Building a better SME: why you need to think like a sports coach

Research shows building your customer base and growing revenue isn’t just about forecasts and balance sheets. It’s also about how you manage people, how well your team understands your vision, and how individual staff members engage with their work.

That’s why more business owners are realising it pays to think like a sports coach.

Performance reviews don’t get results

The old model of annual performance reviews, where often negative comments are saved up to the end of the year, is a top-down approach that can lead to lack of personal fulfilment, disengagement and misalignment with an organisation’s values.

At worst, it can also lead to a poor performing culture that impacts on the overall results of a business.

Strength-based management is the key

Conversely, coaches of winning teams are continually working with both individuals and the larger group to build strengths, nurture talent, and provide opportunities for self-development and reflection.

Regular one-on-one sessions with each team member gives employees a chance to ask questions about the things that matter most to them, and to have candid discussions about their performance and how they can get to the next level.

This is particularly relevant for millennial employees who are commonly looking for career progression pathways and mentoring opportunities.

A “coach mentality” can help you boost profits

Aligning individual staff needs to the goals of the business can also boost profits.

Instead of pushing a square peg into a round hole, you can tap into new areas that interest team members and that also contribute to the wider operation. Ultimately, that leads to better retention rates and higher productivity.

In fact, in a Gallup global study of businesses that have implemented strength-based management practices, 90 per cent recorded direct performance increases in areas including profit, sales, OH&S and customer engagement.

Research also found highly engaged employees are twice as likely to remain with a company, or to help a co-worker, and three times more likely to do something good or unexpected for the business. In addition, they are five times more likely to recommend the company to friends or family.

Business owners should look to their own training

It’s always important to have the right coaching skills before you start building your highly performing team.

This job is less about technical competencies and abilities, and more about how you inspire and lead a diverse group of individuals.

Like any good coach, you’ll need to build skills and put the time in. This might involve training and working with an independent consultant to plan the process so you can get the best results.

It could also involve asking yourself some tough questions. Do you engage in open communication, invite feedback, instigate new ideas and lead by example?

Investing in a management style that leads from the front with strength-based coaching will get results. Just ask any great AFL coaches. Australian SMEs can learn from their example.

It’s vital if we want to adapt to change and remain competitive on a global playing field.

Adam Griffiths, Director, DMCA Advisory