Are you a coach… or just a caddie?

Last week I had the chance to collaborate with some great minds in management and leadership at a leadership conference for the firm that pays me for my day job.

I have been a “Strengths Geek” for several years, as I often note, so I was excited to work with Paul Berg and Diane Obrist from Gallup as they led 130+ wealth management leaders through their StrengthsFinder results.

I have also long been a fan of the work of Tim Freeman from Efficient Marketing, so I was happy to finally meet with him in person. I also discovered a great new source of thought leadership in Kristie Van Leeuwen from The The Next Stage Group, LLC.

The closing keynote speech was from General Stephen Lorenz, USAF (retired), CEO of the United States Air Force Academy Endowment.

A senior leader is responsible for self, people and results.

— General Stephen Lorenz

It was a great blend of leadership and management. A mix of doing the right things, and doing things right, as Peter Drucker would put it.

But my takeaway headline was actually from my colleague Jerry, who said something to the effect of:

You know, I’ve always thought of myself as a coach, but if I’m honest with myself, I’ve really just been a caddie. I know the course, and I know which clubs to use, but I’ve really been letting the players play their own games when I should be helping them get better.

Jerry is brilliant, successful, frenetic and sometimes prone to pontificating as he thinks aloud, but he is consistently sincere in trying to make himself and his team better.

He captured in a well-turned phrase the thread running through it all, and something I have seen a lot– the mistaken notion that a good manager simply  ‘hires good people and stays out of the way’.

In my experience, managers who cite that as their overarching principle often aren’t that good at hiring, and ‘staying out of the way’ is usually an excuse for not holding people accountable.

…there’s an enormous difference between leading an organization and presiding over it. The leader who boasts of her hands-off style or puts her faith in empowerment is not dealing with the issues of the day. She is not confronting the people responsible for poor performance, or searching for problems to solve and then making sure they get solved. She is presiding, and she’s only doing half her job.

— Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan, Execution, The Discipline of Getting Things Done

This is not to advocate micromanagement, no one likes to be micromanaged. But great coaches hold their players accountable. More importantly, they cultivate teams of people who want to win and a culture of continuous improvement.

Great players seek coaching because they want to get better.

Are you a coach… or just a caddie?

Tags: , , ,