Coaching is one of the most critical ways of improving a sportsman’s performance. It covers several different aspects of a sportsman’s being including technique, fitness and mental preparation. In business effective coaching is something that is talked about often but very difficult to define and implement. In this article we examine the ways business can learn from sport in order to improve.
In business the general idea is that a manager imparts knowledge to his or her workforce over a period of time and gradually improves their performance with monitoring. The thought that comes to mind is of the mentor and the student. This is not dissimilar to the relationship between a sport’s coach and the person he or she is coaching but in sport coaching seems to produce results that businesses can only dream of.
If we take the example of a swimmer in sport we can see that the way in which they are coached would be quite hard to replicate in a business environment. Not every session is a competition and not every swim just targeted at achieving a personal best. In business every day we chase targets and although we accept that we will be judged on the month’s performance we don’t have the “run about” day that sportsman and women enjoy.
So, for managers, coaching can be hard. It is like trying to improve a runner’s technique whilst running a marathon. The closest we as managers often come to coaching staff is the much maligned “Training Day”. Although these days are often met with a sneer by employees they do at least have the advantage of taking place outside of the normal work environment.
On a day to day basis coaching becomes more difficult as there never seems to be the time and structure necessary to coach employees. What possible coaching program could be implemented to help a sandwich maker enjoy a 5% increase in production? Although it seems silly, if sandwich making were an Olympic sport you could bet that the technique would have been analysed and improved and a coaching program developed to ensure all sandwich makers attempt to achieve set targets.
And that is the real problem with coaching. It only works if there are set ways to evaluate performance. Coaching an employee for any task is pointless unless there exists a way in which to measure performance and crucially whether the coaching is actually improving the employee. If a suitable way to measure performance can be found it is then necessary to produce a set of S.M.A.R.T. targets for the employee to create a steady but noticeable increase in production.
Just like in sport.
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