Coaching Off the Field
When I write a blog post I try to relate the topic through a metaphor that will resonate with the audience. Often, I compare these topics to sports; a subject I’m passionate about.
I was excited to write for Switch and Shift because one of the most inspiring aspects of sports is the story of teams coming together, overcoming adversity and, usually, there is a strong leader behind the success of the organization.
When you look at some of the most successful sports teams of the past few decades, each of them had either a coach, seasoned veteran on the team, or a fallen player who created an awakening that helped spur the team to victory. So, this led me to think… “What is it about these leaders that encourages NCAA athletes, and anyone in sports, to gravitate toward them?”
I have a few friends who have played NCAA athletics, and they’ve described this period as one of the most grueling and maturing times of their lives. Not only are these players pushed to the limit by their coaches with four-hour practices, balancing school and oftentimes work, but the players are also “fitting into their skin” as adults.
Relating young professionals in the workplace to these collegiate athletes may seem strange, but think about it… most of these individuals are recent grads. Some have financial debt from their schooling, others have to work additional jobs on the weekend to pay rent (on an entry-level salary), and they need just as much coaching as an NCAA athlete does!
“What is it about these leaders that encourages NCAA athletes, and anyone in sports, to gravitate toward them?”
Some of the best coaches were successful because they truly cared about the success of their players – not just on the field, but also off! They ensured their players were excelling in their courses and developing their passion for community service, and gave them “tough love” when appropriate.
As a Millennial myself, here is what I look for in a workplace leader or mentor:
Are they focused on helping me develop? This can be evident during the regular 9 to 5 workday, but also do they care about me long term?
Do they care about the community and helping me to gain exposure to different teambuilding events, etc.? My company has some great committees that help to build a team environment and expose us to different parts of the business. And this seems to be among the most highly regarded feedback from our new hires!
And, lastly, most Gen Y workers need “tough love.” Young professionals know they have a lot to learn to be great at their jobs. People make mistakes, but having a leader ignore those will never help them grow. They need someone to show them the mistake, and use it as an opportunity to learn about themselves and how to prevent the error in the future.
When you establish your role as a leader to this generation, take this plan of action into account. What type of leader do you want to be?
Some of the best coaches were successful because they truly cared about the success of their players – not just on the field, but also off!
If Bobby Bowden, John Wooden and Lou Holtz sound like people you wouldn’t mind modeling your leadership style after, take this approach with Millennials: Focus on their long-term development, build their passion in community service or task forces and give them tough love as needed.
“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.” -Lou Holtz