Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill! (It’s not what you think…)

I recently returned to the pool to start working out again. I swam competitively for many years and then coached for several more. After a warm-up swim, I did what I had done for nearly every workout I've ever been through; I swam a set of nothing but stroke drills. Stroke drills allow you to focus on one or two specific aspects of a stroke allowing you to make small corrections to improve your swim. After the drills it was on to the meat of the workout and ending with a warm down. This structure really got me to thinking about how I structure my standard workday. Specifically, what drills to I do before moving into the hustle and bustle of the day?

Every job I can think of, from software developer to Human Resources Generalist to accountant to mechanic, has a set of core fundamental skills that are required to be able to do the job well. Many of us perform those basic skills without ever even thinking about them. I'd bet that it would probably take some serious thinking to even identify what some of those skills are for some of us. For example, in my job as an Application Developer there are some basic skills that I take for granted. I have to write, perform logical operations, type, give presentations, use email, instant messaging and several other tools to do my job. But how much time do I spend each day doing anything to improve my skills in any of those areas? Like most people, not much.

The coach in me is seeing the folly in this lack of drills. Even Peyton Manning, a great quarterback, runs through drills to improve his passing. What does your standard, everyday worker do? They jump right into the main workout.

Take some time today and try to identify some of the basic skills you use every day. Tomorrow, challenge yourself to spend part of the start of your day reinforcing some of those basic skills. Do this every day, and it will make a difference. I'd love to hear how it goes.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Are You Coachable?

After my last post I was asked if people who participated in team sports when they were younger made better team-players in their later years. Of course, my answer was a resounding, maybe.

I say maybe because I think of some of those high school stars. You know the ones; movies are great at showing us the stereo-typical high school jock. The kid who was just plain better than everyone else. He could play any position in any sport you threw him into. And in the coach's eyes, he could do no wrong. He was the star of the school. But what happened to him after high school? He still lives in the same town, has little to no ambition and works in the same job he's had since graduation. He played team sports, but obviously didn't become a better team player.

The difference here lies within the individual. Just because you participated in a team sport, doesn't make you a coachable individual. True superstars are constantly looking at themselves and their performance. When they do something that isn't perfect, they look at what they did wrong and what do they need to do to fix it. A superstar relies on a coach to help them find the weak links and help repair them.

Can participating in a team sport make you more coachable? It all depends on you and your coach. A good coach will help you see your potential. They will help you build on your strengths, overcome your weaknesses and they will never let you place the blame for failure on anyone other than yourself.

When things aren't going right for you where do you look first? Is it because of everything going on around you? Is it someone who's done you wrong? Or do you immediately hold up the proverbial mirror and ask yourself what you did and how you can fix it?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

What's Your Starting Lineup?

Knute Rockne once said, "The secret is to work less as individuals and more as a team. As a coach, I play not my eleven best, but my best eleven."

How many of your managers can tell you who there best players are? Probably most of them. How many of them can tell you who there starting team is? I'm sure that most of them would pick their 11 best people and tell you that's their team. But, if your managers are coaches, they know which people work best together and can come together and deliver for you.

Coaches are intimately familiar with their players. They know what combinations of skills to use in any situation to reach the desired outcome. They don't gain this knowledge by sitting in an office all day or by having annual performance reviews. They gain this knowledge by watching their players perform everyday. They run them through drills to enforce the basics, different scenarios to build strategies, and the set plays that need to be run on a regular basis. Only by observing their players does the coach learn which players he needs to put together for any situation.

What kind of drills do your managers run their people through? Yeah, I don't see it happening anywhere either. My question is, why not? How else can they really know who their starting lineup should be?

Monday, March 29, 2010

GRASP Speech

Here's a video of my first Area Competition Speech for Toastmasters. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

More on Coaching

When was the last time you had a coach? Remember those days of hearing those words of encouragement? Or maybe, you're hearing the rant of coach who saw nothing but what you did wrong and needs you to fix it…NOW! Either way, that coach was doing whatever they needed to do to accomplish their job…to make you better. Sometimes those words made you feel great. Your hard work was paying off. Your coach was heaping the praise on you like never before. Other times however, you felt like you couldn't do anything right. The best coaches knew when they needed to offer the praise and when they needed to correct. And when they did, it would ignite something inside you that would make you want to reach deep within and do whatever was necessary to succeed.

