I was reminded this summer how managing a little league baseball pitcher and managing an employee can be strangely similar. Coaches and leaders have high expectations for the people on their team as both shoulder the responsibility to prepare their teams for success.
Great leaders and coaches make informed and well-reasoned decisions:
» As a Coach: You name a starting pitcher based on your team’s needs. “Billy you’re going to be our starting pitcher because the team we are playing really likes to hit fastballs and you throw a really nice change-up. You’ll be able to keep them off balance.”
» As a Leader: You hire employees based on the needs of the organization. “Becky, I’d like to offer you a role on our team. We need to increase our service levels to our clients, and I think your knack for following -up and your personality will really make our clients happy.”
Great leaders and coaches provide guidance and expectation along the way:
» As a Coach: “Great job, Billy! Remember to keep your change-up low, and away from the batter, otherwise, they may hit it over the fence.”
» As a Leader: “Becky, I really like how you are staying in touch with our clients, make sure you set regular reminders to follow-up, or things may fall through the cracks.”
Great Leaders and coaches spot signs of trouble in performance and address it immediately:
» As a Coach: Billy has walked a couple batters and seems frustrated. Time for a visit to the pitcher’s mound. “Billy, can you tell me what’s going on? Does your arm hurt? Are your mechanics correct? Why don’t you try this…”
» As a Leader: Becky’s metrics have started to slip, and her engagement is off. “Becky, in looking at our performance management metrics, I see a trend that is going in the wrong direction. Help me understand why that is. How can I help? Why don’t you try this…”
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Problems don’t age well if poor performance lingers. Great coaches and leaders do something about it:
» As a Coach: It’s your job to determine when Billy has done his best but must be taken out of the game for a relief pitcher, regardless of the reason why. If you leave Billy in the game when he is clearly struggling, and he gives up more runs… that’s on you as a manager.
» As a Leader: It’s your role to recognize when things aren’t going well for an employee and determine if the issue is with the employee’s skill set, the current environment or if they are in the right seat within the organization.
Great leaders and coaches put their players and employees in a position to succeed:
» As a Coach: Billy may have been taken out of the game as a pitcher, but you point out all the right things he did and how he’s helped the team. Keep his confidence high and put him in another position.
» As a Leader: Sometimes good employees are just in the wrong seat. If the employee fits the values of the organization, works hard and wants to succeed, look for a role where they may be more successful. It might not be under your management, and that is OK.
The bottom line is that it is the leader’s responsibility to recognize when things are not going as planned and address the situation calmly and rationally. I’ve found that people (and kids) appreciate transparency. People know when they are struggling, and at times, it’s a relief to admit it. Make sure that you address any performance issues early, honestly and with a plan for how to help them succeed.
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