My favorite NFL coach nearly always uses the following statement after a team loss. “We have to coach better.” It’s pragmatic and accurate. He can replace players but he has no guarantee that new ones will perform better unless his coaches perform better. At its core, the manager’s job is to help the team succeed. If the team succeeds, so does the manager. Simple, but easier said than done. I often encourage managers to use a tool that works wonders to illuminate the barriers to a team’s success. It’s a great tool but few managers are fully able (in capacity) or capable (skill-wise) of addressing all the typical barriers on their own.
Here are the typical barriers:
- Process: Are work processes clear, complete, and effective? Does something get in the way?
- Resources: Does the team have what they need to succeed? Time, Money, Help.
- Skills: Does the team have the right skills to be successful?
- Motivation: Is the team willing? If not, why?
If you’re a manager that addresses all these barriers – in a timely fashion – you probably possess these skills: You are resourceful, a good communicator and negotiator, and you pragmatically prioritize barrier reduction so your time is spent wisely. Reasonable people know you can’t solve all the problems but they also know a few can be solved if you consistently address them. Clients struggling with meeting their goals often ask me if more staff is the answer. Maybe, but it’s rarely possible in a struggling environment. It’s about managing and coaching better.
What does this look like?
- Process issues: Document the issues and their effect on productivity. Prioritize and fix them.
- Resource gaps: Help the team prioritize with what it has. Appeal for better resources if possible.
- Skills gap: Illuminate the skills needed to succeed. Run practice and modeling sessions.
- Motivation: If the above issues are being addressed and a person is unwilling to do the job, remove them, and reward the rest. It’s not easy. But it’s good management.
Teams greatly value a manager that clearly communicates knowledge of barriers and how they’re being addressed. It’s motivating to know that you’re ‘coaching better’, and the action of reducing barriers speaks louder than words could ever express.