Business Coaching and Sports Coaching – Common Mistakes

Implementing and driving a process of change in a business is like coaching a sports team. You have to get the basics right before you start to win. 

These are some of the many similarities we found out when Tim Edwards (Guru sports coach, lecturer, academic and part time surfer) shared with us at the Small Fish Business Coaching conference a few weeks ago.

Here are EIGHT common mistakes made by sports coaches – many have great similarity in the business world…..

Mistake No 1:   Failure to recognise that change takes TIME

Many sports coaches forget that it takes time to mould a team to success. They expect instant results without doing the basics. Good coaches who take on new teams in AFL and NFL think years in advance and don’t expect to achieve success until two or three years out. They plan for it, knowing that getting the basics right is the first priority, building on them, then winning the premiership will come later.

Just so, business owners must understand that just by taking on a coach, things won’t change overnight. It takes time to implement a change program in a business. You have to get the strategy right, put the right systems and processes in place, understand the market, implement a solid sales plan, and nurture your customers, just to name a few. There are a myriad of small incremental changes that must take place before the business can start “winning”. Don’t expect to be driving the Lamborghini in year two.

Mistake No 2:  Failure to get everyone to PARTICIPATE

How many times have you seen a line of budding young sports stars being put through their paces by their coach. All lined up and one at a time practising their goal kicking. That’s all very well but soon the other 14 are as bored as anything and the coach looses them. Coaches would do better to ensure everyone is fully engaged all the time during practices. 

As in business, everyone should be engaged in a change program. It’s no use trying to change things if half the people don’t know what’s required. PARTICIPATION is the key to make sure change is driven deep into the organisation. It’s all too easy to lose sight of getting everyone in the business fired up about a change program.

Mistake No 3:   It’s all about BALANCE

How many times do coaches forget that if they are going to spend 50 % of their time in offence and 50% of their time in defence during “game time” then they should practise in that proportion? All too often coaches practice only one or the other and wonder why they lose during game time.

Just so – it’s no use spending all the focus on growth, like sales and marketing, and forgetting the back end of the business- customer service and delivery. All that ends up happening is that sales pour in the front door and fall through the cracks out the back by bad service and poor delivery.

Mistake No 4: Not making the best use of TIME

In sport coaching, some coaches just spend too much of the session talking and not enough on practice. Motivational speeches serve some purpose, it’s true, but not at the detriment to good old fashioned practice of the basics. If you have a group training session once a week for an hour, it’s the coach’s job to make sure every second counts.

Business coaches too should be mindful of making the best use of every valuable second with their coachees. A coaching program that allows an hour a week face time must be disciplined, focused and geared to get the most out of the time allotted. Good preparation by both parties will ensure this happens.

Mistake No 5:
 The GENIUS in us is not always best

It’s so easy to think that a team will win if we come up with that genius strategy on the day, or that we have that genius “magic bullet” idea that’s going to save our bacon. It’s far better to concentrate on the basics and get them right. Practise them over and over until they are perfected. Remember that the simple systems often work the best.

In business we hope that some brilliant idea or concept will save us or we expect our business coach to come up with it, when all that is needed is to make sure that the simple basics are followed. Strive for the proper execution of a simple solution rather than a part execution of a brilliant solution.

Mistake No 6
:  Failure to START SLOWLY away from game time 

Coaching a team from scratch to winning a premiership takes time and the plan needs to build slowly. A good sports coach will know the limitations of the team and break things down into little steps, get these right in practise, and build slowly on these steps. No one can learn a skill in “game time” -they must be practiced.

Just as in business, a coach should help the business owner and staff to develop their skills out of context of the real business scenario. For example if great sales skills are needed, role playing could be used to develop these skills. Handling objections can be tested and worked on. Practice the basics slowly and get them right. This places the person in a much better position in front of real potential customers.

Mistake No 7:
There’s no motivational speech that wins matches

A really well drilled, well skilled team who knows their systems and execution, beats a great motivational speech on any game day. A coach shouldn’t be there yelling advice from the sideline. Honestly –it’s too late by that stage to have any effect on the real performance of the team. 

Just as in business – it’s not about a lining up all the staff on a Friday and giving them a great “ra-ra” speech. While it certainly helps for the business owner to stand up and tell the staff what’s going on and what the plan is – a plan shared and communicated well within the business, involving everyone and getting them engaged provides a far better result than a “rev up” once a month!

Mistake No 8:
  Recognising that sometimes it’s just plain HARD!

We should make sport and business fun, it’s true, but we should all be mindful that sometimes it’s just hard! Times are tough right now for small business. However, after going through a tough patch, the real enjoyment and gain is knowing you came through, overcame that adversity and achieved something of value. Now there’s the real awesome outcome we all should strive for.

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See you later.

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