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Lessons to take from the field to the office: Coaching employees like team players

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Business Advice

It is often said that people who play sports make better employees. This association stems from the belief that athletes know what it takes to train hard for a goal and what it takes to actually win a game. So, naturally, once they step off the field and onto a job site, they know what it takes to accomplish a goal (like completing a project or selling a product) and they know what it take to win (such as a new sale, deal or job).

In the game of business, your employees need to be good players and you, the owner, need to be a good coach. From the get go, you need to build a strong relationship with your team and you need to keep the lines of communication open so your “players” know to come to you for assistance, just as they would with a coach.  

Coaching in the workplace is best described as strategic employee development.

Train employees as you would athletes and you’ll see the benefits of a winning team.

Show your players how it’s done:

Just as a hands-on hockey coach is inclined to pick up a stick and demonstrate how to execute a move to his players, show your workers how to do what you want them to do. People learn from example – your employees should observe you doing the work to better understand how to execute their job.

Hold regular team practices:

Team practices are necessary for many reasons, namely so new players can learn the rules of the game, boost their fitness levels, improve team dynamics and develop proper game strategies. The same benefits of regular practices in the sports world apply to the workforce as well.  Just as a hockey coach would hold regular practices to watch their players perform their plays, you need to let your employees do the actual work with you there to help. Coaches observe their players and provide their commentary. You should do the same – observe your employees doing their work, encourage them to correct their own mistakes with your guidance, and once they have reached a certain performance level, let them spread their wings and take off on their own.  

And just as practices continue throughout the sports season, training needs to continue throughout your employee’s term with you. In other words, the training never really ends. You can never over train your players and you can never over train your employees. Schedule regular “practices” or training sessions led by you, your foremen or your site supervisors. In these training sessions go over the principles of 5S to ensure your team is operating in the leanest, most productive way possible. Have the necessary resources (such as online training courses in health and safety, business productivity and estimating available through LMN) available for your employees to refer to on a regular basis.  

Designate a team captain, assistant captain and other leadership roles:

Establish leadership roles within your team to reward those players who are demonstrating optimal performance. Establishing leadership roles in sports allows coaches to pinpoint their star players. In just the same way, establishing leadership roles in the workplace helps you identify your superstar employees and those who may be deserving of a future promotion.

The potential to excel and possibly obtain leadership status and additional responsibility is also good motivation for your employees to work harder.   

Provide both constructive and positive feedback:

Your employees are looking for constant communication. Players thrive off of the advice of their coaches – whether it’s to change their game plan or to improve their shot by changing their form and follow-through, they use their coach’s feedback to gauge their performance level and what needs to change.

A good tactic to keep in mind when it comes to employee feedback – always provide positive feedback and positive coaching in public. By praising an employee in public, it not only encourages that employee to keep up the good work, but it encourages other employees to do the same. Public recognition also amplifies the gratification an employee feels because it encourages others to join in on the applause.

Root for your home team!

You hired them, so show them your support! There’s nothing more exhilarating and motivating than crowds of cheering fans. Obviously crowds of cheering fans are hard to come by in the office, so it is your job to extend your appreciation to your employees. When your employees accomplish a goal, your recognition is appreciation for that achievement.

Hand out trophies, plaques and awards:

“Most Valuable Player,” “Certificate of Achievement,” “Appreciation Award”

All of these awards are popular in sports and they should be just as popular in the workforce. Reward good results to see more good results. Most players are recognized at end-of-the-season ceremonies or company-sponsored banquets, so hold special events, social gatherings or luncheons to award your best employees and good work. And why not get creative? Take the time to create special awards for unique talent.

Foster Team Spirit:

People like to see themselves as a part of team or belonging to a group that works towards a common goal. For this reason, you need to encourage enthusiasm and excitement just as a coach would encourage passion for the game. Some ideas for building team spirit and creating a sense of belonging for employees are:

  • Creating inspiration boards or a collage of team goals and have everyone participate in building it as a team
  • Invest in company uniforms
  • Take a company photograph –with all your members present – and display it in the office
  • Hold regular social gatherings so employees have ample opportunities to build strong business relationships

Landscape Management Network is a collection of systems, tools, and training to help great contractors build and manage great businesses. Visit the LMN website.

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