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What Would Vince Lombardi Do?

by Mel Kleiman, CSP


There is nothing more exciting than coaching a child and his or her team to victory. And there can be nothing more depressing than the disappointed look of that same child and his or her team when they know they've lost.

Baseball, basketball, football and other sports are games, from which children derive as much entertainment as they do recreation. As they get older those games often become more serious. As such, the role of coach also becomes more important.

Vince Lombardi, Red Auerbach, Joe Torre, Pat Riley and Phil Jackson all made their mark in professional sports by effectively teaching, mentoring, managing, and directing their teams. They got to be the best by bringing out the best in their players and collectively reaching the pinnacle of success.

Like great coaches, as the manager of a business, you can help your team be the best, by determining where your employees want to be and helping them to get there.

Sometimes we can retain our great employees well into the future, but it's more than likely most will turn free agents and seek employment and growth opportunities elsewhere. So, like the coach that knows his superstar will not return next season - you've got to get the best out of each employee while you have them.

The key is:

1. Figuring out what each employee wants out of their job
2. Where they hope to be in the future.

You will figure this out by listening to them. You should find out from the very start the answers to these two important issues. It should shape your hiring decisions. It should be a guiding force in your day-to-day management of employees.

And when an employee does leave - you must again focus on those areas. Did you help them achieve their goals? Did you help them along their career path? If you can answer yes to these questions, then you have succeeded. If not, then try to find ways to be more responsive to employee concerns.

Many of your best employees may never plan to make a career in your industry, but they will continuously seek out growth opportunities. Try to offer challenges within your organization that will hold their interest and their enthusiasm. But even, if they start to wander, be willing to provide them the skills and knowledge base to get where they want to be.

A large part of this is teaching them about the world of work. You need to teach the skills that are not just important for the job, but also those skills which are critical in life.

To help you in your coaching, just try to remember GO TEAM!

G is for GOALS
Every golfer needs a cup. Every archer needs a target. It is your job as coach to help each team member find their own targets. Not only should you help employees set their goals, you should also be teaching the importance of objectives and strategies that will help them achieve goals in their personal and professional lives.

Of course, you will also have company-wide goals that should be expressed and explained to the team. There is perhaps no greater reward than the feeling of accomplishment when a goal is reached. So make sure you set attainable goals and celebrate when each goal is accomplished.

O is for OPPORTUNITY
Great employees can identify a need and make it an opportunity. They seize the moment and move forward without comment or instruction. It may be as simple as cleaning a dirty counter, sweeping up a spill or holding the door for a customer. In sports terms it's called hustle and giving 110%.

Like the basketball player who dives for the loose ball, employees should learn that making an extra effort beyond what is expected, makes them more valuable and could lead to an MVP career.

T is for TEAMWORK
As the saying goes - there is no I in team. The pitcher needs a catcher, the quarterback needs his receiver. Employees may take a job for personal reasons, but in doing so they join a team that will support him or her just as much as he or she supports the team. Everyone depends upon each other to be successful. When one employee shows up late, takes a long break, or doesn't do their job - then everyone else must pick up the slack.

Though there may be cultural, ethnic and even language barriers, it is nevertheless critical that employees at least get along in the workplace. And perhaps greater understandings and even friendships may develop.

E is for ETHICS
It's plain, simple and practical. Do to others as you wish done to you. This goes for customers as well as employees. If you teach your employees proper workplace behavior and coach them to always practice this - then you should never need a referee to call a penalty. Use disciplinary measures to reinforce the basic concepts behind ethical behavior.

A is for ATTITUDE
One of the most important things you can impart on your younger charges is the proper attitude in the workplace. Despite a bevy of discrimination and termination legal issues, it is still ultimately a privilege and not a right to work.

An employee's attitude is reflected in the way they work and they carry themselves. Happy, alert, and responsive employees are also driven to excel and will succeed in this job and future endeavors. Disgruntled, disturbed and disappointed employees will mope around behind the counter, will make mistakes and will show little regard for customers or the business.

It is important that you hedge off potential problems as early as possible. Use recognition and encouragement to bolster the spirits of employees. Set rules for attitude and behavior and enforce these rules stringently. It is important that employees also understand that rules are made to be followed.

M is for MOTIVATION
As the coach of your store, you are a lot of things to a lot of people. For your employees you are a friend and a disciplinarian, a mentor and a manager, a master and a motivator. When everything is clicking, your hardest responsibility may be to continue to motivate the team to greater successes.

In sports there are many champions, but only the great teams are able to repeat again the following year. That is because it is easy to get complacent. Teams may rest on their laurels after reaching success. As a good coach you need to be a constant motivator for your team.

Of course nobody ever said winning was easy. Neither is coaching. But remember at the end of the season - it is always good to look back and say YOU WERE THE BEST.

Mel Kleiman, CSP, is an internationally recognized consultant, author, and speaker on strategies for hiring and retaining the best hourly employees. He is the President of Humetrics, a leading developer of systems, training, processes, and tools for recruiting, selecting, and retaining the best hourly workforce. Mel is also the author of four books, including the best selling "Hire Tough Manage Easy." You can reach Mel at (800) 218-0930 or (713) 771-4401 mel@melkleiman.com.