Category management: Are You a Player-Coach?


We were invited to a Supplier summit (report next time) hosted by a F25 client and heard some remarks from the head of their operations (just for understanding scale his group handles 52 million interactions with members/customers a month!!!!!!). He made an interesting comment that he expects ALL his leaders to be player-coaches. I became familiar with the term from soccer where a player on the team and the field is also the coach of the team (Zidane or Zizou was famous example). It also gained popularity as a management style (Zappos tried it while ago). Incidentally, Bill Russel won 2 NBA titles as a player coach 😊. This got me thinking that the topic of being a “coach” is not something that we have addressed in this blog (although we have a targeted coaching development program) so here we go.

Why does your Leadership Team need to develop coaching as a competency? In our opinion, if you are striving for a High-Performance Leadership Team (HPLT), then it is almost a basic requirement that the entire LT is excellent at coaching – it’s like a pre-requisite and here’s why:

• Accelerates development of their own Strategic Competencies
• Promote Adoption of key behaviors surrounding critical competencies
• Provides an Actionable and Accountable process for delivering specific results
• Will accelerate and ensure Transformation
• Very high leverage opportunity
• Establishes mutual dependency and trust within the LT
• Creates positive and supportive environment
• Serves as role model for rest of organization
• Can be accomplished with minimal disruptions
• Does not require significant intervention(economical)
• Especially critical with dispersed, remote teams

It is probably useful to talk about what exactly is a “coach” so that we are all on the same page. Here is how we define the role:

• The Custodian
• The Guide
• The Trained Observer
• The Teacher
• The Mentor
• The Sponsor
• The Awakener
• The Facilitator

And before I continue, let me dispel some of the myths around coaching that still persist:

• Coaching takes a lot of time
• Coaching is mentoring
• Coaching is just for fixing problem behaviors
• Coaching is just a fad
• Coaching is best left to HR professionals
• Coaching is just part of the disciplinary process

Make sure you don’t fall for any of these because they are nothing but misconceptions. In fact I would argue that this kind of intervention is probably one of the highest value interventions that we can offer because if we can make transform your LT into a HPLT, you will be calling on us as consultants less and less ☹ ☹ ☹.

And by the way, in addition to any altruistic motives you may have, here are additional reasons for you to consider this as a leader with the first one being most critical:

• Drive performance results that meet the needs of the group and the business
• Build high levels of LT commitment
• Develop LT skills and abilities
• Challenge LTs to perform to their best and as self-sufficiently as possible
• Increase productivity by maximizing resources
• Build constructive working relationships with leadership and staff
• Maximize the use of time so that you can have the greatest impact
• Provide leadership to encourage progress not only today, but also in the future
• Reinforce quality performance and LT accountability
• Make your life as a Leader just a little bit easier

And as I mentioned earlier, while it is a very effective intervention, there are some factors that you need to ensure are present for it to be successful and these are some of them:

• Alignment of Coaching strategy with Leader
• Triangular goal setting (Manager, Client, Coach)
• Learning culture
• Sponsorship
• Alignment with other people processes
• Coaching framework and tools

Below is a client example to illustrate how we have done it for others that you might find useful:

The best way to extend and multiply yourself is to transform your LT into a HPLT and the most effective way is to first coach the LT themselves and THEN ask them to become player-coaches.


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