Instant Replay

There are many great lessons in watching Sunday football and leadership. Immediately following a big play – either a winning play or an error – once the player sits on the bench, their designated coach joins them with an iPad. They may exchange high fives or get a consolation pat with a knowing look. Then, together, they review the play while the rest of the game is playing on. One can see the specialty coach going over the play, while the player is still out of breath, and the memory is still raw. The game continues, the player heads back out on the field, and that instant feedback is put to use on the next play. In a regular season that is just 17 games, one hour each, every play matters.

Isn’t that true in our Direct-to-Consumer businesses? Every play – every guest interaction – matters. Wouldn’t it be nice to have this type of feedback mechanism available in our Direct-to-Consumer businesses? While we may not have instant reply, we do have The Daily Catch.

Good, no GREAT, people leaders use this mindset daily. One important skill shines as brightly as a champion’s trophy – the ability to give timely and effective feedback. It may be a high five, it may be a consoling nod, but the discipline of continuous feedback lets our teammates know when they are hitting it, and when they need to try a different strategy, immediately. If you are a people leader, how often do you encourage, empathize, and celebrate with your teammates? Is it in the moment, or is it saved for those once-a-year performance reviews? Imagine the impact on morale and team member behavior, and ultimately guest experience and business results, if we catch folks doing things right! Instead of ambiguity (does anyone even notice when I try?), imagine if teammates were seeking you out to share in successes, and to ask for advice openly and without fear of retribution. How different would it be to walk the floor of most businesses if there are cultures of wanting feedback, and it being given often and freely! In the realm of sports teams, where the dynamics are as diverse as the players on the field, mastering the art of coaching is essential for cultivating a team of leaders that will score big.

So, how does a WISE manager do this? Let’s perfect our gameplan:

    1. Understand Your Team’s Playbook
      Just as a coach studies the strengths and weaknesses of opponents, a successful people leader must recognize the unique qualities of each team member. Take the time to understand their skills, areas for improvement, and individual goals. Tailoring your coaching approach to each player’s play style ensures a more impactful and effective exchange of feedback.
    2. The Huddle: Open and Honest Team Communication
      In sports, the best teams communicate seamlessly on the field. Create an atmosphere where open dialogue is encouraged. Establish a culture of trust, making team members feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and concerns. By fostering an environment of mutual respect, feedback becomes a two-way street, enriching both the giver and receiver.
    3. Game Day Strategy: Timely Feedback
      Just as a well-timed play can change the course of a game, feedback should be delivered promptly to have the most impact. Addressing issues swiftly prevents them from escalating into larger problems. Provide positive reinforcement for achievements and promptly address areas for improvement. Timely feedback not only keeps the team on track but also demonstrates your commitment to their growth and success.
    4. Halftime Adjustments: Constructive Criticism with Solutions
      Constructive criticism is a strategic move. When pointing out areas for improvement, be sure to ask for suggestions or offer actionable solutions. Just as a coach adjusts tactics to exploit the opponent’s weaknesses, provide guidance on how your team members can enhance their skills. This approach empowers them to learn and grow, transforming constructive feedback into a catalyst for improvement.
    5. Playbook Precision: Set Clear Expectations
      In sports, success often hinges on executing the game plan flawlessly. Similarly, in leadership, success depends on setting clear expectations. Define specific goals and benchmarks for your team, ensuring everyone understands their role in achieving victory. Clear expectations provide a roadmap for growth and development.
    6. Locker Room Talks: Regular Check-ins
      Just as a coach engages in regular check-ins with players, leaders must connect with their team off the field. These one-on-one sessions allow for a deeper understanding of individual progress, concerns, and aspirations. Use these moments to reinforce positive behaviors, address challenges, and provide ongoing support. Regular check-ins nurture a culture of continuous improvement.

Start small – and start positive! Everyone appreciates notes, quick conversations, and high fives for a task well done. Not to be overdone or ingenuine, but a “Hey, I noticed your most recent club sign up, way to go!” goes a long way. Once that definition of success has been positively reinforced, repeatedly, then we can begin to apply “constant, gentle pressure” as Danny Meyer, a New York City Restaurateur, calls it to course correct. Doing by showing on the floor, with a question may be effective. Asking “how can we…” solicits input and builds trust. It instills that member’s opinions are valued and respected. Over time, members will self-correct team norms as behaviors are accepted and defined.

Keep in mind, a NFL head coach has many experts on their coaching team – defensive line coordinators, special teams coaches, offensive coaches, all well versed in the overall strategy and empowered to apply that constant gentle pressure. Is everyone in your leadership team aligned and coaching towards the same goal? Minimizing politics, and ego, for the good of the team takes time to build. You know you have it when the celebration in the end zone involves the whole team, not just the player with the winning play!