I was on the track team in high school. My first couple of years, I ran sprints and did the jumps; I was pretty good, but nothing spectacular. Then, we got a new coach. He took me aside and told me that I would benefit our team more if I just concentrated on the jumps. I was shocked. I couldn’t imagine not
running; after all it was a track team.
Then he said something that really floored me: that I had a real talent for jumping, and that I didn’t need anyone to teach me how to do it. “All you need is to hone your jumping ability, lift weights and be by yourself,” he said. He also said to tell him if I needed anything, and I spent every practice alone, just working on my own jumping. Our track team won the Kansas State championship and I ruled the long jump and the triple jump.
After my September column about being a good employee, I got an unusually large number of e-mails from younger advisors asking for a column on “how to be a good boss.” Before I get to that, let me remind these readers that my conclusion to the column was: “The bottom line is that it’s your boss’s firm; learning to deal with them as they are, quirks and all, will make your life much, much easier.”
With that said, there are, of course, many things that firm owners can do to be better employers, and I spend a good deal of my time working with owner/advisors to do those things. Now, I don’t like the word “boss.” It has bad connotations: I don’t like to be bossed around (just ask my husband), and I don’t know anyone who does. In fact, the first thing I tell my clients is to stop thinking of themselves as “the boss.” Instead, a far better description of the role of a business owner is “the coach.”
It’s a coach’s job to understand his team, to teach, to motivate and to inspire—to put his team in the right positions, and give them the knowledge, the skills, and the support to excel in it. To do that, coaches have to treat every employee as an individual—determining their strengths and weaknesses, their needs, and their motivations, just like my high school track coach did for me. Because the real bottom line is that a coach or a business owner can’t succeed alone: Their success depends on the success of their players—or employees.
Here are the five qualities of a good coach, which are also the qualities I try to bring out in my owner/clients to make their employees, and therefore their businesses, more successful:
A willingness to help employees achieve success. Think about your employees one at a time. Ask yourself: Do you want this person to succeed at what they are doing? This may sound like a silly exercise, but believe me, there are more than a few owner/advisors who seem to be more interested in setting their employees up to fail and criticizing their employees than they are in helping them excel.
It’s true that sometimes employees need to be motivated, or reminded of the quality that their work demands. But constant criticism is more often than not demotivating, leading employees to feel that whatever they do won’t be good enough, so why try. Keep in mind that just like a coach, you can’t succeed if your employees don’t succeed. You can’t run your business alone: If you could, you would, and save a lot a cash and a bundle of headaches. But you’ve decided that you can’t take your firm where you want it to go, and provide your clients the level of services they need, by yourself.
So ask yourself: What are you doing to help your employees succeed? Are you teaching them what they need to know to do their jobs and go into even more productive roles? Are you giving them the support they need to get their jobs done? Are they in the right position for their skills and their personal goals? And do you motivate them to excel at their jobs with the same passion you have for caring for your clients? Remember: You won’t succeed if they don’t succeed. And their success is largely in your hands.