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Leadership: How To Select A Coach

It was around this time last year that one of India’s all-time cricketing greats became the coach of the Indian cricket team. Everyone cheered. In the 12 months that followed, the team won almost everything and became the No. 1 test team. And then, from out of the blue, came the news that all was not well and the coach’s contract was not being renewed.

How did this come to pass? A great cricketer as coach, a talismanic new captain and a successful team – and then this mess? How did we let this happen?

If you are a corporate looking to appoint a coach for a high-performer, here are four lessons you can take away from the Kumble saga. Lessons you must keep in mind when appointing the next coach! Here goes:

You are looking for a good coach. Not for a great player. As companies search for a coach, the first list of potential candidates often includes industry veterans and former CEOs. They are very knowledgeable, and well-respected – but that may not automatically make them great coaches. Coaching is a somewhat specialised skill. It helps to look for some formal training and certification in the art and science of coaching. And some prior coaching experience can be invaluable too. Don’t compromise on that. How is the candidate’s track record as a coach? Great professional managers do not necessarily good coaches make. Pravin Amre – one of the most sought-after batting coaches today was an under-performer as a batsman at the international level. Maybe there’s a lesson in there for corporates too.

Don’t forget the reference check.

Speak to other people who have experienced the candidate in his coaching avatar. The worst reason to pick a guy as a coach is because ‘he is the CEO’s buddy’. Or because ‘some of the board members have worked with him in the past’. In the narrow corridor of sound logic, don’t allow the argument of ‘I know him, he’s a great guy!’ to win. The better choice as coach is often someone you may not have known – but is very much a great guy! Contemporaries might recall the potential coach as a wonderful chap – but check for how subordinates and foot soldiers view him. The view from the bottom is often different, very different. Coaching requires the coach to get down to the coachee’s level – and be comfortable doing that!

Chemistry matters
Selecting a good coach is not just about finding the best guy. It’s about finding the right guy. It’s important to ensure there is adequate comfort between both parties. And trust too. Even if you have a fabulous coach, if the chemistry is not right, the results will usually disappoint. No chemistry, no go. Should a coachee have a say in the appointment of the coach? Absolutely. The CEO and the selection committee can help suggest options who they think might fit the bill. Let the two parties meet. And if the coachee has reservations, or doesn’t feel comfortable, respect his word. Foisting a mismatched coach on an unwilling coachee is a recipe for disaster.

Is the coach up for the millennials challenge?
Coaching young, ambitious, self-driven millennials poses its own set of challenges. Make sure the coach is someone with a willingness to adapt, and the agility to work with a generation that has a mind of its own. Good coaches don’t look at the differences and bemoan the good old days. It’s easy to think that in our time we came to work at 8 am, and swiped attendance cards – and if we were ten minutes late we’d lose half a day’s pay. It just doesn’t work anymore. And not coming in at 8 am does not make this generation less disciplined. Their idea of discipline is different, that’s all. Good coaches respect that, and work with it. Find a coach who is willing to adapt to them. Don’t expect them to adapt to him!

That’s it then. Selecting the right coach is at the heart of a successful coaching engagement. Choose with care. You have a coachee to take care of. And a coach too. And remember, you may not have the luxury of a decision review system!

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