Archive for December, 2010

Coaching Leader Quality 20 – Ability to Articulate and Model the Values

Great coaching leaders know the importance of clearly articulated and practiced values.  The values act as a compass for both leadership and team behaviors and norms.

In 2001 when the Phoenix Suns’ Jason Kidd was involved with domestic violence, Suns’ owner, Jerry Colangelo, had a dilemma.  Kidd was one of the team’s most potent weapons, but he also was a direct contradiction to the Suns’ stated values of family and community.

At the end of the season, Colangelo did the unthinkable and traded Kidd.  The trade created a bit of short term panic for fans, but in the end an even stronger and more loyal fan base because Mr. Colangelo was willing to make that decision.  That sent quite a message to the remaining players.

  • Posted by Pete Walsh
  • Wednesday, December 29th, 2010
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Coaching Leader Quality 19 – Creates Great Teams of Assistant Coaches

Great coaching leaders not only build great teams of performers, they build a great team of assistant coaches.  In many cases the assistants go on to become great coaches in their own right.

A cohesive team of assistant coaches allows great coaching leaders to leverage their process and build deeper and stronger organizations.

Bill Shover modeled this impeccably.  Each year, even though he might be working with new assistant coaches, volunteer fathers and friends, the players enjoyed consistent styles and approaches due to Bill’s excellent leadership.

Of course not every assistant coach scenario worked perfectly.  On one warm afternoon bill invited Jerry Colangelo, the coach of the Phoenix Suns, to come throw batting practice.  Having a local sports hero pitching to us was a thrill, especially at age twelve.

  Jerry appeared to be a talented hurler, except for one small problem.  As each left handed hitter came up he proceeded to hit him with a pitch.  By the time I came up to bat, as a leftie, I was shaking in terror expecting to be hit.  Sure enough, six pitches later, a fast ball struck me squarely on the elbow and sent me to the dirt writhing in pain.  As it turned out, it was worth the pain because Bill and I have enjoyed retelling the story to this day!

  • Posted by Pete Walsh
  • Monday, December 27th, 2010
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A new leadership tool – a sugar packet

I’m having a great time recently coaching a high performing leadership team in the Philadelphia area.  As part of their coaching process they are utilizing 360° feedback (staff members giving confidential feedback about their leaders).

One leader receives feedback that he comes across as agitated and abrupt.  By the way, the brain scientists have now proven, and can show us with FMRi (functional magnetic resonance imaging) samples how abrupt language and emotion shuts down the creative part of people’s brains.

So critical part of our process is identifying new deliberate practices.  For this leader the deliberate practice is to be able to deliver difficult messages but from a positive mood and emotion.

Thirty days later when we return to review the game film this particular leader has added an interesting twist to their deliberate practice.  As he is being accountable to the coach,  he tells me that he is now carrying around a sugar packet in his leather portfolio.  The sugar packet is a visual reminder to him that he needs to put a little sugar on the message.  The sugar packet is working! Every time he has a meeting in which he has to deliver some difficult news he sees the sugar packet, gets in the right mindset, and delivers the message with the right mood.  People are noticing and commenting on his improved disposition.  The bottom line is people are receiving his message with an open mind and less defensive.

See full size imageIn coaching the sugar packet is what we call a “structure”.  It’s some sort of physical thing that helps us achieve our results.  Some companies put vision statements on the wall, some salespeople put small mirror their desk to remind them to smile, and now one leader carries a sugar packet with him.

Whatever it takes to keep you mindful, allow you to show up with the best most mature version of you that enables you to be the most effective leader you can be.

Eventually after enough deliberate practice, I’m guessing this leader will have this new behavior ingrained and can toss the sugar packet!

Coaching Leader Quality 18 – Ability to Be Innovative and Creative

When we study many of the greatest coaches, we see that they were pioneers in the way they approached their craft.  Lee Strasbergmade actors go to deep dark places within themselves to find their voice.  Bill Walsh of the San Francisco Forty Niners, National Football League, invented a fast and short passing style that revolutionized the game and became known as “The West Coast” offense.

Great coaching leaders are not afraid to blaze a new trail in their profession, in fact, they see it as a big part of who they are.   For some this innovation is a result of one of their other qualities such as drive for achievement or resilience.  Any way you get there, you might think about your level of innovation and creativity.

  • Posted by Pete Walsh
  • Tuesday, December 21st, 2010
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Coaching Leader Quality 17 – Embody Lightness When Needed

Another great quality for coaching is lightness.  When a coach can bring lightness along with all of these other qualities; it can create a good environment for learning and development.  If you think about it, most people find it difficult to learn when they feel immense pressure to perform.  The art of lightness is the ability to be able to hold two opposing energies like strong achievement drive and light heartedness at the same time.

