Team Member

Picture this. Star quarterback, Drew Brees, tackling Darren Sproles, his own running back, in the open field during practice. The team leader attacks a team member – and one of his best players. Imagine the scrutiny that would follow such an action.

Head Coach Sean Payton would more than likely bench his quarterback for showing such poor judgment. It wouldn’t matter what Drew Brees would offer as a reason, a leader should never attack his own teammate.

It is Hard to Believe this Kind of Thing Happening in Football, right?

Unfortunately, when it comes to corporations, supervisors feel authorized to attack their staff all too often. Not physically but verbally. I remember early in my career, our Senior VP would often belittle us publicly during our staff meetings. One time he actually told a Director that he didn’t care about what the Director had to say. When the Director reacted to the VP’s remark, the VP ordered him to leave the meeting.

Ironically, our Senior VP would often say things like, “I really care about my people” and “I play to the strengths of my team”. I was very young back then and often felt like speaking my mind when I heard him say these things.

But the culture in the organization was one of fear. We all knew that saying anything would have severely damaged any chance of advancing in the organization. The result was we started treating each other and our staff the same way our Senior VP treated us. I think this VP should have been benched!!!

Is this story hard to believe?

I am guessing your answer is no. Actually, you are probably thinking about similar scenarios that you have witnessed, or even worse, something like this may have happened to you.

So Why Are These Scenarios So Different?

Let’s dig into this a bit more. How many coaches are there on a football team?  A bunch, right?  Head Coach, Offensive & Defensive Coordinators, Quarterback Coach, Running Back coach, the list goes on and on…

Why do sports teams hire coaches? To help their teams win!

Would any team owner invest millions of dollars in their players without the best coaches to help them be their best? Absolutely NO! On the contrary, team owners want the best coaches they can find. They know that good coaching is key to having a successful team.

Conflict does happen in sports, and, yes, conflict happens with coaches as well. However, any good coach knows that in order to have a chance to win, a team must work together. Conflict is addressed and dealt with ASAP. In addition, good coaches help their players maximize their own strengths and leverage the strengths of others in the team.

How Many Coaches Do You See in Organizations?

Chances are, not too many. Aren’t businesses in competition? Of course they are! Don’t they need to maximize the performance of every employee? Of course they do. However, coaching is not common in organizations. This seems a little crazy to me, especially when we consider recent data on employee engagement.

Deloitte surveys show that only 20% of people are truly passionate about their work. Gallup surveys show the vast majority of workers are disengaged, with an estimated 23 million “actively disengaged.” The cost to the U.S. economy has been pegged at over $300 billion annually.

A True Story

During a leadership session I facilitated with a group of college seniors, one of the students brought up the recruitment process he was going through at the time, with some of the leading financial firms in New York City. He explained that during the interviews, recruiters asked all kinds of leadership questions. Among others, he mentioned questions like, “tell me an example of a situation when you had to handle conflict”? Or, “what does embodying leadership mean to you”?

I thought this was interesting, because, once they are hired, chances are they will be left on their own to figure things out in already established organizational cultures. In many cases, as it was in my case, young employees will pick up terrible leadership habits from bosses who learned inferior leadership skills from their previous supervisors.

Stop the Cycle of Ineffective Leadership

Why should young leaders lead differently when most of their managers have gotten rewarded by leading with tactics such as fear and intimidation?

Sadly, there may be no coaches to show the next generations of leaders how to avoid bad and costly leadership habits. There won’t be a “leadership coordinator “ helping new supervisors and their staff develop the leadership skills required to lead in the future. This cycle has gone on for decades and it needs to stop. The next generation workforce needs to be engaged and motivated by superior leaders.

Our economy can’t afford wasting $300 billion a year because of disengaged employees! Coaching is needed in corporations just as much, if not more, than in sports.

If you are thinking about adding coaches to your team, here are a few outstanding coaches and leadership consultants that can make a big difference in your organization:

In conclusion, here are a few questions to think about regarding coaching in corporations, or the lack thereof. I hope you find this article thought provoking and helpful.

  • Why do you think coaching is not common in corporations?
  • Do you think supervisors are always able to teach good leadership skills to their employees?
  • Have you had a supervisor that inspired you through superior leadership skills? If so, what did he or she do and are you passing that on?
  • Should we consider investing in leadership coaching for supervisors and staff?

How Can You Handle Conflict With a Team Member?

If you have ideas that you feel like sharing that might be helpful to readers, share them in the comments section below. Thanks!

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Al Gonzalez
Al has worked for 16 years helping others maximize the quality of their leadership at Motorola, CBS Sports, and Cornell University. He’s used these experiences to develop trust-based leadership tools for all levels of management.