March Madness is in full swing now, as college basketball fans across the country closely watch their brackets to see if their teams make it to the Final Four. But you can learn a lot more from the popular NCAA tournament than how to play a great game. For business leaders, keeping an eye on the coaches behind the teams can provide some valuable managerial insights.
"What really creates exceptional athletes is phenomenal coaching," said Razor Suleman, founder of employee engagement platform Achievers. "The same principle applies to how managers inspire successful employees. [A manager] needs to recruit the best team, heavily invest in training to develop and improve the team's skills, set goals, and give regular, real-time feedback."
Suleman believes that the best managers are like coaches who prepare and lead their teams to success. He offered six winning strategies to help business leaders adopt a coaching mentality in the workplace: [How to Become a Better Leader]
Provide frequent, real-time feedback and recognition. Annual or semi-annual performance reviews don't give employees all the encouragement they need. At least once a week, managers should give their team members informal feedback about areas the employees need to work on, and recognition for things they're doing well.
Align employee behaviors to long-term business objectives. All teams, whether on the court or in the workplace, are trying to achieve something greater than themselves and reach big, long-term goals by working together. Great managers understand that, and use this overarching goal to motivate people and get the best performance.
Give employees autonomy and room for personal growth. Managers often struggle with this, but autonomy is one of the most valuable things you can give employees. Don't micromanage your team by telling them how to do things; allow them the freedom to make mistakes that can help them learn and grow.
Communicate clearly and openly. When managers have risen through the ranks and gained a great deal of knowledge about their jobs, they tend to forget what it's like to be an individual contributor. This makes it difficult to communicate exactly what's expected of the team. Be sure to explain directions and goals as clearly as possible, and always be willing to further clarify anything that your team doesn't understand.
Support teamwork and leverage employees' individual strengths. Building a great team means placing each person in the right position based on his or her talents. If you put individuals in the wrong place and they fail, they're not bad athletes or employees — you're a bad coach for not using their strengths. Take an employee-centric view when assigning roles, and hand out tasks that match the individual's skill set.
Celebrate success when employees achieve results. Managers are frequently so focused on achieving the next goal that they don't take time to celebrate and reinforce what they and their team have already accomplished. Recognizing success and giving it emotional significance play a key role in accomplishing even greater goals.
"After every basket is scored, the fans and coaches cheer," Suleman said. "There needs to be more celebration [like this] in business."
Originally published on Business News Daily.