Coaching high performers, part one: Why leaders overlook their greatest coaching opportunities
Updated: Mar 5, 2020
In today's workplace, how much time do you think a typical manager invests in coaching their highest-performing team members?
With all of the hours spent by people leaders in meetings, project updates, and planning sessions, there just aren't many hours left in the week for workplace coaching. And the hours that are available for coaching typically go towards those who are struggling to meet the expectations of their role.
This imbalance is nothing less than a squandering of talent, an utter waste of opportunity. And through my next four blog posts, we're going to explore how we can do better.
But to consider why it's such a problem for our highest performers to receive little to no coaching, it's useful to consider the wide world of sports.
I'm a football fan, specifically a fan of the Green Bay Packers, and an admirer of the G.O.A.T, quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Who do you suppose receives more coaching throughout a week of practice: Aaron Rodgers, the star quarterback (QB) and former league MVP, or Tim Boyle?
For those who do not follow the Packers, Boyle is Aaron Rogers' incapable backup QB who will be fortunate to make the team next season. While Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to a 13-3 season, it's likely that had Boyle started all 16 games, the team's record would have been closer to 3-13.
Even if we know nothing about sports, we know intuitively that Rodgers, one of the most successful and highest-paid players in league history, receives far more coaching than Boyle. The coaches build their gameplan around Rodgers. Rodgers receives nearly every repetition with the first-team offense. Rodgers receives constant attention, feedback, scrutiny, and encouragement from the Packer coaching staff. The staff of the Packers knows that their ability to achieve the team's goals is inextricably connected to Rodgers' success. They know that when Rodgers elevates his game, the whole team is more successful, so they direct their coaching energy accordingly. Meanwhile, Tim Boyle stands on the sidelines and takes an occasional repetition with the scout team.
But if the Packers were coached by today's archetypal workplace manager, journeyman backup Tim Boyle would receive the overwhelming majority of the coach's attention.
Boyle's performance would be observed closely, the coaches would work with Boyle to set goals and develop plans to achieve those goals, they would hold planning sessions to get Boyle to a serviceable place, and would regularly check-in with Boyle to discuss progress towards developmental milestones. The coaches would go to extreme lengths to improve Boyle's performance.
All the while, Aaron Rodgers would stand on the sidelines, making impressive throws that largely go unnoticed by his staff of workplace coaches. These workplace managers would put almost all of their coaching energy towards Boyle, mistakenly believing that if they can elevate Boyle's performance, the team will have greater success. In this hypothetical scenario, Rodgers would likely decide to leave the Packers for a more appealing career opportunity, putting the fate of the organization in the hands of Tim freakin' Boyle. But hey - he's been coached up, so surely he's ready to lead the Packers back to the Super Bowl!
When workplace leaders fail to invest significant time and energy in coaching their highest performers, they miss out on opportunities for team growth, innovation, and shared performance improvement.
In the next blog posts, we'll look at why workplace coaching efforts should be almost exclusively focused on high performers. We'll explore how coaching high performers leads to innovation, how it provides a competitive advantage, and how it drives engagement and retention with the team members you most want to engage and retain!
I wrote this post the week before the Super Bowl. I certainly watched. And predictably, we didn't see Chiefs backup, journeyman Matt Moore, at any point during the game. That's because Patrick Mahomes, a true rising star, was leading the Chiefs to victory in their biggest game in decades. As the new face of the highest-level performance in the league, Mahomes receive the highest-level coaching in preparation for the big game. To build championship organizations, we should follow in this example.