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When Should You Let Employees Lead Themselves?

Feb 23

I like to compare sports coaches to business leaders. I know it’s different, but in so many ways there are great comparisons when it comes to execution, performance, and team dynamics.

Coaches are known from time to time to get out the way and let players take over. Player only meetings, player-coaches, etc.

What coaches find is that their teams will sometimes stop listening (sound familiar leaders!?), or they’ve have heard them say the same thing so often, it no longer has the impact it once did. So, have the players be the coach! What you usually find is the players say basically the same thing as the coach, but in a slightly different way and the team responds!

Steve Kerr, the coach of the NBA Golden State Warriors did this last week with a couple of players who had the night off due to injury, rest, etc. He basically let them coach the timeout huddles. Now, he did this with three players he knew could handle it and three players that have high respect for their teammates (see the video below):

There is no doubt each of those players could become a coach when their playing days are over, just like Kerr did if they wanted.

My question is, would this work in a real work setting?

Do you think that your employees, left to ‘coaching’ themselves would respond in a positive way?

Maybe, but most likely not unless you prepared them for this. I’m guessing Kerr has had some time in practice with these three players talking strategy and full confidence that his vision, was also their vision. Because of these “pre-session”, he felt comfortable that the wheels weren’t going to come off.

The other factor here is you need a team that completely trusts one another. The team reacted positively because each of them knew that the player, now playing the role of coach, wanted the same thing they wanted, to win. To make them look good. To use their strengths to accomplish the outcome.

I’m guessing if you walked into your department tomorrow and brought everyone into the conference room and threw Jill a whiteboard marker and said: “Okay, I’m going to have Jill tell us the sales strategy for the 2nd quarter!” Everyone would look sideways and Jill would probably want to have a private conversation!

But, if you had many conversations with Jill and you felt she was prepared and ready, then maybe it could be a positive for her and for the team, believing you had confidence they could make it happen!  I like leaders who try things, given they try things based on skill and preparation.

What do you think? Should Kerr have put players in charge over other players? How would this play in your work environment?

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