Lessons in corporate coaching from a former sports coach

Ollie DearOliver Dear shares how the science of sports coaching can be applied in the context of the corporate world.

Coaching within sport is a continually evolving model. When London was awarded the Olympic Games in 2005, UK Sport (the governing body of sport), decided to completely reshape the way coaching was delivered to athletes and described it as a ‘no compromise’ approach to delivering performance success, with the ‘ultimate goal’ being placed in the top four in the London 2012 Olympic medal table—and we all know what happened that summer!

The lessons learned then continue to breed success now and lend themselves well to teams in the business environment. Considering my previous experience as a sports coach, here are four great tips I’ve taken from coaching that I think apply to everyone:

Develop a philosophy. A philosophy is something that binds you and your players—or team.  People around you will be inspired by the ideals that your philosophy and principles embody. When I’m coaching, my philosophy is not to simply develop an athlete’s technical skills, but also the skills that ensure that they will make a positive contribution in all that they do. I seek to ensure that they are equipped and empowered to understand and learn from life’s difficult situations, not just difficult games. Having a philosophy guides coaches and athletes alike through challenging times—it’s the fixed point to which you refer when having to make difficult decisions. It answers the question, ‘why do you do what you do?’ In sport as in life, it has to be about more than just winning!

Invest in people. It’s not only about what you pay people; investing in people means investing time, patience and trust. Believe that the people around you will make the right choices. The key to having success as an individual also depends on the success of team members around you—allow them to make mistakes and trust that they will learn from them. Investing that trust and time in teammates empowers them to grow, develop confidence and maintain the highest level of personal performance.

Challenge yourself. Only by challenging yourself will you know how far you can go. Coaches are continually reviewing skillsets and goals in order to keep the team focused, motivated and challenged. Look at a goal and ask yourself how it can be achieved. Once you’ve figured out the answer, push yourself! Never stop trying to be the best you can be, this is within your control. Remember Team GB’s slogan from the 2012 Olympics: ‘Better never stops!’

Success doesn’t always involve winning. John Wooden, a basketball coach in the 1930s, described success as, “a peace of mind, obtained only through self-satisfaction and knowing you made the effort to do the best of which you are capable.” You can often win even though you didn’t succeed in what you wanted to achieve—the point is to make sure you can walk away, knowing deep down that you did your absolute best.

I am continuously inspired by the words of Bill Walsh, a former American football coach, who said, “Instilling the right culture and philosophy almost always takes time. And inevitably there will be some who balk against your standards. … [But], ultimately, you must believe that your successful culture will attract, support, and retain the right talent and people, which will help you prevail and succeed in the long run.”

Client Services’ culture and philosophy of ‘creating exceptional, memorable experiences…one guest at a time’ has taken time to build and cultivate, but the result has been undeniably well worth the wait—and one that I believe would have inspired even Mr Walsh.

Oliver Dear is National Account Manager at Mitie Client Services.

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