As we enter the NFL playoffs, we see twelve teams that have earned their way to a post-season berth. Through 17 weeks of extreme effort, many factors go into the fate of a team as they approach the playoffs: talent, conditioning, injuries, and a bunch of other things. But one thing is for sure; good coaching is integral to the success of any team.
Think back to 1972. I know what you’re thinking. The Miami Dolphins again? Really? Yes. Really. The Miami Dolphins are still, after forty-one years, the only team to win every game for an entire season in any professional sport; an amazing feat by anyone’s measure.
This feat could not have been accomplished without exceptional effort, conditioning, talent, and yes, coaching. Don Shula, the Dolphins head coach for 26 years, made it very clear in the first days of training camp of that fabled 1972 season that the Miami Dolphins could win every game if every player gave their very best effort on every play every week.
That might sound like a trite and worn out coach’s line, but it defined the way each Miami Dolphin approached every practice, every game, and every play that season.
So the question is, “Does coaching trump all other aspects when it comes to performance?” Could be. I mean, all the talent in the world won’t create a champion if the coach is inadequate. Look around the various sports clubs and you’ll see great players assembled only to produce mediocre results. Then suddenly a new coach is installed and you see a champion rise. It happens all the time.
To build a championship team, whether it is at work or on the playing field, you need to start with the right members/players. Now, just because you have the right players, does not mean they are in the right positions. Josh Cribbs and Julian Edelman both played quarterback in college, but now catch passes and return kicks. While Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Ryan Tannehill played defensive back in high school and wide receiver his first year at Texas A&M. All three of these players started their sporting careers in one position, but the coach decided they would be better suited to play another. And all three of them are better at what they do now than they did before. So, it would appear that the right coach can bring out the best in any athlete, even if it means moving them to another position.
This is true in sports and it is true in any other business. As leaders, we all need to assess the current talent we have, and evaluate whether each person is in the right position to do their best work. If we see a better fit, it is our responsibility to move them to that seat. This can require evaluation, conversation, and motivation. As leaders, we need to evaluate our talent; talk with them about their strengths, weaknesses, and potential to contribute; and then motivate them to succeed to the next level.
The best teachers bring out the best in their students through engagement and encouragement. The best sales managers bring out the best in their sales people with scoreboards and rewards. And so do all great leaders in their respective areas.
Coaching goes deeper than simply urging people to do their best and work their hardest. It goes behind the curtain and looks for strengths and weaknesses within each team member. It involves individual attention to enhance performance through increasing knowledge, skills, and/or abilities. And most importantly, it is done in a collaborative effort between boss and subordinate.
By working collaboratively, the team member has a greater interest in their own development, and it gives them a “say” in just how this development will occur. It could be books, webinars, seminars, blog posts, or live classes at a local college or university. Coordinating with your team members individually allows both of you to realize the best path or position to create the greatest contribution for themselves and the organization.
As for “the perfect season”, we remember that coach Don Shula told his players that they could win every game if every player gave their very best effort on every play every week. This can only be accomplished if each player knows what they are best suited to do and continue to develop the knowledge and skills to do just that. And this is best done through coaching with individual insight, collaborative coordination, and enthusiastic encouragement. Now go out there and give them your best effort!