Before you become a leader, success is all about growing yourself. After you become a leader, success is all about growing others into successful leaders.
Former CEO of GE
Flying coast to coast is a long flight, but I had my aisle seat and two open seats between me and the window, with the doors ready to close.
The thought of a 5-hour flight doesn’t seem so bad knowing that there is space to spread out if one wants to.
Needless to say a couple darted onboard just before the doors closed and meandered down the aisle stopping to insert themselves between me and the window.
"Just my luck", I thought to myself before getting up from my seat to allow them to enter the row.
The couple seemed a bit frazzled but were very happy that they had managed to make their connection.
A friendly conversation ensued between the three of us as we discussed our individual reasons for our journey to Buffalo, NY.
As it turns out, the couple was returning to New York after a brief visit to see their daughter, who is currently attending Texas A&M.
As the plane ascended, we chatted about business, politics and some of our shared travel experiences.
They told me that they were currently living in New York, but that they had lived in several places around the country over the past 30 years for work.
Naturally, I asked him what he did for a living, to which he replied in a confident yet bashful type way, "I’m a currently a coach for the Buffalo Bills... but I’ve been a part of several collegiate and professional football coaching staffs over the past 30 years... so this is what has allowed us to live in so many places".
The conversation was coming to a natural end when he explained that he needed to get some work done before their team meetings on Monday.
He preceded to set up what looked like a special "iPad type" device with control that allowed him to quickly view, rewind and replay game video using a special clicker type device.
After watching a particular play in a game situation, he scribbled some notes, rewound the video and watched it again, this time slowly going through the film frame by frame until the play was complete.
He made additional notes and watch the same play again... and again.
Each time he directed his attention to different players, watching technique and execution. He also watched intently, the opposing players, as to discover some hidden flaw that might be exploit the next time the Bills played against that particular player.
Now I have no idea as to whether or not this particular coach was a star player at one time but he appeared to be taking his job very seriously as a coach.
In fact, many of the best coaches were never the most talented or skilled players on their respective teams.
Many times, the best baseball managers were mediocre players, perhaps playing the position of catcher or relief pitcher. Yet despite their lack of certain skills, they have become experts in understanding how the game is played and how to communicate their knowledge to players.
With proper training and coaching, a player can develop raw talents into true skills that will ultimately help the team...
A great coach truly understands the mechanics of success. They can watch a player perform a task and help that player to make small adjustments to achieve better results.
Just because a player was good at doing their own job, doesn’t mean that they can be successful at coaching others.
One of the greatest hitters in baseball during my lifetime was Tony Gwynn. He played as a professional for 20 years, lead the league in hitting 8 times, and ended his career with a lifetime batting average of .338... good enough to elect him the baseball hall-of-fame on the first ballot he was eligible.
Yet despite his great on field success as a player, Tony Gwynn was at best an average manager... even at the collegiate level where he coached San Diego State for several unremarkable seasons.
He knew a lot about hitting... yet he couldn’t take what he knew... and use that knowledge to help develop others into great hitters.
I often see this same principle often applied in a business setting over and over again.
Often a company will often have a star salesperson who has achieved a great deal of success in sales.
After many years of stellar performance, the company will promote this individual to the position of sales manager.
Here is the classic case of a square peg in a round hole.
Unfortunately the salesperson typically knows just one thing... how to sell. They often know practically nothing about hiring, training or coaching other sales people.
As my friend Jack Daly often tells people in his books and seminars, the number one job of the sales manager is NOT to grow sales... the number one job of a sales manager is to grow sales people... in both quantity and quality.
The skill set needed to grow sales people is 180 degrees from that of growing sales... a sales manager is a teacher and coach... not someone who can sell.
To illustrate my point, I often see that "star salesperson turn sales manager" go out on sales calls with a member of their sales team. The idea here is to allow the sales manager to observe the sales techniques of the salesperson and then offer up small suggestions in how to improve their performance.
What often happens however, is that the sales manager ends up taking over the sales call from salesperson in order to save the sales call.
While this might have saved the sales call... it did nothing to actually help improve the salesperson.
It wasn’t the salesperson who failed on this call... it was the sales manager who failed.
While I used the example of the sales manager, I see this same principle applied across the entire spectrum of a company, promoting individuals based on seniority or current job performance rather than on talents and skills needed to lead others to find success.
Managing people is a misnomer. We should not be managing people... we should be managing tasks not people.
Instead of managing people... we should be leading them... we should be coaching them... we should be watching them in action, observing what they are doing right and wrong and then help them to get better.
Providing feedback to individuals and organizations is critically important if they hope to improve.
When sports teams fail to meet certain objectives, the ownership rarely fires the players... but rather the coach or manager.
However in business... it is rarely the leaders who are held accountable for failure, but rather the frontline workers, who have been inadequately trained and coached.
These same workers are often the ones typically scapegoated for the company’s poor performance rather than the true perpetrators... the leaders of the company.
Imagine a world where people are inspired to become better teachers, coaches, and leaders rather than simply better "doers"...
...our goal then should be not only to make ourselves better... but rather to make everyone around us better as well...
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