Whether you are a coach, a teacher or a manager, you job is to get the people you are in charge of to their next level. Everyone has a different ceiling, and you cannot mentor everyone in the same manner. But I firmly believe that if you are in that role, it is your job to make sure they can level up.
Facilitate their metamorphosis into the butterfly they you know they can be.
Having spent over 25 years as a coach on the racquetball court, I have put in countless hours teaching life lessons disguised as racquetball skills. It took me a while to catch on to this, but everyone from a CEO to a young adult benefited from the discipline and the forces rehearsal of the skills we were working on. They took this approach into other areas of their lives, and saw improvement because of it. Not only was the fitness of playing racquetball a good addition to their lives, but the discipline of learning new skills on the court clearly had benefit off of the court.
Now that I have spent 13 years at ASU as the coach of a team instead of just random individuals, I can really see the different personalities coming into play and how each person must be coached differently. Some of the girls need a kick in the butt, some of the guys need a pat on the back. It is not always obvious who needs what from you to bring out their best. Getting the best out of someone requires you to get to know them and what motivates them most. Some have a huge desire to please, others did it for themselves and the by-product is that their wins benefit the team as a whole. There were many a student that never thought being a Collegiate All American was achievable, especially in a sport they may not have played much before college. Racquetball is in the unique position of being a designated sport where recognition through the US Olympic committee affords this luxury. Helping someone reach this designation in their time with me has been one of my most proud accomplishments as a coach.
While I have not spent much time in a true classroom-based teaching role, I have functioned in this capacity as a coach for a majority of my life. I am actually in the process of exploring the possibility of teaching in a classroom setting in the near future, hoping to parlay my experiences into teachable moments. I love the idea of helping someone discover more about themselves, or overcome an obstacle to what they are trying to achieve. The thought that years from now I would run into someone who comes to me and says: “thank you for what you taught me, it had a huge impact on my life” would be so satisfying I can barely describe it. I have had this on the small scale that the racquetball team has provided, and expanding that to the University level classes to amplify my potential impact is quite enticing.
Having been a Sales Manager in several different companies, I have employed the same approach to those teams as well. Some want to excel, some want to stay in their role; it is my job to figure out who is who and manage them accordingly. The best thing I can do in my role as a Manager is to train my replacement. Elevating someone to the next level of their career is a primary job of mine in that role as Manager, and whether they take my place because I moved up, or moved on, my job is to facilitate that metamorphosis. Sometimes you have a person who already stands out as a sales person, and doesn’t need much encouragement or pushing. In fact, in some cases you are better off letting that person do their thing and focus on the others, assuming they are not abusing this freedom. Again, learn who you are working with and manage them accordingly.
Here is the takeaway from this: You can’t be a good Coach, Teacher or Manager by being selfish.
You have to give of yourself, unconditionally, to all who will receive your help. Not everyone will, and you can’t really change that in most cases. But pouring as much of yourself into others for their benefit is the key to success in developing those in your charge into the best versions of themselves. Your reward is seeing them succeed, knowing you helped make a difference. Don’t expect to be named when they are on stage receiving an award, or they land a big contract or get promoted. Those moments are not about you, those belong to the individual. Your contribution was a small part in the overall process, and they did 95% of the work in most cases. You had a flashlight and led them out of the dark for a while, they finished the rest of the hike by themselves. Take pride in your small contribution, knowing that you made a difference. Then quickly move on to the next, as there are many more people in need of your knowledge and experience.
Lead by example, and raise up those around you. Always…as THAT is the best measure of a leader.