What Joe Maddon Can Teach You About Employee Coaching

Business.com / Managing / Last Modified: June 20, 2017
Photo credit: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

Employee coaching is just like coaching a sports team. Without a strong, set-in-stone strategy, your team may become disengaged and disinterested.

"Even coming off a World Series victory, each year presents differently," explained Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs’ manager, about his team’s recent struggles in a Chicago Tribune interview.

Maddon continued, "They’re all going to be fine. They're going to show their goods in a short period of time. But when they struggle, no one expects them to struggle after what they did last year. I did." 

Although you’re not attempting to lead your team to another World Series victory, Maddon’s managerial style is one worth noting and implementing with your team.  

The lesson?

Great managers are continual coaches.

Maddon isn’t coaching his team every now and then, or only when they come seeking advice. Instead, he has a set strategy comprising frequent conversations and consistent trainings – even if they are the 2016 World Series champions.

Leading your team to their own championships involves the same amount of focus and strategic planning.

Here’s why you need to stop offering sporadic employee coaching and, instead, begin implementing a continual coaching strategy.

Coaching reduces employee uncertainty 

Even the MLB World Series victors feel insecure after a few intimidating games. However, with support from Maddon and other team leaders, they’re working hard to overcome their struggles.

The same goes for your employees – new and seasoned. No matter how experienced or confident employees are, making employee coaching part of your organization’s culture gives them a set plan to follow. This, in turn, clears away a lot of anxiety from the workplace.

When performance conversations are built into your team’s schedule consistently (whether monthly or quarterly), employees view the process as part of their natural routine.  

Removing the ambiguity and apprehension from meeting with managers establishes a cadence that employees come to expect, and it gives them confidence in knowing they can ask questions, keep up with learning and improve their performance.

Action step: Establish a consistent schedule for performance conversations, whether it's weekly, monthly or quarterly. From there, create a schedule for each employee based on each individual manager’s and employee’s needs.

Coaching strengthens manager and employee relationships

Every sports manager and team, not just Maddon and the Cubs, knows relationships affect how well – or not so well – a team plays.

Your managers’ relationships with employees are no different. In fact, according to a recent report, employees who have monthly career conversations with their managers reported the highest levels of engagement when compared to other time intervals. 

The amount of effort managers devote to their team directly correlates with increased engagement. This not only builds a tight-knit relationship but also secures a sense of trust that management is investing time and energy into both their professional and personal development.

Action step: Be authentic in your employee coaching. Be honest and transparent about performance and where you can see an employee’s future going with the company. If the performance conversations feel forced, or coaching attempts feel like they're half-hearted, employees sense it and may disengage from the process. 

Employees feel supported

Spur-of-the-moment employee coaching doesn’t fully show your team how invested the company is in their future.  

The constant reminder of Maddon’s consistent coaching efforts, whether his team is thriving or struggling, lets the Cubs know their entire organization is backing them up. It’s no longer just about their manager giving them a high five or advice every now and then. Rather, it’s about a constant support system.

This type of systematic support offers your team regular conversations. Show employees that executive leadership and HR are invested in their future and potential by developing a strategy across the entire organization.

Action step: Personalize each employee’s experience during their scheduled meetings to allow for ultimate support. Coaching should be based on the unique attributes, experiences and preferences of each employee. However, it needs to be managed with care. This ensures certain employees don't receive unfair advantages, or disadvantages, due to how the manager treats him or her.

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