It’s no secret that at Upper Hand, we are incredibly passionate about our industry. Our team is made up of a diverse array of former athletes, coaches, and enthusiasts who have a deep-rooted love for sports and fitness. This passion not only enables us to offer valuable resources and insights to the businesses that we serve — it has also been an integral part of shaping our team’s culture.
Across industries, the workplace has seen a shift from focusing solely on technical skills to an emphasis on culture. Culture is becoming increasingly important when choosing an employer, as found in this study by Deloitte. In fact, the 2018 Tech Census conducted by Powderkeg reveals that “company culture is the #1 reason tech professionals choose their employer.”
Similarly, leadership styles have transitioned from authoritative hierarchies to that of a coach. As opposed to pointing fingers and placing blame, characteristics of a coaching style of leadership include mentorship and collaboration on how to solve problems, improve performance, and tackle new challenges. This leads to an increased sense of purpose and satisfaction among employees, and ultimately, a high performance organization.
Many Upper Hand employees have had significant past experience coaching athletic teams, and therefore bring their own unique learnings into their personal leadership styles. From hiring to evaluations, here are a few ways our team members transfer their skills from coaching into the culture at Upper Hand.
Building Your Team
A critical first step in establishing company culture is identifying the right employees to both lead and carry your team. In sports, it is important for managers to select the right person to serve as the “captain” — the liaison between the coach and the players. Likewise, in business, careful selection of your leadership team is crucial in rallying your employees and aligning personal goals with organizational goals.
While there are times when marks and technical skills are important, the incorporation of value-based hiring has also proven to be vital in achieving team success and a strong company culture. At Upper Hand, we focus on hiring team members who have grit, passion, and willingness to learn. VP of Marketing and former NCAA D1 Champion soccer player Tim Wylie emphasizes the importance of this:
“Skills can be taught, but the player needs to possess the right mentality to push the team forward.” – Tim Wylie
Another important aspect when building your team is defining the roles for yourself and your athletes. Just as athletes have a position within their team, employees have a role within their company. Upper Hand Customer Support rep and former Ball State University Track and Field Coach Alexus Jimson-Miller says:
“Understanding which part of athlete growth you are responsible for helps you know how to hold yourself accountable. The same is true with your role within your company.” – Alexus Jimson-Miller
As a coach, you often interact with other aspects of athlete development, including strength training, sports medicine, academics, and more. So, ultimately, coaches are just one piece of the puzzle. The same holds true in the workplace: clearly defined responsibilities will ensure that each individual on the team is held accountable and has a role in accomplishing the tasks at hand.
Empowering your team
Next, it is a coach’s responsibility to empower his/ her athletes to think differently, take on a challenge, and make the right in-game decisions. This is achieved by putting players in those situations during training. In the workplace, there are many ways that a leader can implement this element of coaching on a day-to-day basis, instilling a sense of self-responsibility and high self-esteem among employees.
Develop and Adjust the Game Plan
As a coach, you are responsible for developing and communicating a game plan to be executed by your players. In order to accomplish this most effectively, coaches need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each individual to give the team the greatest chance for success. Perhaps equally as important is the ability to adjust that game plan while remaining focused and productive.
“As a coach, you learn how to adjust the practice workload, structure, and rest time based on how your athletes are performing. Embracing the need for change and flexibility is key in the workplace when tackling new challenges/ working toward goals. It makes it easier to pivot while staying focused on the overall goal.” – Alexus Jimson-Miller
Ability to Spot Small Wins
It’s easy to be supportive when things are going well, but as a coach, you must also remain positive in the face of adversity. Ultimately, as a respected leader and mentor, your employees will look to you for guidance when tackling problems and unlocking new opportunities. This can be as simple as bringing a positive attitude and maintaining focus. Trevor Steele, Upper Hand Engineer and high school football coach, says:
“It is important to understand how vital your day to day attitude and enthusiasm level is to those around you. Being able to compartmentalize all the outside stressors and distractions and focus only on the task at hand is essential both in coaching and in the workplace.” – Trevor Steele
Consider the following question: Everyone wants to win, but what happens when you don’t?
“As a coach you have to be able to recognize and praise small wins along the way so that a loss for your team doesn’t stop you in your tracks. Being able to do that as a leader in the workplace works the same way and keeps your team moving forward when things get tough.” – Alexus Jimson-Miller
From adjusting the game plan to identifying small wins, flexibility is critical in developing a coaching style of leadership within your organization. By being able to focus on the positives, employees will be more engaged, leading to high satisfaction and high performance.
Just as coaches provide feedback to their athletes about their form, technique, and performance, it is imperative that leaders provide constructive feedback to their employees. Evaluations can be an effective tool when they are done correctly. There are many ways to give great athlete feedback that position the coach as a transformational leader, mentor, and motivator.
“Great coaches know what to say, how to say it, and when to say it.” – Tim Wylie
Similarly, you will find these characteristics reflected in a coaching style of leadership.
By providing feedback to your employees, you will not only help their personal development, but also drive the team and business forward.