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Lessons from the Hardcourt – Self evaluation for a coach or a workforce manager

November 30, 2010

For those people that know me well, when outside of my day job I spend much of my time as a basketball coach. I’ve coached various levels over the past 12+ years, from toddlers to town rec, AAU and currently a middle school travel team and an assistant high school varsity team. This year I was required by the high school to become “certified” by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) in their Fundamentals of Coaching course. Despite having to drive over an hour each way on a Monday night and sit through a four hour course (plus the 3 additional hours online), the course was actually very good, and provided some great managerial insight for my professional/day job. (Unfortunately a volunteer assistant coach doesn’t quite pay the bills!) Below are some interesting tidbits from the course that I thought were applicable to the Workforce Management arena that we are all a part of…

Viewing your actions – How are you perceived by your staff? By your co-workers/colleagues? What do you think they think about your management style? The course instructor asked all of the coaches if they video tape their games. Most of us answered “yes”. Video is a great way to analyze what worked and didn’t work in a game. Then he asked – “Have you ever videoed yourself during a game?” Complete silence… “You really should watch yourself coach and see what your players, parents and fans see.”

As a manager, that’s a scary thought for some people I’m sure. You see it a lot on reality shows too. “Undercover Boss” always seems to capture some manager acting in a way that is less than ideal. I’m sure as a manager, if we imagined being on camera every day we may act much differently…

The Coach as a Teacher – this was a big discussion in the course. How much time you do invest in building the skills of your team? Are you the type of manager that is primarily focused on executing and addressing the current tasks at hand, or are you investing in grooming certain employees for bigger responsibilities? (As a coach, are we focused on the best offense & defense to win the next game, or are you setting time aside each practice on fundamentals and new skills to prepare players for the next level?) I think the best coaches and the best managers make time for both.

The Coach as a Manager – this section focused on making sure everything outside of the “coaching” part was take care of and removing any barriers, reducing risk, etc. In sports, this is dealing with the school administration, athletic department, state/league association, facilities, etc. In business, this can often be interpreted as the operations or administrative side of managing a group. A great quote I heard once about the best type of manager states – “You don’t work for me (manager to employee), I work for you. My job is to make sure that you can effectively do your job. You should be making my “to-do” list more than I make yours.”

There are great books published by many successful coaches that apply basketball coaching concepts to workforce management in business – John Wooden, Dean Smith, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino, Phil Jackson, etc. If you’re a coach, I’d love to hear some of your business management experiences.

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