Coaching for winners

How to give employees the champion feeling?

What makes a champion? First there is motivation and energy and second the necessary knowledge and skills – but these alone don’t guarantee success.
Instead, it is behaviour that influences the results of sportsmen or managers – and not their personality.

Sport is similar to management. Often, it’s fractions of a second that make the difference between victory and defeat. Some managers succeed in developing their company to a high level, while others fail completely at this. Yet most sportsmen and managers have done the same training or have the same qualifications.
Maybe it’s varying degrees of talent that determine top performance. While it’s true that every occupation and every type of sport requires a certain basis of talent, and for most sports a particular physique has been shown to be an advantage, you need more than this to become a winner. You need passion, drive, self belief and belief in success. Every sportsman and every manager should know how to fan the flames of this passion. This is the source of his motivation, but it often remains buried until success has been achieved. Motivation can also change – just as people change during the course of their lives – often not consciously. A person’s development isn’t a linear process. Some people only become aware of their development long after the process has begun.

Good coaching is more than escorting

With the support of a coach, athletes and managers can discover how to bring out the best in themselves. The manager who can motivate a worker to jump out of his own shadow or the coach who can improve his team so that it breaks records has to do more than guide. He must help to develop the enormous mental strength that will take the worker or athlete to the limits of his physical capacity and lead to maximum performance. Herein lies the coach’s or manager’s major responsibility.

Which competencies and methods does a coach need to have and use in order to develop this hidden motivation? And what do sports coaches and management coaches have in common? Most importantly: the manager must coach more and the coach must manage more.

Unfortunately, to date there have been few scientific findings about how business techniques affect sporting performance and how sport coaching can improve management skills. (Helen Peters offers a start in “Peer coaching for executives” 1996). One thing is sure: a good coach can motivate a top athlete or top manager so that he or she is prepared to risk losing.

What needs to be coached? The answer is the behaviour of the athlete and the behaviour of the manager, since only a change in behaviour can lead to improved performance. The coach needs to recognise, measure and guide behaviour. Robert Kaplan and David Norton describe this relationship: “You can’t manage what you can’t measure, and you can’t measure what you can’t describe”. A team functions differently when its individual members function differently – without having to change either the structure or the goals.

Success factor behaviour change

Many believe that behaviour is mainly influenced by personality and therefore can only be changed with difficulty or not at all. This preconception is dispelled by Robin Stuart-Kotze in his book “Performance” (2006, Pearson Education Benelux):

“The most reliable research into the link between personality and behaviour was done by Professor Walter Mischel from Stanford University. The study looked at the correlation between personality tests and actual behaviour in humans. He came to the conclusion that less than 10% of variations in behaviour can be explained by personality. He found that the driving force behind human behaviour is influenced by the situation in which the individual finds himself – and more importantly, behaviour changes when the situation changes”.

The link between drive and performance is (daily) changing behaviour. Next the situation a person finds himself in and lastly the way in which the situation is perceived. In other words: there is a linear relationship between our perception (mind set) and our performance. The fuel for our ideas is our driving force, the motor is our behaviour. Naturally, parameters such as upbringing, environment, culture and personality all have an effect on the way we behave, but to a lesser extent than has up to now been assumed.

To nurture talent in athletes and managers, coaching has to be future-orientated and positively provocative. Performance can be calculated using the

Mindset Multiplier:

Mindset x (personality+knowledge+ability) x Environment x Behaviour = Performance

Thus, coaching in business as well as in sport is a highly individual. It centres on the person, their talents, ambitions and future expectations. Firms should place more emphasis on this central aspect when giving evaluations. Workers repeatedly complain that here too much emphasis is placed on “passing judgement”.

The fact is, that to be able to select champions, companies have a lot to do in the area of coaching. This is also true for sport; the majority of sports coaches act on the basis of progress based on content, technique and personal experience.

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