Chicago Bulls

Now That’s the Making of a Great Coach

Now That’s The Making of A Great Coach
Matt Fankhauser

Is athletic coaching and leadership coaching in the business world the same thing? It is this writer’s opinion that we can equate the value of team coaching to just about any corporate team. The role of a great leader is to be a great coach, change agent, and motivator. Many lessons parallel in both the business world and amateur and professional sports world. For example, tracking and measuring the results of the influence of a coach is when the time runs out, there is always a score to indicate whether the coaching and learning’s are transferring to results.

Many successful coaches have been noted in the sports world. John Wooden, a legend of the NCAA Basketball world, won ten National Championships during his reign at UCLA. Phil Jackson helped the Chicago Bulls to five NBA Championships and then led the Los Angeles Lakers to three. Bill Belichick led the New England Patriots to three NFL Super Bowl victories in four years, an uncommon feat in today’s world of professional sports. The common thread among these coaches was the ability to not only win one championship, but several championships, and all within a close time frame. If these coaches were not winning championships, they were consistently near the top of their respective professions. Great coaches are able to not only obtain great performance and results with their team, but to also sustain results and high performance over time.

So the question now is how do these coaches achieve better performance than the others? What traits and characteristics can we benchmark and take away from the sports world and apply to leadership coaching in business? Let’s take a closer look at one of the fore mentioned coaches, Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots. What made him the coach he is today? There are 3 specific areas that set him apart from the ordinary:

1. He emulated and developed a leadership coaching style from other great mentors and coaches.
2. He selected team players to fit his strategy and concept of a team.
3. He surrounded himself with the effective supporting coaches.

1. Bill Belichick’s first model was his father, Steve Belichick a very much respected football coach. He was a “lifer” spending most of his career at Navy, where he coached football for 33 years. Steve was viewed by his peers as a coach’s coach and was considered an original teacher of the game. It was said that he had no equal in preparing his players for a game. Steve was completely dedicated to his craft and he passed on a relentless work ethic his son. Steve taught his son Bill that football “…was not just a game, it was a profession….something to be proud of.”
Bill Belichick also had the advantage to be mentored by another successful coach, Steve Sarota, his high school coach. Sarota coached for over 41 years at Andover, Maryland. When the attitudes of young players in the 1960’s demanded a change in the game of football, Sarota hardly changed at all. It was a time when young men and women questioned authority and no longer automatically obeyed the rules of the coach or the dean. This meant that a style of influence skills would need to be different, but for Sarota this was easy. A formidable authority figure, he coached by persuasion, not orders and yelling. He would always explain to his players, in a calm voice, what they needed to do in a given game, and which part of their mission he expected them to execute on. Sarota taught with great skill, which had an exemplary effect on the young men in his program. Sarato could reach into the deepest part of a player and help develop character. He taught that excellence was valued, mistakes would be made, even expected, and the game was always fun. His expectations of players were simple, be in good shape and to listen to the coaches. He never belittled his players and never had to discipline. The rules were set, they were clear, and no one fooled around on Sarota’s time. None of this escaped Bill Belichick.

2. Bill Belichick clearly understands the concept of teamwork. Many people are impressed that Bill stays focused on this concept, even when outside forces consistently work against it. In football there may be as many as 40 players that play important roles in any given victory, although the media might only celebrate one or two individuals. It is easy to see how this team building can be damaged by pre-game hype and interviews by the media highlight the stars, instead of the team collectively. Coach Belichick keeps his players focused on the whole. As was evident when New England took the field in its first Super Bowl. Each player is typically introduced one by one. Belichick instead told the league officials his team would be introduced as a team, all at once, with confidence. But in a sport where individual egos are constantly fed, finding “team” players can be a real challenge.

3. Bill Belichick also understands that one man cannot do it all. If he were to make the team great he needed find good talent. Bill spends a great deal of time and energy in choosing and selecting the right players. When Bill played football at Andover, he became associated with another player, Ernie Adams. The two had been intrigued with football at an early age. In high school, they called themselves football nerds and the connection among them was immediate and lasting. Adams became a highly talented scout and master of film evaluation. After 30 years of coaching, Belichick and Adams finally found themselves coaching in the biggest game of their lives, the Super Bowl and considered the major underdog. But they had done their preparation and coaching, their team won. At the end of the game, Ron Jaworski, a retired NFL star player was quoted as saying, “Belichick is the best in the game today, maybe the best ever.”

We can learn from Bill Belichick and the world of sports by applying a few simple leadership coaching elements to the business world.

1. Look for good coaches and learn from them. By making ourselves better coaches today, we will also be patterning a way for the future leaders and coaches of our organizations.

2. Be sure to be focused on the team concept, not on star rewards. We need to be able to coach each team member to be his or her best, keeping his/her focus on the need of teamwork as a whole.

3. Surround yourself with people that can and will assist and support your efforts as the leader, who will provide the right coaching at all levels in the organization.

Amazing results can be obtained in any organization if coaches remember these three simple thoughts.

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