Based on over ten years of research on high performing teams and organizations, I describe several common everyday characteristics and practices that tend to be seen in coaches who thrive in complex, highly competitive contexts. These characteristics—brokering, embedding, experimenting, targeting high doses, and zeal in all practice – are the bedrocks of the everyday beetz model of coaching practice.
Different from coaches who more narrowly focus on end goals of winning, the best coaches prioritize a wider, more robust type of practice that strategically connects team members to valuable information, resources, and relationships. This practice of brokering is anchored in holistic understandings of human development and social capital.
The interests and needs of diverse team members are manifold and their paths to success are not best facilitated by coaches who work in isolation of others. Brokering coaches view their work as interconnected with the other key elements of individuals’ lives. The work of brokering coaches fosters greater connectedness for those they serve (…and it helps teams win).
Given the fluid nature of each setting, coaches are required to continually learn about how to best cultivate opportunity for those whom they serve. Top coaches prioritize this ongoing learning through structural embeddedness. Rather than hyoper-isolating roles and responsibilities of team leadership, embedded models call for more frequent touch-points among diverse team members. Leaders develop and maintain fine-grained understandings of their players and teams by regularly observing and/or participating in “front-line spaces.” And those who do not hold formal leadership roles are consistently included in larger-scale issues and discussions relating to the team’s work. As a result, teams cultivate deeper, more collective understandings of how their work can best flow.
Some of the most effective coaches embrace innovation in order to find new ways to support lead, learn, and succeed. By developing cultures of experimentation, top coaches encourage daily tweaking, both big and small, to improve the ways their teams work together. In doing so, coaches not only develop more effective and efficient ideas, they also empower team members whose roles might otherwise become mundane and peripheral. Cultures of experimentation value new insights. Experimenting teams are engaging places in which to compete.
Targeting high doses
Highly effective coaches identify the occasions that occur with frequency and regularity on their teams and, in targeted and focused ways, leverage these high-dose occasions to their teams’ advantages. Periods that are commonly disregarded by others as “in-between time” – such as waiting for meals, transportation to and from practices/games, and transitions between meetings – are recognized by top coaches as critical junctures in teams’ everyday lives that, if purposefully addressed, can have significant collective impact in creating a positive culture. Micro-interactions between people and information are smartly framed by coaches in ways that their players may not even recognize. Over the course of days, weeks, and months, these multiple exposures can lead to significant gains for teams in areas of most importance to them – like relationship development and identity formation.
There is a palpable difference between teams that are authentically animated by zeal—passion, exuberance, commitment, and care—and those that operate with more detached, business-like practice. Top coaches engage their teams with zeal. Deeper than superficial mission statements or company jargon, the most effective teams are anchored in deeper meanings than just winning. Zeal is connected to the other elements of the beetz model. It is best fostered when coaches broker, embed, experiment, and target high doses.