Who is in Your Coaching Tree?

In September of this year, I moderated a panel for the SportsBusiness Journal Game Changers Conference. The panel topics revolved around career development. One of the topics I brought up is the concept of the Coaching Tree. This is something that is not discussed often enough in our industry. For anyone not familiar, a coaching tree in sports (football, basketball; both pro and college) is a lot like a family tree. Head coaching “godfathers,” if you will, who mentored and trained coaches under them. The trainees go on to be successful head coaches and train another generation of successful head coaches under them.

The coaching tree exists in business as well. I like talking about coaching trees because I feel like, too often, as managers in their 30s and 40s rise through their careers, they are sometimes too focused on themselves that they forget to develop the people around them. Not only that, but they get territorial with their employees and take it as an insult when an employee wants to move on to another job or opportunity.

Consider this: who developed you in your career? If you felt hindered by your development or disloyal if you took another job, was that a good thing? Have you ever had an employee’s resignation take you by surprise and therefore leave you in a lurch? Let the cycle end and focus on building your coaching tree!

If you feel you encourage your employees to take the next step outside of your organization, I applaud you. Not enough people do.

Building your coaching tree starts with making time to have an open dialogue with your employees; talking about their development, their career goals and objectives. It’s an honest assessment of what you and your organization can offer them in their career development. It also serves as a way for you to communicate your expectations of what they need to do to be considered for a promotion (internally or externally). Formally, you can meet either quarterly or semi-annually to discuss progress and encourage a two-way discussion on where your employee needs room for improvement. Allow them to share anything on their mind – concerns or otherwise. A year-end review can let too much time go by and does not serve as a good check-in on staff. Ideally, however, this formal process becomes informal; your employee feels comfortable talking to you about career development and their achievements in your organization without having a meeting scheduled.

As a leader and manager, it is up to you to make your employee’s career development a priority. Even consider discussing career progress, expectations and next steps either within or outside of your organization when on-boarding staff. Ideally, your staff will feel comfortable coming to you if they see a position posted outside your department for which they want to apply. If you start to focus on developing your staff and helping them grow either inside or outside of your organization (and encourage them to do the same when in a management position), you will become the Bill Walsh or Bill Parcells of your organization!



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