Be a Coach to Your Team
By Nancy Haller, Ph.D.
As an alumnus of the University of Connecticut, I was thrilled by last week’s NCAA Women’s Basketball victory. Head coach Geno Auriemma has established himself in history by taking UConn to eight NCAA Division I national championships. Before Auriemma, the Huskies had posted just one winning season in their entire history. Yes, he’s known to be controversial and confrontational, but if you look beyond those behaviors you’ll see a coach to emulate. Here are some tips for leading your team to victory.
Greatness is Not an Accident
It happened because of Hall-of-Fame coaching. Developing leadership is an ongoing process. It’s never complete. That’s because learning and change happen slowly and over the course of a career. People learn from challenging situations because their abilities are stretched and they have to perform at higher levels. Dedicate yourself to being a life-long learner.
Drive for Excellence
It’s well known that Coach Auriemma is constantly trying to figure out how to do what he does better. In the Japanese culture this is referred to as “kaizen” - the process of continual improvements. Kaizen is based on making little changes on a regular basis. Be passionate about what you do well and continue to improve.
Surround Yourself with Winners
Auriemma describes his leadership style as one of “adjusting” players because they are internally motivated. You probably know the difference between your strong performers and those who need fires lit to get them moving. Too often dental leaders fear making tough decisions and therefore they accept mediocre as the standard. If you have staff that need “fixing” it’s time to get them professionally trained and/or to have the “is-this-the-right-job-for-you” conversation.
Be a Teacher
Geno’s philosophy is to trust his players until they give him reason not to. This can create angst for those leaders who are accustomed to doing it themselves. Letting go of projects can be a fearful experience. You may fear losing control, losing face, and ultimately losing your business. But you are NOT out there on the court…your employees are! Help them to think for themselves. Your job is to set clear objectives and hold people accountable. Give employees the authority they need to do the job they're paid for.
Care about your Players
Despite his sometimes-harsh words, Coach Auriemma’s warmth and genuine love for his players is widely known. Take time to show sincere interest in your employees as people. Strive to understand what they are passionate about in their lives. What are their personal needs? What brings them joy or pain? What are their short-range and long-range goals? Convey belief in your employees’ potential. When you see each person as creative and dependable it builds trust and allows them to venture forward with increased confidence.
Be a Direct Communicator
Not known to mince words, Auriemma “tells it like it is.” While I do not advocate for his occasional “in-your-face” actions, I do encourage you to let your employees know when they are doing things right, and when they aren’t. Spell out the consequences of not meeting expectations – i.e. looking for another role where he/she will find more satisfaction. Avoid ultimatums. Focus on the impact of poor performance, to the team and ultimately to the employee. Learn to give timely feedback.
Be a Visionary
Where do you want to be 5 years from now? Geno always has his sights set on the future and so must a good leader. Great leaders give real thought to the values, ideas and activities they're most passionate about, and those are the things they pursue. Share your dream with employees so that they want to follow. Let that permeate your office and be sure that it's demonstrated in everyone’s actions.
Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously
Auriemma’s sense of humor shapes the UConn women’s basketball players.
Laughter and humor are great tools to help people deal with pressure and difficult situations. It helps to keep things in balance.
Championship performance is about inspiring your team to give their best effort. It’s tough work unifying individuals into a cohesive group. It takes time, coordination, and the right mix of personnel. It takes planning and preparation. Add to the equation personalities and conflicting goals or ideals and it becomes even more challenging to find a team of people that work well together - let alone on the fly at a moment’s notice. But ask Coach Auriemma if it’s worth it. Ask him if it’s rewarding. You know the answer.
Dr. Haller provides training for leadership effectiveness, interpersonal communication, conflict management, and team building. If you would like to learn more contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
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