I have spent over ten years of my life coaching youth sports.  I grew up playing soccer, basketball and football and I enjoy sharing what I learned to my son and his friends each year.  Besides the skills of the sport, I enjoy teaching these kids the importance of teamwork, sportsmanship and setting goals.

But in each season there is always that one team that challenges the values of sportsmanship.  This is the team that throws an “accidental” elbow, stomps on a foot, or bends the rules of the game in order to get an advantage.  It’s justified by others as doing what it takes to win, but I see it another way.

On the field, a team becomes a reflection of their coach.  You can look across all levels of sports and see this in action.  As a coach, it is our responsibility to teach these kids the values that will guide them through their sports careers and by extension in their personal lives.  When I see a team that acts out and plays a little “dirty”, I blame the coach. 

The same goes for businesses.  I have heard many small business owners complain about their employees.  These business owners talk about how their sales people don’t sell well, and how their customer service people don’t care about the customers.  They complain about managers that don’t make the right decisions and budgets that are out of control.  The list goes on, and I’m sure you have a list of complaints about your own employees.

The fact is, much like a basketball team is a reflection of their coach, your employees are a reflection of you. 

One business owner I know was starting to struggle with his business.  Over the course of about six months, he started to become very concerned about the future of his business and he brought me in to help him get his employees motivated. 

From his perspective, his employees were lazy and couldn’t be trusted.  His sales staff didn’t seem motivated even when he would challenge them to produce more.  Morale was at an all time low and he just fired his manager so that he could promote someone else he felt was a better fit.  He needed me to work with the rest of the staff to improve morale and help everyone adjust to the new manager. 

From his employees’ perspective, he had created a hostile work environment.  Over the past six months the employees lost many of the perks they enjoyed.  When sales were down, the owner would publically yell at the sales people and blame them for the failure of the business.  The employee that was promoted to manager had been spreading false rumors about the former manager in order to get her fired.  Many of the other employees started to think that the only way to get ahead was to sabotage others or to find another job.  No one was committed to the business or the business owner.

This business was suffering from two different perspectives on the same actions.  This business owner was so focused on the survival of his business, he had forgotten how to motivate and encourage his employees.  In turn, his employees stopped working hard for him.  Even though he didn’t realize it, this business owner’s employees were reflecting his attitude back to him. 

Business owners, just like coaches, set the direction for the team they lead.  If your business isn’t performing as well as you would like, take a look at your actions.  What are you saying to your employees?  Are you motivating, or are you criticizing?  Are you engaged with your business and providing a strong direction, or are you a part time owner that doesn’t like to get involved with the day to day operations? 

The quickest way to make a change in how your business operates is to change how you operate your business.  I know it is cliché, but become the change you want to see in your business.  If sales are down, go out and start selling.  If your customer service is lacking, jump on the phone and take some customer calls.  Be the example for your employees so they know you care as much about them as you do about your business.

Will Eisenbrandt is the owner of VerticalCoach, a life and business coaching firm, where he is dedicated to helping others reach higher and achieve more.  “I have never stopped being a student. I continually research, attend classes, and ask questions of everyone I know. When it’s appropriate, I share my knowledge through books, articles, classes, one on one consulting and coaching. I’ve held management and executive positions with several companies, and have been fortunate enough to take that experience and help others reach their goals. ” Will can be reached at http://www.verticalcoach.com.
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