Are You Being the Leader Your Team Needs to Win?
If you’re interested in college basketball, you’ve seen some wonderful examples of coaches getting the most out of their players in the recent NCAA men’s and women’s March Madness tournaments.
The most successful coaches aren’t using any “magic” when their players perform at an elite level — they’ve put in the time, effort, sweat, blood and soul into teaching, supporting and mentoring the players in their programs. When we’re watching sports, most people fundamentally understand that.
However, as leaders in our dealership, are we taking that example to heart?
As a young man, I was a wrestler in the highly competitive Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, region. The lessons I took from my coaches — and those I’d learn from my Theory of 5 mentors — shaped my life in ways that went well beyond the mat. These leaders have shaped my life, and I’ve strived to internalize their lessons and pass them along to those I’ve coached over the years.
I believe there are four key takeaways we can learn from the most successful coaches to bring to our dealerships.
We All Need Coaching
There are people in this world who believe they are “self-made” individuals who never got any outside assistance when attaining success. Others seem “destined” for greatness. Their talent, drive and good fortune made their success all but inevitable.
When we look at these so-called “self-made” people a bit closer, we’ll see the teachers, coaches and others who have instructed them on using their talents. We’ll see those who had a hand in shaping their future. No matter how much raw talent there was, it was just that — raw. Talent needs to be refined and focused to achieve its potential. Michael Jordan, LeBron James and every other sports star you could name has had several coaches and mentors in their lives and careers, and they wouldn’t have had the success they enjoy without those leaders.
No matter how talented a salesperson might be in your department, there’s always room for improvement. When we work with them, everyone will achieve more than they could have on their own.
Coaches Show They Care About the Person, Not Just the Result
When we strive to achieve something that takes work and effort, will there be failures? Of course. That’s how we grow — we reach for things beyond our grasp until we grow enough to achieve our goal. Great coaches demonstrate with both their words and their actions that they care about the individual, not just the immediate result.
Teddy Roosevelt is quoted as saying that, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Read that quote out loud. If we treat our team as interchangeable cogs in a machine and only care about the results, we’ll demoralize those who might have been great one day and chase away those who are great at this moment. Coaching requires investment. When our team members see that we have their best interests at heart, they’ll put in the extra work to show that our time and effort aren’t wasted on them. The results will come when our team knows that we support them and will invest the time to build their skills, habits, attitudes and results.
Only Perfect Practice Makes Perfect
Great coaches know that the adage “practice makes perfect” is inaccurate. As legendary coach Vince Lombardi pointed out, “Only perfect practice makes perfect.” If we’re practicing and rehearsing with bad information or poor form, we’re only reinforcing the wrong behavior.
As coaches, we can’t be afraid to correct shortcomings that we see in our team. When they’re doing something wrong, no matter how much work they put into the effort, they’re not going to get the returns they’re looking for. Much like a physical trainer can show us the proper form to use when exercising to get the most out of our effort — and avoid injuries — it’s up to us as leaders to instruct, demonstrate and mentor our team in the correct way of conducting their business.
The Coach and Team Challenge Each Other to Become Better
The greatest coaches know that there are certain fundamentals that will never become outdated, but as the game evolves and new ideas are encountered, their strategies will have to evolve, as well. Likewise, wise coaches learn from their players even as their players learn from them.
There’s a verse from the Bible that states, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” As leaders, we should challenge ourselves to be in the game — not above it. If one of our people has an idea, we should listen. Even if they don’t have much experience, they might see opportunities that we don’t.
We’ll become better at our profession by supporting and guiding others to become better. It provides us with a source of empathy — putting ourselves in our team member’s place and seeing things from their point of view. We will also discover ways to improve in areas we may have previously taken for granted by understanding them from a different perspective. In this way, we’ll become better coaches, which will make for a stronger team and a more prosperous and productive future.