The Best Ones Are Winning Coaches.  

Most people when asked what a leader looks like respond by identifying various titles such as: certain presidents, maybe senators, scientists, governors, military leaders, various business leaders, and…successful athletic coaches.

Why are coaches included in this list of esteemed individuals? Because all “good coaches” are leaders and coaching effectiveness is maximized by understanding how to lead people to greatness beyond where they thought they could ever venture on their own.

In a way, the relationship between coaches and players is a consensual agreement or contract. Players will follow the coach’s directives, wishes or demands and in return they expect their reward, whether that is winning, playing time, positive reinforcement, skills improvement, increased self-esteem or some other benefit. With that in mind, a coach has the distinguished and profoundly important obligation to find out what each of his or her team members “wants, needs and desires” are. Find these out early and leading becomes easier and much more effective.

I visited a store not long ago and asked several managers about their sales people. The managers could rattle off numbers and stats but none of them could really tell me much of anything about the personal lives of their people because they never take the time to do “one-on-ones” and find out what truly drives these folks. Find out what their dreams are and you find the secret to their motivation.

The real leaders can and do effectively get their team members to “believe” in the ultimate team and individual goal fulfillments. The great coaches believe in the law of expectation which simply states you must full-heartedly “expect” things to improve, must expect to win, must expect yourself to become better at what you do, must expect the right things to occur and so on. It is with the thoughts of expectation that we can actually attain greatness in anything we do.

When we look back on our early years growing up, most of us can identify a few people who influenced and enriched our lives. Most often, that person was an athletic coach. Various reasons lead us to that conclusion; common goals – winning, improvement, helping teammates, feelings of good self esteem (if you had the right coach) and you left better than you came. These are a few of the good memories we came away with and as a consequence we anchored our feeling that this coach was a leader.


Mine was a baseball coach who continually told me I had more talent to give and after a while I began to believe him and then a strange thing happened; I became a better third baseman and hitter than I thought I was capable of. Sure there were days we had to receive a little discipline and maybe get a little chewing on but this “leader” always left us with the positive thoughts of expectation and that was “hey next time you will get it right, now get out there and give your best because you are good at what you do.” What thoughts of expectation are you leaving your players with?

Here are some simple playbook ideas for specific implications of what the coach, as a leader should be consistently applying on a daily basis:

“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” – Henry Ford

Master and Apply Current Knowledge
Be willing to learn and take time to understand correct mechanics, strategies, and the fundamental principles of the game (business). You better be getting trained along with them so you will know what they do. Key point – It takes growing managers to grow people so show your team that you are learning, growing and passing what you have learned along to them.

Develop Interpersonal Skills
Developing interpersonal skills especially communication skills is one of the most important assets for a good coach. Have a sense of humor and scrap the sarcasm. Players need to feel that they can approach you because if they don’t feel that way problems can multiply.

The key is you have to know your team members. Coach Vince Lombardi treated every player as a unique individual. He customized his approach to fit each person and avoided the assemble line management style that treats people like another head in a herd of cattle. He was fond of saying, “My job is to find forty different ways to move forty different men.”

Lombardi knew that Bart Starr hated being yelled at in public, so he didn’t. He confronted him privately. On the other hand, he knew that Lee Caffey responded to a harsher, more direct approach and was happy to do just that. Max McGee, the star receiver, abhorred blocking drills so Lombardi found a way around them for him – as long as he performed well.

Eliminate All Dehumanizing Language.
Ben Franklin said it best; “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” Treat each person with the dignity and respect that they deserve. Give positive reinforcement rather than negative feedback. Offer solutions when criticism is required and remember to leave them with an “up” statement like “I know that’s not like you and I am certain that next time you will do it much better.” Your kids will emulate your actions and words and so will your employees. If you condone a certain style of poor word choices you are perpetuating and infecting that style throughout your organization and your customers as well.

Control Your Emotions.
Athletes look at their coach as the role model and will emulate their behavior. If coaches are on the sidelines yelling at officials and throwing chairs, what message is that sending to the players? Watch your mouth because everyone else is. Remaining calm in stressful situations is a learned skill. Sure, you must recognize the problematic issue at hand but a great coach or leader knows he or she must immediately begin seeking out solutions to the problem.

Help Your Players SetTheir Own Goals.
Goals need to be established as a team and as an individual. Goals should be something that the individuals can actually achieve. Coaches are there to guide players in the goal setting process as well as the evaluation of the goals but they are not there to tell the player what their goal is or what their goal should be. Make certain you are investing time in performing “employee evaluations on a regular schedule.”

Live in the Present.
Players don’t need to be consistently reminded how good you or your team was last year or in prior years. You may use the past as an example as to how you overcame obstacles but don’t compare your players or team to prior years. Too many managers hang their hats on yesterday. That is the past now let’s learn from it and do it again but even better.

Provide Opportunities for Success.
Provide good practices, time for game planning, sensible scheduling and a pleasant atmosphere. The administrative aspects of the job are just as important as any other aspect. Planning, preparation, training and budgeting are very important functions. A coach must be a leader, teacher, friend, mentor and an administrator all at once.

Coaching Skills Required.

Good coaching does require skills in motivation, decision making, process adherence, stress management, integrity, compassion, vision, performance counseling, mentoring, goal setting, delegation, communication, synergy molding, conflict resolution and team development. It also requires advanced skills in conceptual thinking, organizational design, organizational dynamics, analytical decision-making, financial decision-making, project management, and process improvement.

Give me a well instructed, growing leader that can show and prove to his or her team that ‘what you think and what you feel and what happens is always a match.’ In other words, if you are providing constant team development through solid leadership practices and encouragement, your team will improve and your sales will increase to new levels. Conversely, if you are beating up your people to do better without the necessary new elements geared towards education and new tools to do so you will fail. Your responsibility is to get your team playing for the name on the front of the jersey not the back.

Every coach has the “potential” ability to lead a team to greatness but it takes hard work to become a good successful one. By following and living the mentioned guidelines, you will on a solid path to becoming the best coach your team has experienced. And maybe, just maybe you will be on someone’s roster of the best leaders who affected their life and made it better.

If you are looking for some coaching guidelines to enrich your team, send me an email referencing this article and I will be happy to get that out to you.

Author: Chuck Barker

Chuck Barker is President & Founder of Impact Marketing & Consulting Group, located in Virginia. He has assisted dealers & corporations across the country in sales & service development training programs, management leadership workshops and business improvement consulting. He is a pioneer in BDC, CRM, Best Processes and Team Member Development since the early ‘90’s. He worked in Corporate and International Executive positions. Chuck has been a monthly contributor for Dealer Magazine for over 11 years. Email: