Turn Your Boss into a Coach

If the fifteen feet of rain we’ve received hasn’t clued you in yet, it’s Spring. In my house that means a new round of sports has begun (well it will if it ever stops raining). 

This year, the girl is playing soccer. The boy is trying baseball for the first time. And I’ve taken on a part-time job as sports practice and game chauffeur. And a 2nd part-time job as spectator. One thing I’ve noticed by having two kids in sports: sports at any level can be very physically demanding…on the parents! 

Another thing I’ve noticed I thought might actually be helpful to you and me in business is that every team has a coach. Not a boss. Not a supervisor. Not a president. Not a CEO. A coach.

Sure, the major leagues have layers of management from the dugout to the C-suite, but the vast majority of teams on the field and in business have a single authority figure – the coach.

Yes, there are good coaches and bad coaches. Happy, helpful coaches and foul-mouthed, fiery coaches. For the rest of this article, I’m going to picture the happy, helpful coaches in my head and I invite you to do the same.

I love how most kids treat their little league coaches. They look up to them. They instantly respect them. They learn from them. They trust them. They follow their lead. They constantly work to gain their favor. Not much in life feels better than glowing praise from the coach. Not much feels worse than believing you let the coach down.

How does that compare to the way you treat your boss?

Yeah, I know. If you answered that question honestly, it probably stung a little bit. Many people don’t share the same fondness for their boss that rugrats do for their little league coaches.

But…what if you started treating your boss like a coach? Would that change your relationship for the better? Think it might change the dynamic of your team? How about the quality of your work?

“But my boss doesn’t act like a coach,” you say.

Here is very powerful thing to remember that will change your life if you let it: People treat you the way you train them to treat you. 

If you treat your boss like a boss, you are guaranteed to develop/maintain a boss/servant relationship. However, if you treat your boss like a coach, you’re a whole lot more likely to create a coach/player relationship. Hmmm, boss/servant vs. coach/player. I’ll take the 2nd one, please.

“Why should I be the one to change? My boss should change first. After all, he’s the boss!” 

Umm, in case you hadn’t noticed, NOTHING in life works that way. If you want to be successful in anything, especially designing and developing new relationships, there is one critical thing that must happen: you must go first. It’s the only way.

Hey, bosses, same goes for you. Try viewing yourself as a coach instead of a boss. Instead of “managing” your people, try “coaching” them instead. Set the game plan, help each player understand how they best help the team, capitalize on their strengths, help them correct weaknesses, and then let them play the game! Treat them with respect, praise their good work, and gently correct their mistakes with one-on-one instruction. 

And bosses will say “I shouldn’t have to coach my people, they should do their jobs well and want to improve on their own. Isn’t that what they get paid for?” Let me repeat the mantra of success: you go first. It’s the only way.

Here’s how it can begin. Starting today:

If you’re an employee:

  • Respect your coach.
  • Ask for advice and instruction.
  • Listen to advice and instruction.
  • Believe your coach has your best interest in mind, as well as that of the team’s.
  • Realize that you’re not the only player on the team.
  • Understand the coach has a difficult job.
  • Take criticism for what it is: an opportunity to improve your game.
If you’re a boss, I mean a COACH: 
  • Respect your players.  
  • Praise players when they do well.
  • Instruct players one-on-one for improvement.
  • Realize that all players need your coaching, both the stars and the bench warmers.
  • Believe that your players want to succeed.
  • Help your players succeed.
Here’s what I’d really like to see. I’d like to see us drop the word, “boss”, from our vocabulary and replace it with “coach.”
What if you called your boss “coach” from now on? I can hear it now…
“Hey, coach, what’s on the agenda today?”
“Hey, coach, here’s that report you asked for.”
“Hey, coach, wondered if you had a minute to help me figure something out.”
“Hey, coach, great day today.”
There is real power in the language we choose. You really don’t need permission to do this. Just start calling your boss coach and see what happens. You could even start by saying “You know what, I view you as my coach, not just my boss. I’m going to call you coach from now on.”

The added bonus? When you treat your boss like a coach, you’ll instantly become a better player. 


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