Name a sports team that has experienced consistent success without a leader (a.k.a, a coach in the sports world). The leader who stands at the sidelines and looks at everything holistically, making decisions to help the team, but not being part of the plays. There are
none. No sports team has succeeded without a leader. Yes, some may have had short-term success, but sports have proven that the player/coach strategy (where the leader is also part of all the plays), is not effective to ensure long-term success.
Now consider our work teams; do they have a dedicated coach, or do they have a player/coach scenario?
I’d suggest that the majority employ the later. Yes, there’s a leader, but they are also expected to be part of all the plays. They’re dragged so much into the day-to-day work and operations that they struggle to find the space to be a real leader.
Teams need a dedicated leader who is on the sidelines observing the team, constantly analyzing how they work together, their performance and what they need to do to improve. This is very hard for a leader to do if they’re being dragged into all the plays. Yes, some plays are so strategically important that they need to be involved, but we’ve turned everything into urgent and are treating all risks the same. So, the leader plays every play, becomes a player/coach and is no longer leading.
So, let’s start to allow leaders to do what they were originally hired to do – give them the space to lead. If you drag them ‘upstairs’ to brief every time there’s an operational issue, or a budget discussion, then they’re not leading their team. If they’re expected to be part of all discussions, then they’re a player/coach and are not leading their team.
It’s time to let leaders lead. How?
First, look at all the decisions that are held at every leadership level. Every decision is a play, and if those plays are worth it, then so be it, let the leader be part of it. But stop making the leader be involved in every play. Allow delegation, trust others to make the decisions, and embrace the fact that true growth is only achieved through mistakes and failure. These are the only constants in anything you’ve ever been successful at.
The second strategy is also taken from sports teams – giving the leader some coaching staff. Make sure every leader and every team has access to a leadership coach. Someone who can integrate into the team and observe the interactions, analyze decision-making processes that are used, and view things from a more holistic perspective. Someone who’s not playing the plays.
And I’m not talking about a consultant who will be received with scepticism from most. Without being part of the team, and without the chance to build and maintain trust, they’ll remain ‘consultants’ who provide advice that doesn’t have to be taken.
I’m talking about hiring a leadership coach permanently on the organizational chart.
Stop making your leaders be the player and coach. Let them lead, and give them coaching staff to help them.