Hadley Associates, Inc - Business Consultants

Managing Includes Coaching

Sometimes we are simply "so busy we do not have time to think", but is this really healthy for your business, customers or your employees? There are practical lessons-learned from collegiate or professional sports that are transferable to your business. Manufacturers, service providers and retailers, and their suppliers, should to step back and think about the similarities.

A coach directs individual players to achieve the team's objective of winning the game and ultimately the season's championship. This is a direct result of focusing on (a) the rules-of-play, (b) understanding proper techniques, (c) positioning the team against the opponent and (d) knowing the performance level of individual players.

When blended together, a team often reaches new heights of performance, satisfaction and professionalism. The team's owners even receive recognition for their organizational skills and insight. In this familiar model, there are lessons for everyone.


Like a coach, a manager's effort begins with a vision of the end result. What does the business want to be? How will it measure success? How does the company engage with its customers? What will be the quality of their product or service? Are they respected for their effort?

The challenge for business owners and senior managers, like a coach, is having a "game plan" and then working it in-the-heat-of-competition. It is learning to adjust quickly when unexpected situations develop. It is blending individuals together who can support each other. There is a constant balance in letting the players play, but also knowing when to substitute, use more offense, defend the against charge, challenge officiating and even change personnel.

The hardest part, of course, is developing the game plan. Second is reducing the strategies and action steps into writing. Finally, it is communicating the plan to the team members.

As a reality check, think about what you did today. Did you know what your team was going to accomplish at the beginning of the day? Did your employees (team members) know their roles and responsibility? Were they prepared (trained and motivated)? Did you monitor progress (keep score) throughout the day? Did you study the statistics by shift or product line (seek improvement)? Did you adjust when results required it? The similarities between managing and coaching are many.


Coaches come in all sizes, shapes and personalities, but the commonalities are the processes used. Depending on the team, the coach may have a staff, filled with experts, or it may be just the coach himself. The same is true for a business owners or managers, whether he is a three-man shop or a 100-man production facility.

A coach inspires, leads by setting a tone-of-expectation. Typically, coaches are not micro-managers. More likely, coaches are known to motivate, inspire, build confidence, guide, direct, blend and are constantly anticipating the next series of events. They are constantly critiquing, analyzing, communicating and leading through others. They can be subtle or hard-and-direct, but they are always looking straight into reality. They act both strategically and operationally.

There are lessons-learned from coaching. To help you relate, remember the last sporting event you enjoyed watching. It could be a team sport or even an individual one. The coach most likely used these techniques:

  • Has a clear vision of the end result, namely winning the game or the championship. The vision may have changed during the event, but there was always a positive result to achieve. The better coaches are always visualizing winning the Super Bowl, going to the Final Four or being an Olympian.
  • Has a good sense of the individuals who can contribute. This process leads to substituting team members as the game goes on because of unfolding events. When necessary, individual players are traded if a specific skill or attitude is needed.

  • Knows what success looks like over time. Defining success can be incremental improvement, such as increasing the team's league rank year-to-year. The long-term vision of success helps to focus attention on doing the "right things".
  • Measurable performance, holding individuals accountable. Coaches keep score with statistics. In sports, a coach measures in innings, quarters, mile markers or sets; managers measure in terms of shifts, days, weeks, months or quarters. Make no mistake, every coach measures and evaluates individual and team performance.

  • Actively critiques performance without judging. The intent is to evaluate both individual behavior and physical techniques, based on the results it produces. The coaching focuses on positive results, reinforced with praise and recognition.

  • Makes time for self-reflection. It is important that people have time to bask-in-success, even if it is small. The coach helps the individual/group see the cause-and-effect of behavior. They enjoy success; in defeat, they learn and adjust.


Individuals who have been coached properly are very different people. They are better able to learn from their performance. They are self-confident. And, in fact, they are better overall employees because they have "learned to adjust" and "work as a team".

Coaching is filled with emotion and logic. Sometimes the coach pushes (challenges) individuals beyond limits, while other times the same individual is rewarded with praise. Like a teacher, the manager/coach needs to be demanding, but respectful of progressive improvement. They must balance determination with sensitivity. They must learn to assess and know people very quickly.

Hadley Associates has been consulting for seventeen years in a wide variety of industries. We have seen many successful businesses. It is suggested you consider these coaching approaches:

  • Focus on the current reality using facts, based on data collected and analyzed by your team members themselves

  • Challenge "accepted ways of doing things"; change is constant, learn to anticipate and introduce change into your operations is essential for continued improvement

  • Use direct questions or observations that get to the heart of a situation; challenge your employees (team members) to rise to occasion before them; get them involved

  • Encourage individuals to assume situational leadership; leading peers enhances communication skills, builds self-confidence and develops tighter bonds within a unit

  • Catch individuals/teams doing positive things; review performance frequently, reinforce the positive, but leave room to learn from mistakes and less-than-perfect performance
  • Keep the "human side" high on the agenda; use humor and informal contact to balance work- and-play; remember, employees are people too and they remain your greatest resource


The most rewarding accomplishment for a owner or manager is seeing individuals, work groups and the business realize its potential. By focusing on individual and team performance, through coaching, little things can build into greater success. A coach does this everyday, often without people knowing it; they inspire.

The manager/coach provides leadership and direction, communicates a vision, directs with specific actions, listens and encourages, critiques and fine-tunes and motivates and inspires individuals to perform beyond their capabilities.

Coaching can make a difference in your business; it is a worthwhile effort.


Hadley Associates is a consulting firm focused on industrial market research and facilitating strategic change. Drew Hill, principal consultant, is a certified focus group leader and management consultant.

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