advantages and disadvantages. Just as Coach Belichick must decide whether to “go for it” on the fourth down, awareness is needed for possible consequences for each coaching dilemma.
Just like in professional sports, an essential element of effective coaching is that it is sometimes necessary to motivate people under challenging circumstances. People don’t always land in positions or jobs that are perfect for their talents. The supervisor sometimes has to make unexciting tasks seem routine. Effective coaching applies to the team, as well as the individual. In the supervisory role, there will be a need to train individuals to keep the focus on the team, and as leaders, take action when the game isn’t going well. Often, a supervisor can produce more only by delegation. Time and energy have limits. The more the employee is ready for increased responsibilities, the more the supervisor can delegate.
Providing appropriate feedback allows the supervisor to influence the situation. Employees don’t want to feel checked on but often need or want guidance.
Every great coach will expect problem areas that will require attention.
- Employee’s work is not up to the company standards.
- The employee has shown a recent decline in performance.
- Employee’s work may be satisfactory, but not up to their potential.
Some circumstances will require management to hold a work improvement discussion.
- Describe the situation in specific detail by reviewing the situation and continuing the previous discussion. Some circumstances warrant immediate discussion.
- Confirm the reasons for the situation and discuss any new factors (such as extreme hardship, illness, etc.) Listen and respond with empathy.
- Indicate what action must be taken and why. Describe the action and outline elements involved in taking action. Be specific when explaining the reasoning and use backup documentation, such as reports of previous conversations, etc. When the employee owns the action plan with the expected behavior, performance will improve. The supervisor continues to be responsible for the results, but having the employee take ownership of the plan increases the probability of achieving the desired result.
- Agree on a specific action that the employee must take to remedy the situation and reach an agreement on the necessary steps to achieve positive results. Set a follow-up date and confirm that both parties have clear expectations about what will happen.
- Indicate your confidence in the person by pointing out the plan provides an opportunity for the employee to improve. Remind the employee of their abilities. Recognize this conversation may be a turning point.
It is a problem-solving discussion, so both management and the employee must have equal time. When the conversation is dominated by one or the other, it is not a shared problem-solving situation.
An effective opening of the work improvement discussion gets the discussion off to a good start. Communicate the subject, the objective of the discussion, and confirm the employee knows the expectation for participation — a good coach checks for understanding. Once the employee is trained, the business owner will need to continue their development through effective coaching. In the small business, coaching is a process of maximizing an employee’s potential–motivating an employee to do the best possible job he or she is capable of doing.
Aside from the pay, the most significant difference in athletics and small business coaching is that in the athletic arena, there is one winner. The results for calling the right play is a guaranteed championship every time. In summary, here is the playbook for the winning coach.
- Plan the discussion. Review the sources of information and make preliminary decisions ahead of time. Roleplay the discussion if necessary.
- Be firm but fair in the determination to correct the situation. Listen with empathy and maintain the employee’s self-esteem.
- Expect and manage employee hostility. Use empathetic responses and remain calm.
- Concentrate on solutions, not the employee’s faults. Build on the employee’s ideas and help the employee overcome roadblocks.
- Indicate support as this alone may cause a behavior or attitude change.
By following this playbook, you will improve the culture within your business, a culture that is built on honesty, respect, and support. While there will likely be some push back as you begin the process, you should eventually notice that the morale of your employees will increase along with productivity. As a small business consultant, we see this happen. Often, the initial phase can be rough at times. However, with the dedication and ‘trusting the process,’ you and your employees will see the benefits down the line.
At Cogent Analytics, we never stop looking for ways to improve your business and neither should you. So, check out some of our other posts for helpful business information:
Cogent Analytics, LLC is a business management consulting firm, with a primary focus to help small to medium size, privately held businesses achieve success and long term profitability. Cogent provides powerful solutions with integrity and transparency to privately-held businesses throughout the United States.