New-York-Yankees-vs-1.-Detroit-TigersI was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan but currently live in New York.

When you are born and raised in Detroit, but move to New York, who are you supposed to cheer for when the Detroit Tigers play off against the New York Yankees?

The question gets more complicated when you are watching the last game of a 5 game series with your entire family in a den in Michigan while on a visit home for the holidays!

Figuring out your allegiance toward your company is a bit like this. Should you cheer for the company as it’s always been? Or as you want it to be?

If you are a leader within an organization with a vision for how to succeed, it’s hard to go up against the ideas and behaviours that have been fossilized into the company’s current way of doing things.

  • How can you get your colleagues in another department to see your vision when all you hear is: “Nice idea, but that’s really not part of our culture.”
  • How can you get the front line to think about business development as they are servicing your customers? When they respond: “I’m not really a sales person, I’m more of a service person.”?
  • How can you get middle managers to behave more like leaders themselves?

In sports the answer is practice. Lots and lots of practice. And a specific kind of practice. Deliberate practice. Practice with a coach.

Atul Gawande, writes about his experience going up against a culture of ‘we don’t do things that way’ in the October 3, 2011 issue of the New Yorker. The essay is titled: Personal Best: Top athletes and singers have coaches. Should you?

He writes:

“The coaching model is different from the traditional conception of pedagogy, where there’s a presumption that after a certain point the student no longer needs instruction. You graduate. You’re done. You can go the rest of the way by yourself….

Coaching in pro sports proceeds from a starkly different premise: it considers the teaching model naïve about our human capacity for self-perfection. It holds that no matter how well prepared people are in their formative years, few can achieve and maintain their best performance on their own.”

Organizations talk about ‘best practices’ all the time, but where are the coaches helping each and every individual achieve and maintain this best performance? Atul Gawande had to find his own – at his own expense; a former colleague who was willing to come in, observe Atul’s work and offer feedback and ideas for improvement.

I believe that the only way to get a coworker to see your vision, or teach your front line to think about sales, or motivate middle managers to behave more like leaders, is to get them to practice those skills – with a coach. An investment in ongoing coaching for all levels in an organization can totally transform it.

Cheer for the company not as it’s been. Or as it is. We want you to cheer for the company as it can be. A company that invests in everyone’s personal best.