Do the Best Players Make the Best Coaches?

by Kim Turnage

March 14, 2018BlogLeadership

Studies show that more than half of workers would choose a great manager over a 10% pay increase. Studies also show that as many as 50% of managers and leaders are ineffective at their jobs. Maybe that’s why so many people would literally leave money on the table to get a better boss.

When companies settle for ineffective managers, they’re leaving money on the table too. Disengagement and turnover are expensive. Actively disengaged employees cost organizations $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary. What’s the leading source of disengagement and turnover? Poor management. If half the managers in an organization are ineffective, that money thrown away on disengagement adds up fast!

There’s a simple solution: Hire and promote better managers. But how?

A Lesson from the NFL
Answer this question: What percentage of NFL head coaches were highly successful football players?

The answer might surprise you. Among NFL head coaches in 2016, only 1/3 of them played professional football (and “professional football” includes CFL and Arena League). That means 2/3 of them never made it to the level of individual performance that they now coach and manage. And it means there are a lot of great football players who don’t have what it takes to become great coaches.

The lesson is this: If you’re promoting only your best players to be coaches and managers, you’re missing out on a lot of potential talent and you’re putting a lot of good players into roles where they do not have the right talent to succeed.

Applying the Lesson to Your Organization
Too many times, that promotion to a management role goes to top individual performers. But the best performers are not necessarily the best managers. Look beyond performance to spot potential for coaching, management, mentoring and leadership. Hire and promote people with that kind of potential – even if they’re not your top individual performers. And don’t promote your top performers just because they’re good at what they do now. Raise the bar and look hard for that coaching, mentoring and managing potential.

Ask Questions Like This to Identify Management Potential

  • Who asks great questions that push us beyond the status quo?
  • Who is always learning more and connecting new ideas to our overarching goals?
  • Who has the influence (even without formal authority) to advance ideas for making things work better?
  • Who has a knack for seeing what other people do well and positioning those people to succeed in the process of achieving bigger picture team goals?
  • Who do people naturally turn to for answers or advice or a listening ear?
  • Who do you implicitly trust?
  • Who elevates the game and the intensity of every other player when he or she walks onto the field of play?
  • Who manages change and conflict in ways that keep people focused on achievement?

The best players don’t always make the best coaches and managers. How would your business change if you got better at hiring and promoting highly talented, highly effective managers? How would your culture change if fewer people were disengaged because they were poorly managed? How would your financial picture change if you put $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary to the bottom line instead of throwing it away on disengagement? Find great coaches, managers and leaders, and see what happens.