On a beautiful Saturday this past May I sat at a baseball field in Raleigh, North Carolina, watching 40 or so youngsters participate in a baseball camp. I have a connection to the Broughton High School field going back over 30 years. As I sat on the bleachers watching the boys, I shared with the father of another camper my fondness for the place, and my connection to it. I explained that Wiley Warren, for whom the field is named, was a former coach of mine. “You know,” he said, “I remember a number of old coaches fondly, but I can’t say the same about any old bosses.”
That observation stayed with me and caused a great deal of personal reflection. I strive to be more “coach” than “boss.” What distinguishes great coaches from average ones? What can we learn from great coaches that will enable us to improve those we lead and manage? How can we take lessons from sport and apply them to our chosen profession?
One can debate whether great coaches are born or bred, but there are elements of great coaching that can be adapted by anyone in a coaching capacity.
- Knowledge and Expertise
Mastery of the subject matter allows great coaches to break down complicated problems into manageable parts then reassemble into the whole. Great teachers never stop learning, and their zest for knowledge inspires those they teach. The legendary UCLA basketball coach John Wooden noted, “Knowledge is never static or complete.”
- Passion and Enthusiasm
Great coaches possess a love of the game that is infectious. There is no substitute for unbridled passion–it is the soil from which excellence blossoms. Whether it’s helping a mediocre player improve or developing a great talent into an all-star, great coaches get enormous satisfaction from seeing those they lead grow and develop. Seeing my son execute a bunt that he worked hours to perfect and watching a young associate conduct her first client data-gathering meeting are moments of great personal pride. In some small way I’ve transferred my passion to another and seen it in action.
- Patience and Caring