When was the last time your manager made you feel that way? We constantly hear about all the things that make for a great leader. How they inspire, they're vision, you want to follow a great leader. But what makes a good manager? Your manager should be your coaches. They are there to inspire, encourage and correct individuals and to form a cohesive team that runs like clockwork. Coaching is not an easy job. You have to know what makes each individual on your team tick. You have to praise one and correct another. You have to know what their strengths and weaknesses are and where they best fit on your team. You have to be constantly aware of what's happening. Is everyone filling their role and are they filling that role correctly?

The coach has to have all of those leadership qualities we hear about. But they also have to manage the team. They know everyone's assignment and how it fits into the game plan. If someone isn't performing the coach is quick to correct. When things are running smoothly, the coach continues to encourage the team. If a team member is tiring (or burning out) the coach will substitute in someone else until that person is ready to go again.

It's a continual process for the coach. Feedback is given constantly. Imagine if the head coach of a Final Four team only sat down with each player once a year to discuss what they're doing right and where they needed to improve. There probably wouldn't be many more Final Four appearances. Yet, that's precisely what we see in business over and over. Ask yourself, are you giving your team constant feedback? Do you know where each person fits on the team? What motivates them? Their strengths and weaknesses? Teams function the same whether it's football, basketball, swimming, accounting, HR or IT. Each player has an assignment. Each assignment aligns with the overall game plan. And the coach puts it all together. The right people doing the right things at the right time for the right reasons. That's what creates champions. Is your team heading to the national championships this year?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Are You a Manager? Or a Coach?

Watching my son play basketball last night reminded me of my days as a coach. I've coached 1st graders in basketball, 3rd graders in flag football and spent several years as a head and assistant high school swim coach. I would have to say those were some of the most fulfilling jobs I've ever had. And the high school swim coaching jobs were the only ones I ever got any money for.

I just finished reading The Talent Code: Greatness Isn't Born. It's Grown. Here's How, by Daniel Coyle and it got me to thinking of how important the job of coaching really is. Anyone who has risen to the top of their game, be it football, golf, music or even accounting, has had the help of a coach. They may not have been called a coach by title, but someone was there coaching them along.

You see, a coach's job is to help people find the things they are doing that do work and emphasize and encourage them, find the things that don't work and fix them and to tap into the inner spark to keep people motivated to keep at it. When I was a swim coach I spent hours walking up and down the pool deck encouraging swimmers when they were doing things right. I'd stop them at the wall and point out something they needed to improve. But it was never the same thing for all of them. Every swimmer was unique. Each one had different areas to improve. All of them needed to know what they were doing right. And they all required something different to keep them motivated.

As I was thinking about all of this I realized I had just discovered what I need in a manager. But most managers today don't act this way. They come to the office with a "one size fits all" method of management. Once a year they sit us down and tell us what's going right and where we need to improve. They call it a "performance review". And it doesn't work!

Coaches are constantly praising and correcting. They know what the team's goals and milestones are, but they are focused on making each individual a better performer. By making each individual better, the team improves. When the team gets better, the goals and milestones take care of themselves. We don't need more managers in business today, we need more coaches. Coaching is NOT an easy job. It's hard. But when you watch each individual on your team get better everyday under your tutelage, there's not a better feeling in the world.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Waiting Never Gets the Job Done � Leadership Freak

Waiting Never Gets the Job Done � Leadership Freak

Let's form a committee and hold a meeting so we can talk about all of the reasons we can't do what we all know we need to do. That about sums up my typical workday. How about yours?

It's time to take a lesson from the kids. You have to try something! If it doesn't work, try something else.

When making the first light bulb Thomas Edison didn't fail 10,000 times, he found 10,000 ways that didn't work.

How many ways to you know that don't work? And how do you know they don't? Unless you have actually tried them, you're just guessing.