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Your Employee Matters


By November 1, 2011No Comments

A recent issue of Volleyball USA shared wise advice from 12 of the top volleyball minds in the nation. As someone who not only has coached kids’ teams, but also many executives, I found valuable pearls of advice in the article that can help all of us to be better managers and leaders:

  • Control the controllable. Don’t spend time dwelling on the last play – good or bad. This holds true of the workplace. What was not controllable is what Dr. Deming would call a general variation. Eliminating general variations is the responsibility of management. Trying to control uncontrollable or special variations is extremely difficult and tends to be a waste of time. Don’t dwell on mistakes made. Correct the problem and move on.
  • Pursue perfection. It’s unattainable, but striving for it will bring out the best in your players. Again, Dr. Deming would say “Amen.” He taught Japanese industry to manufacture toward perfection, not toward a tolerance. This is one reason why the Lexus brand is “the relentless pursuit of perfection.” Do your best to generate perfect hiring, retention, performance, motivation, teambuilding, and compliance practices. Settling for anything less is a mistake.
  • Have fun! The team has to be able to laugh, and sometimes it’s at the coach’s expense. Life is too short to not have fun managing and working with employees. Having fun is a choice. So is being a fun boss – or employee.
  • When under stress, call a timeout. I’ll often call a timeout and gather my work team to do a head check, outside of our “normal schedule.” Owners and coaches have to be sensitive to when it’s time for a timeout.
  • Coaching and functional teams are about relationships of trust. If you want to develop trust in your team, you have to prove yourself to be trustworthy. I believe that trust is the single most important factor in the workplace. People who trust each other perform better. People who trust each other don’t sue each other. The basis for trust lies in both the ability and the desire to perform. That’s true of you and anyone you manage. One of the best ways to know that you can trust somebody is to test their skills and assess their character.
  • Talent isn’t rare. What’s rare is a talented athlete who has the work ethic to become the player they’re capable of becoming. We’ve all seen “talented” employees underperform just because they’re not driven toward excellence. In a sense, they’re wasting their talent. There are also times when management can dampen the desire to perform, especially when most of the energy focuses on pointing out mistakes rather than acknowledging victories.
  • Championship teams find ways to win when it’s difficult to do so. Things aren’t going to be rosy all the time – just ask anyone who’s been in business for the past three years. However, even in a recession many companies have survived and thrived. As the saying goes, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going!”
  • Although coaches are change agents, they need to buy in before there can be any significant change. Bosses are change agents, too! How well are you selling your vision and getting buy-in? How can you make the notion of change something that people embrace rather than try to protect themselves against?
  • Design your offensive and defensive system around your athletes, not your athletes around your system. Determine the strengths and weaknesses of your employees and design a system that plays to their strengths. Again, there’s a consistent theme of being clear about employee skill sets and affinities. None of us are good enough to guess at these things – that’s the value of using testing and assessment tools. Ultimately, you need to put a square peg into a square hole.
  • Winning is a by-product of taking care of your players. Focus on helping them become better people and they will become better players. I’m always amazed how many employers don’t understand this. Very few employers are willing to invest in their employees and prefer to squeeze what they can out of them. If you’re not engaging in education, teambuilding, and other ways of growing your people, there’s no way you’ll be a long-term winner.
  • The worst mistake you can make is being afraid to make mistakes. Amen! In fact, we have to make mistakes faster than our competition. We try to mitigate against the potential of making a mistake. See the Webinar I did on “Stop Making Mistakes!”
  • As a coach, you get what you tolerate, whether errors, technique, or behavior. As the Buddha said, “What comes to you comes from you.” What are you tolerating in yourself or others? Are you the type of coach/boss who settles for mediocrity because demanding excellence might require a different quality of effort on your part?
  • The “we” is greater than the “me.” Business is a team sport. As they say, there’s no “I” in team. Are you focused on providing incentives for the team first or individuals first? Remember, a rising tide floats all boats. Check out the five-minute video I did on a powerful team-building technique.
  • Don’t allow your people into the game until they’re ready to play. Do your employees come to work ready to perform? How many employees prefer to begin the workday by gossiping? As one of the coaches stated, “Once they walk in, it’s time to go to work.” They should do their talking, texting, and lounging elsewhere.
  • Get the best athletes who qualify for your program. There’s no substitute for getting the right person in every seat on the bus. Great coaches know this – and so do great business leaders. The book Good to Great makes this point loud and clear.
  • If players have excellent results using their own style, do not change their technique. This is always a Catch-22, especially in the sales arena. For example, you might want your salespeople to sell a certain way that goes against the grain of how a very successful person is selling currently. Remember, what matters most is producing results.
  • Select the skills to teach by identifying the most athletic movements, and copying the great players. This idea of “modeling” applies to successful people and companies. What’s the most important activity or function that your most productive employees perform? What is it about the “how” of their performance that all people who perform this function should consider a “best practice” (bearing in mind the advice about letting top performers stick to their own style)?
  • Enter the gym with the beginner’s mind. Every day offers an opportunity to improve, as long as players remain open to learning. The same thing holds true for coaches and bosses. Do you come to work every day with a “beginner’s mind”? Conversely, do you think you’ve figured it all out already? A great question to ask yourself is: “What can I learn today?”

To what degree are the owners, managers, and supervisors at your company following these well-tested bits of coaching wisdom?