“Running a football team is no different than running any other kind of organization – an army, a political party or a business. The principles are the same. The object is to win – to beat the other guy. Maybe that sounds hard or cruel. I don’t think it is.

“It is a reality of life that men are competitive and the most competitive games draw the most competitive men. That’s why they are there – to compete. To know the rules and objectives when they get in the game. The object is to win fairly, squarely, by the rules – but to win.

Vince Lombardi

Essentially all managers have acquired their opportunity and constructed command from the potency of their individual endeavors.  They have ascended beyond their peers by building an extraordinary reputation founded on incomparable performance, an acute understanding of the organizational goals, and the ability to interface in an orchestrated manner with other components of the enterprise.  They have inspired their team, shown them the vision, and laid out the strategy and plans for their team to excel.  As a manager, they have efficaciously directed their team to the realization of key objectives.  These managers have erected a high performance A-Team capable of delivering first class results.  This is an exhilarating period in a manager’s career.  It is a time when he senses he has it “dead-on” and concepts are flowing into actions almost seamlessly.  The team is responding, executing, and the ability to accomplish goals seems virtually endless.

Few developments can subvert a manager from this bliss more than his ensuing promotion.  With this elevation the game completely changes and it becomes essential for him to acquire the talents to manage other managers for the first time.  In this new arena he must achieve outcomes through an intermediary person.  The new Vice President or Director has successfully proven his ability to deliver results from his team, but now he has multiple teams from which to cumulate achievement.  And each team is headed by a manager who was, most likely, not performing as superbly as he was.  A newfangled challenge has arisen and if he is to evade the ensnarement of the Peter Principle, he must learn to master and shine in this stage of his career.  Building a performance based management team is a Leaders first major-league coaching assignment.

Finding yourself in this position should be a proud moment.  You have competed and won.  But your new challenge is substantial.  It is now compulsory for you to transform yourself from a field quarterback, who has been executing plays, to an adept Coach capable of sending the plays into action.  This is a dangerous transition primed for failure, but you now possess the potential to create significant contributions.  This success will have a larger impact on the company and therefore a greater bearing to your career.  The key to victory lies in knowing how to stay intimately involved without hands on execution.  Most managers, who fail, either will not let go of the ball or they take their eye off the ball entirely.  An exceptional Leader learns to realize results through the efforts of other leaders.

Managing Managers – A Game Changer

Up until now, you were rewarded for running, throwing the ball, and leading your team to victory on the field.  Now you are expected to do more planning and develop higher levels of strategy.  Your new responsibility entails developing and improving the cross functionality of in-house systems, processes and procedures.  If you linger on the field, you will find yourself leaping from issue to issue while realizing the work you just finished deteriorates with each new leap.  You can no longer persist at being hands-on in all situations.  Doing so will result in your failure.  You will only re-prove your capability as a front-line manager and that is a path leading to nowhere.

Cultivating your front-line managers should be your crucial focus.  Developing their skill set is your number one priority.  Since they are most likely less proficient than you were on the field, this can be a daunting endeavor.  It is essential to ensure your team’s success does not backslide while at the same time repelling all inducement to seize the ball and run with it yourself.

In addition to diffusing your priorities, your inability to step off the field, undermines your managers and emasculates their authority.  It precludes them from learning and growing and places them on a downward spiral towards failure.  Their employees see your continued involvement and continue to interact with you.  They go to you with their problems and look to you for solutions completely neutralizing your front-line manager.  Eventually your managers will become disgruntled and as they begin to question your motives, they will fall into disarray.

So let us discuss some essentials of how you can be successful in your new Coaching assignment.  First, your managers must understand the overall game-plan; what you are trying to accomplish with and their individual roles in a winning outcome.  Next, it comes down to my mantra of Business is Easy; People are Hard.  Without the right people, nothing materializes.  So your second job is to Coach your managers in assessing their people to guarantee A-Teams are being built everywhere.  With the right plan and the best people, execution on the field becomes the winning dynamic.  Just because you are coaching someone else to take over, does not mean your entire experience should not be utilized.  Your purpose is to replicate your success throughout the management team and teach them to acquire your methodology for being a great manager.  You want them to be able to reap results from their teams without you having to be involved in each situation.

At this point, I feel obligated to deliberate on that enchanted buzzword, “Empowerment”.  Over recent decades we have been indoctrinated to believe that if we just empower people, they will automatically be successful.  Just wave the magic wand and people can accomplish anything because you have empowered them.  After years of searching for genuine meaning and relevance for this term, I have determined this “mythical power” to be an absurdity.  You are not capable of giving someone your power.  If they are to become a Tough Leader, they must build and accumulate their “Own Power”.  Leaders must rely on their own skills, realizations and triumphs to create a power base.  Power propagates from success in doing things right.  Empowerment implies power is handed off and gifted to somebody for use.  The idea of empowerment is weak.  Empowerment equals “Under-powerment”.  You cannot afford to have an underpowered management team.  Instead you can Coach your managers to success utilizing these three step “hands-on” practice sessions.

First Step: Show them how to do it.

When faced with a new situation, whether it is explaining something to the team, counseling a team member, or describing a new process, your first step is to demonstrate through example to your manager how you expect it to be done.  Ask your manager to observe your presentation and take notes, not on what you say but rather on what he observes.  Ask him to study the structure of the meeting.  Then after the meeting ask your manager to explain what he observed.  If there is a significant gap between the lesson you expected him to learn and his feedback, you will need to repeat this process again.  Do not make the blunder of believing that an explanation from you prepares him for the next step.  He must be able to explain in his own words what you were attempting to extract from the situation.

Second Step:  Observe your manager’s execution the next time the situation arises.

This can be one the most difficult coaching assignments that exists.  Because it requires you to sit still and say nothing.  It is your turn to take the notes.  He has seen your execution and understands the concepts, methodology, and the outcomes that are to be achieved.  You must avoid the temptation to interrupt, to correct, and to enhance what he is presenting.  You are concerned with his development and not with delivering a perfect meeting.  After the meeting sit down with your manager and conduct a post-game review.  Discuss points where you wanted to jump in and describe how he can improve the next time.  Then determine if he is prepared to advance.

Third Step:  Next time this situation arises, he is on his own.

You have practiced and now it is time for him to engage on his own.  You still meet with him prior to this event and inquire about what he going to present and how he plans set it up.  Your job is to ask a lot of tough questions at this point to ensure he has indeed thought everything through.   At this stage you need to prepare him for the questions he will to be asked when you are not there.  As you give him the third degree, you are building his confidence to deal with the unexpected.   If he is weak in answering your questions, you must to tell him to go back and re-think the matter before proceeding.  Once he has adequately passed your Q&A session he is ready to step on the field and run the play on his own.  Of course, after he is finished, you will want to regroup for that post meeting and ask him to explain how the group responded in the meeting

Vince Lombardi also said, “Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”  Practice these three simple steps over and over again until your standards are embedded and you will develop powerful managers who build successes in their own right.  A Street Smart Leader knows that no one can be empowered.  Your job as a Coach is to teach your managers the leadership skills with which to flourish.  By getting off of the field and starting to call the plays you will be able to keep your perspective.  Coaching your managers with your direct experience will lead to one victory after another.  Imagine leading five or six high performance teams and before you know it you will have racked up Championship Season.

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