Do you have a coach for your team?

In a recent post I asked if you, as an individual, have a coach.  My question for today:  Do you, as a leader of an organization, have a coach for your team(s)?  If you don’t have a separate position for a coach, do you act as the coach for your team?  Or do you just not think your team needs a coach to help them carry out their jobs and missions?

Consider this from a Q&A with Malcolm Gladwell (about his new book Outliers: The Story of Success) on ESPN.com:

More importantly, what do you do with nature? You can’t change your genes. The only thing we can do something about is the nurture part, and that’s why we ought to spend so much more time talking about it. Right now, for instance, like everyone else, I’m fascinated by Mike Leach. He’s created a system so good that it seems like he can plug in virtually any reasonably talented quarterback and get spectacular results. Isn’t that extraordinary? Why don’t pro teams learn that lesson? Doesn’t that mean that a pro franchise ought to spend way more time selecting and developing its coaching talent than it does now?

I always find it incredible that an NFL team will draft a running back in the first round, give him a $10 million signing bonus, and get, maybe, four good years out of him. Suppose you spent $10 million finding and training the equivalent of Mike Leach — someone who could create a system so good that it could make even the most mediocre athletes play like stars. You could get 40 years out of him.

Just like the NFL, and other pro sports leagues, your ‘talent’ will come and go, especially in this age of the cloudworker.  To paraphrase Gladwell above, what if instead of hiring a star individual performer or two to be on your team you hired and trained a coach that could make the team you already have perform like stars?

Do you have a coach? Do you need a coach?

If you ask a competitive athlete if they have / need a coach the answers will likely range from “Yes” to “Of course” to “Are you kidding?”. If you ask a knowledge worker, or concept worker, the same question the answers will likely range from “No” to “Huh?” to “Are you kidding?” Obviously, the “Are you kidding” answer has very different meanings in the two different contexts.

I’ve often wondered why this is: why is it acceptable, expected even, that athletes have and need coaches but considered a luxury if someone has a work/life coach and actually a detriment – a sign of weakness – if someone wants or needs a work/life coach?

The discussion around a recent question on LinkedIn got me thinking about this again:

Q: If you can’t afford a coach, what are you doing to support your professional growth?
A: I love (?) the assumptive nature of this question: that everyone needs a coach;…  Do professionals need coaches? No, certainly not.

The answer I quote above is just part of one response, but nearly all of the answers (so far) seem to dismiss the idea that a professional coach is desirable or needed.  The alternatives range from talk with friends, study the success of others, and read and continue to develop your knowledge on the subject of your job.

Going back to the world of sports, such an approach would be a sure path to the loser’s circle (unless you are Roger Federer, of course).  What is it about our work as professionals in business that makes us different from the work of professionals in sports?