Was It Good Coaching or Bad Coaching? Here Are the Answers.

In today’s Fable Friday we’ll follow up on the Bobby Knight story in Tuesday’s newsletter and answer the question:  was it good coaching or bad coaching?  If you recall, we left the dazed player in Knight’s office after Knight threatened to kick him off the team if he didn’t take at least 20 shots.  (Email me if you didn’t get the newsletter and I’ll send it to you.)

So what’s the answer?  First let’s agree on two principles about coaching.  First, it’s a collaborative effort between the coach and the player intended to improve performance.  The key word is “collaborative.”  In your own coaching experience, does everyone on your team want you to help them play better? Don’t take it for granted.

A second principle is that the greater the desire by the performer to succeed, the more prescriptive the coach can be.  In Division I basketball, a lot is at stake:  fame, scholarships, the opportunity to play in the NBA and more.

Now back to our story.  You recall Knight’s first statement: “How do you expect this team to win when my best shooter refuses to shoot the basketball?”  Two points:  first, he did ask the player to comment, and second, he started the conversation by telling the player “You’re my best shooter,” displaying confidence in the player, a key to driving better performance.

Ask yourself, in your coaching conversations do you begin by expressing confidence?  “Dan, you’re one of the most skilled salespeople in the company.  That’s why I’m confused about the results I’m seeing…”

So putting aside the yelling, this was very good coaching.  Now let’s go to the game and see what happened.

The young player was having an outstanding game, but then disaster struck. Halfway through the second half, he fouled out.  Where do you think he went when he learned he was out of the game?  The bench?  The locker room?  No.  He went over to the scorer’s table and asked, “How many shots did I take?”  The scorer said, “You took 23 shots,” and only then did the player go to the bench and watch his teammates win the game.

What other principles of good coaching did you learn from this story?  Here’s one.  The coach figured out the problem.  “If I can get my best shooter to take 20 shots a game, we’ll win,” and they did.  So in a way, he took the pressure OFF the player, rather than the reverse.  The coach is supposed to figure out the relationship between activities and results.  When the players know that the coach knows how to help them win, they’ll play for him. 

Coopers and Lybrand did a study some years ago that said workers don’t quit companies, they quit managers.  So if you want to build a winning sales team, you have to ensure everyone knows the objective (“How do you expect this team to win?”), demonstrate confidence in your players (“You’re my best shooter.”) and guide them to the proper activities (“Take 20 shots.”)

Are you doing all those things?  Or do you think coaching is a matter of telling people what they did wrong and who is to blame when you don’t get the results you want?

You can’t talk to your team the way Knight did, because they’re not as heavily invested in winning, but the other principles are the same. I hope you weren’t fooled by the coach’s tough talk. He was doing the thinking for his player, just as you have to

Think Like Your Customer!

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at www.actionsystemstraining.com.

3 Responses to Was It Good Coaching or Bad Coaching? Here Are the Answers.

  1. Tom Nally says:

    Lots of good coaching points Gregory, more than I originally noticed when I read the article. I was also struck by the study results that state employees don’t quit companies, they quit managers. Along those lines of thinking, it seems logical to think that when an employee needs to be terminated, the need could be the result of a management (coaching) failure.

    • Tom, an honest manager should certainly consider “Where was I to blame?” What I like about using this story in workshops is that the smokescreen of Knight sounding so tough, often hides the decent principles that underly it. In our workaday world of course, managers could find more effective ways of using language to gain commitment.

  2. @Tom, great call. And @Gregory, great article!

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