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Athletes perform better with coaching, so do business people

Executive Coaching for Team Success

In general, the benefits of executive coaching are well known. The methods are very similar to those used in athletic coaching: Assess performance objectively, compare performance with expectations, introduce activities to improve skills and processes, repeat.

When empowered cross-functional teams are introduced into the hierarchy, executive coaching inherits a higher level of importance. It becomes mandatory.

Executives who have earned their stripes in hierarchical organizations are simply not prepared to deal with empowered teams. The concept itself is the polar opposite of everything they learned as they climbed the corporate ladder.

Coaching Teams in Hierarchies

Our executive coaching services are applied most often as an adjunct to building empowered teams within a hierarchical organization. For example, we build executive coaching services into our Programs. Without executive coaching, we believe the higher a team's performance, the more a team is empowered, the more it will strike fear and uncertainty in the hearts of hierarchical executives.

Without executive coaching, the situation fits the classical metaphor of the irresistible force pitted against the immovable object. Whoever eventually wins, everyone loses.

Team Coaching for Executive Success

Solving problems and exploiting opportunities your business faces is best done by workgroups and teams—people working together interdependently across classical functional and cultural boundaries. Like athletic teams, workgroups and teams in businesses need coaching to achieve and maintain competitive performance levels. They become winners by any measure you may choose. They are self-driven to get ahead and stay ahead of their best competitors. Everyone in the business benefits—especially the executives!

We deliver Team Coaching as a stand-alone service, and it is built into our Programs. Over the span of a typical program, teams build a valuable set of skills and team processes. But left on their own at the end of a Program, most teams wither and die as the hierarchy systematically disassembles them.

Our most successful teams have used our Team Coaching Services for years. That shouldn't come as a surprise. The Chicago White Sox have used team coaching since their humble beginnings as the White Stockings in 1871. Without coaching, they would have failed well before the turn of the century − the 19th century!

Experiential Learning is Subjective and Undependable

A Tragic Sports Example

CNN reported this on Thursday, August 1, 2001, " Minnesota Vikings [a professional football team in the US] offensive tackle Korey Stringer died early Wednesday morning [31 July, 2001] from symptoms related to heat stroke. Stringer, 27, left practice Tuesday because of weakness and rapid breathing. He played six seasons with the Vikings and was a first-time Pro Bowl selection last season. "

The on-air reporter, with 3 years experience playing in the National Football League, added his views. He advocated a league crack-down on the system that drives players to the edge in a competition to win a better slot on the team. Why were they practicing in full pads on the second day of practice in the heat of late July?

The lesson learned, according to this reporter was that the individual players must pay attention to what their bodies are telling them, and know when to quit. He expected the players union to take action to seek ways to prevent something like this from happening again.

Then he came up with something completely different, something very insightful. He hypothesized that if Korey Stringer had not died, and if the Vikings had gone on to win the league championship or the Super Bowl, people may have looked back and cited that grueling second day of practice in full pads in the July heat as the reason they won in the end!

In other words, a different outcome from the same action could have produced a completely different learning. A single instance of practicing in full pads, early in the practice season, in the July heat, could have produced either of two diametrically opposite lessons learned.

The action was the same. The lessons learned could have been completely different.

Flying Examples

Many dead pilots had "learned" that they could fly and land safely with ice on the airframe. Others are still alive and flying because they flew and safely landed an airplane with a load of ice, and were sufficiently impressed to not do it again. A third group of pilots, the largest group, have received sufficiently effective recurrent training and coaching on the dangers of icing, how to avoid it and how to escape immediately from an inadvertent encounter. They are the smart ones!

The Basic Problems With Experiential Learning Without Coaching

Similar experiences produce diametrically opposite learnings! Experiential learning is subjective and based on too few instances. It cannot consistently produce useful results without coaching to add objectivity, to consider a broader range of similar experiences and to make good use of the available body of knowledge of human behavior.

Executive and Team Coaching Solve Those Basic Problems

Getting rid of that dichotomy requires coaching. Coaching brings in a more objective perspective, and it can span a wide enough range of experiences, far beyond your own, to see the range of possible results. Coaching works on the actions that cause the results.

Coaching Examples

People in situations where the outcomes really matter depend on coaching. No one would expect to learn to play a musical instrument well enough to perform in public without coaching. How would you feel if the captain on your next commercial airline flight announced over the loudspeaker that he taught himself to fly?

Upon her return from the Olympics in Sydney, Marion Jones said to the assembled news media that she couldn't wait to get to work with her coach to develop into a higher level of performance. She had 5 Olympic medals from Sydney on her chest when she said that!

The Bottom Line

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