I was recently watching high school wrestling, and I got really curious about how different coaches worked with their wrestlers.
One coach was very directive. While the match was in progress, he’d shout instructions to his wrestlers. “Break his grip! Get your belly off the mat! Go for his leg!” Then, after each match, he’d take 30 seconds to give his wrestlers a summary of what they needed to learn. “When he’s on your back, you’ve got to get up and back on your feet! You’ve got no leverage otherwise…” Sometimes his wrestlers would give excuses, “He was too strong.” Other times, they’d just nod and walk away.
A second coach took a different approach. During the match, he was mostly encouraging. “That’s it! Nice shot.” But after the match, he always asked his wrestler the same question, “What did you notice?”
“Well,” one wrestler replied, “He was much stronger than me.”
“Good,” replied the coach. “What options do you have with a stronger opponent?”
“I’m fast; I could use my speed.” You could see the wrestler working the problem in his head. “Also, if I took more shots, I might keep him off-balance.” Their conversation lasted for just a minute, but I could see the wrestler taking ownership of the problem. He was thinking through what he could do based on what he was aware of.
What’s the difference?
The first coach operated from a mindset that he knew what the wrestlers needed to do. If they would just follow his instructions, they would win.
So, his style was to provide tactical advice. He didn’t get much feedback from his wrestlers because they also bought into the story that the coach knew what they needed to do.
The second coach operated from a different mindset. He assumed that the wrestlers could figure out for themselves what they needed to do. His questions helped the wrestlers think about solutions they could use to win.
How are you coaching your team?
I’m sure you have gone to great lengths to hire the smartest, most capable team you can afford. Every person on that team is talented, right?
Are you helping them to advance their thinking? Or are you letting them outsource their thinking to you?
Do you want to be indispensable? The person who’s solving every problem. Or do you want them to be independent so you can solve new problems? The kind of problems that will grow your agency and buy you some more time off?