I consistently see four reasons why coaches fail.
1. Lack of character
2. Can’t build a culture that allows people to flourish.
3. Poor staff hires.
4. Poor staff management.
I want to focus on #4, managing your staff. I frame this with ‘the reason coaches fail’ to bring even more weight to the importance of leaders managing and developing their staff.
As I mentioned, I am working on an ebook about staff leadership. Below are key principles and tactics to better manage your staff.
It is important that you clearly lay out the expectations, roles and responsibilities for your assistants. If you’re not clear, both you and your assistants will be frustrated.
It is also important to create an environment where everyone trusts each other.
Anthony Lynn, the head football coach of the Los Angeles Chargers (that feels so weird to type… my first draft said San Diego Chargers!) had this to say about staff development,
“What I tried to do right off the bat, which I felt was really important, was to create as much trust and accountability as possible with the coaching staff. We did it through some workshops and exercises. We’d do OTAs in the morning and take the afternoon to do workshops. I thought it helped me understand and learn my coaching staff a little better. We did evaluations on each person as far as personality, just to learn to communicate better and create more clarity. Because if we have it, it’s easier to teach it to the players. The players see everything. If they see us interacting with one another in a certain way, then they interact with each other that way. I just believe when there’s trust, it’s easier to have healthy conflict with one another and get the best ideas. If you don’t have that, you’re not getting the best ideas.”
Trust, in general, is built by:
1. Having high character,
2. Being a good leader and coach (or to put another way, being competent).
Character: You don’t have to be perfect but there must be alignment with what you say and what you do. If there ever is a moment of misalignment, you must own it.
Competent: You don’t have to be Vince Lombardi, Phil Jackson, Pat Summit, or Anson Dorrance, but you have to be able to help people develop…both the student-athlete and the assistants.
Care: You don’t have to be mother Teresa but you must have genuine care and concern for your staff.
What This Looks Like Practically:
Leaders must create an environment of healthy, consistent feedback and communication as well as a “we are in this together” mindset.
Doing things like eating lunch together is small but important.
Give them assignments that enhance their development. Several head coaches I know will have assistants give presentations on different topics to the rest of the staff. This opportunity to teach is critical to development.
Ten-Minute Meetings can be really helpful. This is simply scheduling short 10-minute meetings with each staff member each week. This meeting can kill about 5 birds with one stone:
- You get filled in on how they are doing and what they are working on.
- It gives you a chance to check in on them.
- You can address and correct any issues that you have seen.
- It gives you a chance to encourage.
- Scheduling this meeting gives you a forcing function to keep short accounts with each assistant (not going weeks without one on one contact).
- It creates consistent one on one communication.
The ripple effect of a poorly managed and led staff is scary. It has led to the demise of many leaders. Don’t take this lightly. The way you lead and manage your staff will often determine the success of your program.
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