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High performing teams need coaches not managers

Think about it, why do the LA Lakers or even elite athletes like Usain Bolt need a coach?

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There is a time and place for managing, but authority and directing are best used sparingly unless you want to run a dictatorship. Gen Y's need to feel like they are learning, and they especially appreciate being coached.

So what do IT coaches need to do?

Enable the best possible environment for skill development.

We can't learn for other people. IT Managers need to provide things like time, course materials, skill mentors, andor incentives, and get out of the way! Employees who don't maintain at least enough technical skills to perform their job, cost the team in the form of time consuming re-work.

Remove the roadblocks.

Coaches shield the team from external interference, and remove anything stopping the team from achieving success. This might mean getting funding for training, working with project managers for challenging work, or improving processes.

Provide the when and why for business process.

Now that the team has the technical skills, they need to have someone coach them on the strategy and the effect of what they are doing. Anyone can turn it off and on again. Good IT Managers have gained visibility over the whole business, and use this to their teams advantage.

Career management.

One of the key motivators for employees is to know that what they do today, is helping their career. This can be achieved in a number ways. For example IT Coaches give feedback, performance appraisals, open the door to motivating project work, and even external seminars or forums.

Know when to let them go.

As Jack Welsh says in Star Wars: When to Let a Top Performer Walk, coaches need to make sure that they don't become so obsessed with keeping a star performer, that it demotivates the rest of the team. Better to keep your house in order and send your star off with good wishes. If you've done your job, another star will soon be born.

Just like in Moneyball, it takes variety of players to make the best team, not a star player.

Conclusion

In my experience, I have found that people naturally align themselves with people who help them, and avoid people who appear to be blocking their path. The foundations of a high performing team is enabled by providing an environment whereby employee's experience personal success, not a culture where everyone avoids the manager incase they do something wrong.

By becoming a work coach, you will build up trust and respect with your team, and maybe change someones life for the better.

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