There is a time and place for lightness of course, and great coaching leaders know the right time to use it.

  • Posted by Pete Walsh
  • Thursday, December 16th, 2010
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Reviewing the game film – toxic, high maintenance superstars

I have the privilege of providing executive coaching to many successful leadership teams.  One team in particular that I have been working with over the past several years, had a noticeable breakthrough.  In our recent group coaching session it became glaringly evident that the departure of one of the leaders in the past year created a huge shift in energy, communication and teamwork. 

As we reviewed the game film (a process I use to make them accountable for results by reflecting and recounting their leadership performance) they all began to talk about how they had shut down, communicated less and worked in silos as a result of one leader’s isolationist mindset. 

Here’s the lesson –  Great coaching leaders identify and extract people from their team who don’t have the right mindset,  mood or team approach.  As it turned out the former toxic leader had some outstanding technical skills which, unfortunately, led to the CEO keeping him around longer than he should have. 

In the sports world, Bill Belichick recently threw Randy Moss off the New England Patriots. Moss is admittedly one of the most talented receivers in the league, but unfortunately he’s also one of the most corrosive and disruptive players to team dynamics.  Belichick was courageous and decisive about the team’s values and knew Moss had to go. 

As I sat there listening to my client, I thought about how much time and energy was lost as the CEO tolerated the wrong attitude and mindset.  Eventually, other factors led to the exit of the isolationist leader,  but it should have happened faster.

Great coaching leaders understand the intangibles– team chemistry, having like minded people and not tolerating high maintenance superstars.

I’m going to take this lesson and continue to push and challenge my other CEOs to be more courageous faster!

  • Posted by Pete Walsh
  • Wednesday, December 15th, 2010
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Coaching Leader Quality 16 – Ability to See With an Objective Eye

At the heart of coaching is performance improvement.  Performance improvement requires good technique and attention to detail.  Coaching leaders can see performance with an objective eye, being able to discern the nuances of great performance.  Seeing with an objective eye is being able to suspend personal biases, either good or bad, and see the performance without the “story”.  You need to be able to break it down piece by piece, dissect it, and look for ways to improve.

Bill Belichick, the great coach for the New England Patriots, made his name in the coaching profession for his ability to see details that others could not see.  His objective eye enables him to analyze not only his team, but the other team’s performance tendencies.  Seeing this way gives him access to information that other’s could not see and ultimately became his competitive advantage.

  • Posted by Pete Walsh
  • Monday, December 13th, 2010
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Coaching Leader Quality 15 – Resilience

Great coaching leaders have the ability to stay positive in the face of adversity and failure.  This another way they set the tone for the team.  If you think about the old adage, “If you can believe it, you can achieve it”, imagine how important it is to keep a positive attitude in today’s challenging and dynamic marketplace.

One of the best examples of this is the 2008 Super Bowl.  The Arizona Cardinals scored an electrifying go ahead touchdown by their star receiver Larry Fitzgerald with 2:39 left in the game.  The Cardinals’ defense had stopped the Steelers’ offense for most of the second half so it seemed like the Steelers might be defeated.

In the film of the game you see Coach Mike Tomlin very confidently say, “Let’s go, it’s our time to win this!”  Upon reflection later, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said that Tomlin’s seemingly unfazed demeanor carried over to him and in turn went in to the huddle where Ben challenged his teammates to rise to the occasion to prove they were the better team.  How important was it that Tomlin was unfazed?  What would have happened if the quarterback saw doubt or concern in his coach’s eyes?

  • Posted by Pete Walsh
  • Thursday, December 9th, 2010
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Coach Leader Quality 14 – Patience

Great coaching leaders are patient when they need to be.  They are patient when they see people with potential working hard, doing the right things, and striving to improve.  They know excellence and mastery takes time and effort.  They are willing to invest time, energy and patience into those individuals who show a genuine commitment to the process and possess the qualities they are looking for in the other members if the team.

  • Posted by Pete Walsh
  • Monday, December 6th, 2010
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Coaching Leader Quality 13 – Healthy Amount of Ego and Humility

Great coaching leaders have already got their ego needs met from other places; they have a healthy amount of ego.  To say it another way, they want to succeed but at the same time, they are not caught up in their own gratification.  They have reached a point in their careers where they are motivated by something bitter than themselves.

  Bill Shover was one of the more high profile, widely known and respected business leaders in our Arizona community, yet when he walked on the field and became our coach he was down to earth, approachable and humble; he gave us room to be ourselves and be open to coaching.  I know he possessed a strong desire for us to succeed and felt a personal vested interest, but his even keeled, comfortable style set a great tone in the dugout.

  • Posted by Pete Walsh
  • Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
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