The Characteristics of a Successful Coach and How You Can Apply the Same Strategy with Your Leaders

Thursday, June 01, 2017

There are thousands of successful coaches out there, both professional and volunteer, but my favorite coach is my husband. We have been together over 30 years and during that time he has played and coached on all levels. During that time I have watched him coach young kids and follow them to become successful adults in life and in business. To accomplish this, he has focused on five key disciplines. They are:

  1. Quality of practice
  2. Two-way communication
  3. Motivation
  4. Develop key skills
  5. Strong knowledge of the game


Quality of Practice

There is no progress without practice; but don’t underestimate that the quality of your practice has a significant impact on your outcomes. Instead of just going through the motions, it is important to identify specific skill sets that need development so you can focus on them. Once you have a practice plan in place, revisit it continually to improve the content and incorporate new information. Of course, the best laid practice plan will be worthless without the presence of a “teachable spirit.” Make sure you are coaching a team member that has learned how to take correction as a compliment. The most successful players are the hardest workers and are willing to change.


Two-Way Communication

Transferring knowledge effectively is a two-way street. Feedback can result in subtle or drastic behavior adjustments or none at all. Coaches and players who want to achieve their goals are able to talk and listen to one another. To ensure you are fostering two-way communication with your team, make sure rules and expectations are clearly defined and understood. When workers understand what is expected of them it’s easier for them to “play by the -book” and excel in their role. Keeping channels of communication open, in case there are any questions, also ensures effective two-way communication in the workplace.



Successful coaches know that motivation is one of the most powerful tools in their arsenal. Motivation is the force that initiates, guides, and maintains goal-oriented behaviors. It is the encouragement that players need to take action and make change. Make sure to give plenty of feedback so your employees understand how they can grow and progress through the company. Regularly find ways for each teammate to succeed and feel good about their performance.  Every player needs to feel like they are making a contribution to the success of the team.


Develop Key Skill Sets

Choosing the skills you want to develop starts with an honest assessment of current strengths and deficiencies. Successful coaches are able to prioritize the most fundamental skills a player needs and then make recommendations designed to help players improve in the areas that will make the most impact. Many companies use skill assessment tools during the interview process and this can help identify strengths and weaknesses so you can be ready to mentor them on day one. Performance reviews are another good coaching tool that will allow you to make sure each player is making progress. 


Knowledge of the Game

Possessing knowledge of the game is the most important factor in determining a coach’s success. As a leader, you need to possess a deep understanding of the subject matter so you can provide relevant, practice advice. Your deep knowledge in the subject matter inspires confidence in your team, builds trust, and allows for more productive mentoring. 


As you can see, coaching and being a successful business leader require many of the same skills and tactics. Putting these simple coaching practices in place will go a long way in improving the quality of your outcomes. Make no mistake, great leadership is a critical component of successful teamwork, both on and off the field. A team can only go as far as their leaders are willing to take them, and improving the quality of guidance you provide will give everyone the best chance of success.