Like many Vancouverites, I am an avid hockey fan. I watch almost every game and I live and breathe for Canucks hockey. I assume that some of you can identify with my enjoyment of watching the first game of the season, when anything is possible. I’m feeling a little withdrawal from hockey season, so this is my reprieve.
I’ve actually wanted to write a blog post about sports and business for awhile. It’s a comparison that I’ve heard on quite a few occasions and one that I find often resonates with people. While any comparison of this nature is never going to be perfect (just as is the case for any metaphor), they serve as a way to make sense of all the complexities that we face every day. While one should never forget the complexities of the world around them, they should also try to avoid getting to caught up in it.
Thinking about the role of a coach is an interesting analogy. As is obvious by the personnel changes some teams make when things are not going well, the coach is often viewed as the catalyst for the success of the team. Sports such as basketball or hockey cannot be won with one player (I’m putting it out there!), so you need more than big names or big talent to win the game – you need a team. While each individual team member works on their own skills, conditioning, or game play, it’s up to the coach to ensure that all this development is aligned with the team strategy, and aligned with the role that person needs to play on the team. Not everyone can be the goal scorer, the play maker, or the goalie, the coach is responsible for managing the distribution and development of these roles. Additionally, while players work on their individual development, the coach needs to ensure that these roles fit well together. In hockey, it is well known that chemistry is a huge component of the success of a team. It is the coach that has to create an environment where players can develop chemistry, and they also have to be able to switch things up when it’s not working. However, ultimately, the players are the front line. They produce the ultimate product – the game. The coaches don’t get out on the ice or the court and score points for the team, only the players can do that.
I would propose that a coach in sports is very similar to a manager in an organization. Managers have to manage their team – one talented individual is not going to get the work done for the entire team, it requires the skills, abilities, and roles of all the team members. Managers have to know when people are working together successfully, and take action when this is not the case. They need to be actively involved in the development of their players to align their development with the strategic direction of the team and ultimately the organization, and to guide that individual’s development such that they can provide value to the team in contributing in their role. Ultimately, however, it is the front line that executes and delivers the team’s product/service/etc. The manager has to be able to do all the activities mentioned above, but at the end of the day, they have to have developed that trust in their team to execute on their own. Easier said than done.
I hope Alain Vigneault is up to the task this year. Go Canucks!