Great coaching is hard to find.
Most people aren’t born to coach, but those that are, the ones who are great at growing and developing people, can forever change the lives of those around them.
I talk about coaching in sales and management all the time, but the same lessons can be drawn from and applied to sports, education, really everything. People do not grow in a vacuum. They only grow in relationship to another person.
The stark difference between powerful coaching and ineffective coaching was crystal clear during the recent NFL game between the Arizona Cardinals and the Seattle Seahawks. Even if you are not a football fan, stick with me here. You will appreciate this.
The game ended in a 6-6 tie and was named the overtime tie with the lowest score in NFL history. You can imagine the emotion and the frustration on the field! But I want to specifically talk about the most exciting yet agonizing plays of the game—two potentially game-winning field goals that did not happen.
Without going into too much detail, you should know that both the Arizona and the Seattle kickers had played well for most of the game, each making two successful field goals putting the only game points earned up on the board. They also both later found themselves with a golden opportunity to be the hero of the game, both failed, and both broke the tender hearts of fans far and wide.
You can imagine the anguish each of their coaches must have been feeling, can’t you?
Here’s where it gets really good.
Both coaches were asked similar questions during the post-game press conference—essentially, did they have any words for their kicker after the game?
The Cardinals head coach said, “Make it. This is professional, this ain’t high school, baby. You get paid to make it.”
The Seahawks head coach said, “(He) made his kicks to give us a chance and unfortunately he didn’t make the last one. He’s been making kicks for years around here… but he’s gonna hit a lot of winners as we go down the road here. I love him and he’s our guy.”
Both of these kickers worked hard, prepared, and gave it their very best during the game. Both of them had played well but found themselves exceedingly frustrated with their own performance at the time when their team needed them most. But one of them is going to show up to the next practice motivated to recover from his failure and ready to work even harder, while the other one is going to show up feeling discouraged, disliked, and torn down—like he lost his mojo.
Just like these two kickers, the people you manage are going to make mistakes, and sometimes when you need them to succeed the most. Hopefully they have enough successes to make your investment in their coaching and development worth it. (If not, we need to have an entirely different conversation about maintaining a strong talent bench and holding people accountable to their performance). But they will have failures and how you handle those failures will define how they show up the next day. Do you have their back and make them feel as though they can bounce back and enjoy greater success next time? Or are you unintentionally stealing their mojo?
Reflect back on your own failures, show empathy, and let them know they are “your guy.” That’s the kind of coach people are motivated to walk through walls for.