Are we good, or are we well?

By: trademagazin Date: 2008. 06. 27. 08:00

There is a lot of resemblance between business and competitive sport. Results can be measured objectively in both. You can tell right away who is successful and who isn’t. Another similarity between the two is that in order to become successful, you have to overcome many difficulties. Success is the result of hard work. As Michael Jordan, one of the best basketball players ever has said: “I missed over 9,000 baskets during my career. I lost almost 300 games. I made mistakes all over again throughout my career. This is why I am successful.” Mistakes and failure are an integral part of a career in sport and nobody can become successful without learning to handle these. Since there are so many similarities between business and competitive sport, it is no wonder that so many methods from the world of sport have been adopted by business. Probably the most important aspect of competitive sport regarding our work is that developing the skills of our colleagues should become an everyday routine. All athletes have a coach. Why shouldn’t employees have a coach as well? In order to become really good at what one is doing, a coach is needed just as much as it is in sports. This is what managers are for. Athletes often find models to help them in improving their performance. These models are the examples to be followed. According to research, this can speed up progress. Employees also need a model to look upon as an example. During a very interesting experiment (Rosenthal and Jacobson, 1968) primary school teachers had been told that some children in their class will produce extraordinary progress. These children however, had been selected on a random basis and were no more gifted than the other children. But the teachers had not been aware of this fact. At the end of the school year, these children were tested and it was found that they had produced significantly better progress than other children in their class. It looked as if the teachers’ attitude and expectations had actually influenced their progress, probably because of a more positive approach to difficulties and success. This effect is often called the “Pygmalion effect”. Our expectations can be strong enough to influence other people’s behaviour. In another experiment, self-fulfilling prophecies had been found to work with swimmers as well. Managers acting as “coaches” display very different attitudes towards employees they have faith in, and others they do not believe in. However, this might be a mistake. Sometimes managers form an opinion of their employees when they are not yet ready to undertake complex tasks and this opinion remains embedded, later serving as an obstacle to the employee’s progress. Adapting a coaching approach requires a lot of preparation. An often neglected everyday technique for preparing is asking questions. It is not only our employees we need to ask questions, but also ourselves. It is not only the solutions we offer to problems that make us good managers, but the questions we ask are just as important.

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