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Fix or maintain, that is the question

Hey Bob Cartoon by Doug Johnson

There are hardly any world-class athletes, musicians, sports teams or businessmen or women, that do not have a coach.

The emphasis is on world-class, and when it comes to being the best of the best, success is about the finest of margins. There is only so much you can do or accomplish on your own, and then there comes a time when you realise that to find those critical improvements you need someone to journey with you.

I find it interesting that we can be so logical about things in some areas and struggle to apply that same logic into other areas. No-one questions the need for a football team to have a coach, and more often than not it is the coach who can be the difference between success or failure, but when it comes to business, that logic flies out of the window.

The MD, or director, or department head or team leader is not a coach. They are the captain or vice-captain, and yet somehow in the business world we have this perception that if I am a leader I need to be the player, the vice-captain, the captain, the coach, the mentor and all-round specialist.

Tangle to untangle

Helping technical people lead teams

There are obviously many areas that people can be coached, and my personal focus is on technical people who have been given the task of leading a group or team. They might be technically brilliant, but the skillset required to lead a team of people is usually very different from the technical skills they have acquired.

Peter Drucker said that: “Most of what you hear about entrepreneurship is wrong. It’s not magical, it’s not mysterious and it has nothing to do with genetics. It is a subject and like all other subjects it can be learned.”

The same applies to leading a team. It is a skill that can be learned, and once it is learned, it can be improved and fine-tuned.

I have trademarked my motto:

Work gets done … for people, with people, and through people™

The ability or skill to lead a group of people is more often than not the deciding factor between success and failure.

Work gets done... Doug Johnson

Changing values

Values are the primary driver of our behaviour. We do what is important to us, or what we value. Values govern our decisions, guide our choices, direct our behaviour, and can save our lives (or kill us)!

One of the things I need to ascertain very quickly when working with a new client is why they have asked me to coach someone. There are many reasons I get asked to coach team leaders, but the two most common ones are:

  1. They genuinely want to upskill and help a leader.
  2. They have a massive problem on their hands with a leader who is not performing and they want me to perform a miracle and fix it.

The sad truth is that the second one is the most common.

The reason it is important for me to establish why I am being asked to help is that it gives me an insight into their values. I have to know if they value “fixing”, or if they value “maintaining”. It will inform my approach to coaching.

If we “maintain” in one area of our lives then we will generally maintain in all areas of our lives. If we “fix” in one area of our lives then we will generally fix in all areas of our lives. It is not very different when it is applied to leading a team or to our health

There are two approaches to health –

  1. Maintain your health and ensure that it does not break.
  2. Fix it once it is broken.

There is a difference between seeing the value IN something, and actually valuing it. You can see the value in exercise, but if you don’t exercise then you don’t actually value exercise, you just see the value in it. You can see the value in eating healthily, but if you don’t eat healthily then you don’t actually value eating healthy, you just see the value in it.

If you are not healthy you cannot thrive, and you are made to thrive. You can see the value in developing leaders, but if you don’t develop leaders then you don’t actually value developing leaders, you just see the value in it.

The tragedy is, in most areas of our lives, that the cost of fixing things once they are broken is usually way more than maintenance.

If you do not value maintenance, you will not maintain.

Fix or maintain – that is the question, and it’s a question of values.

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