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Functional Coaches– a Leaf from Indian Cricket (Part 2)

Functional Coaches– a Leaf from Indian Cricket (Part 2)

This is the second part of this article. You can read the first one here.

In the previous article, I talked about how business and support teams view each other’s roles and the issues they face. I also briefly talked about my favorite example of Andrew Leipus and how he has transformed the Indian cricket team. What he did was nothing short of a miracle. He took a team that was lackadaisical about fitness and injury management and made them one of the world’s leanest and meanest cricket team.
Taking a leaf from Leipus’s (coach) style of supporting the cricket team (business) I analyzed the situation in corporates and how lessons from Leipus’s experience can be applied to solving the dilemma they face. I also spoke to other leaders, and looked at the best solution I would like for my own teams today. The way I see it, I think a 3-stage maturity model for functional teams will be the best:

Typically, functional teams are good at providing reactive support, some are good with expert support as well. The case we saw in my first article is a classic example of it. While expert support by way of training and discussions helps in identifying solutions, a coach needs to get fully involved with the business team to understand the practical requirements of the team and actively coaches the team. Just like Andrew Leipus did.

So what are the key things coaches need to do to become successful functional coaches? Here are the most important factors in my understanding.

Role Clarity
One of the most important change functional teams need to make is to understand their role in the overall business and also change their own mindset about their role. They need to understand that they need to extend beyond the obvious and commit to finding solutions.

When Leipus first took on the coach’s role, he doubled up as a trainer for the team. While he did do what was required, he sought specialized trainer to work with him. Once the trainer was in place, Leipus focused on his own role as a facilitator and did all he could to make the team perform.

Identify Core Issues in Noncompliance
Business teams are busy driving results. When they are given additional processes and templates that mean more work and pressure, they will most likely fail to adhere to these, or worse submit halfhearted efforts. In such scenarios, the process fails too. In such cases, it is important that the functional team tries to understand if the noncompliance is because of a mindset, knowledge or motivation gap.

At the start of his tenure, Leipus submitted a report that clearly stated that whole team lacked fitness as and detailed the injuries and issues with each player. In doing so, he not only showed a clear understanding of the team, but also of each player. And to that extent, his approach to solve the problem was accurate. Later, he brought in additional help by way of trainers or dieticians to help him periodically to help train the players better.

Understand Core Business, Team, Expertise
In the KAP team example, getting external help and creating templates didn’t really get the job done. It takes a lot more than that. It means to understand exactly what business teams does, the challenges they face, the skills they have, and finding specific solutions to those problems.

Right from the start, Leipus understood the pressure on the cricket team. In addition, they played too many matches, lacked the mindset to train, and were not really supported with a good diet. While the players were eager to learn, they still lacked the basic awareness. Each of these insights helped Leipus to address them in the correct way possible.

Most Appropriate Approach
To address gaps, the functional team needs an involved approach so that they can tailor solutions for each business problem or situation. Working closely with the business teams will help them accurately identify the core issues and address them in the best possible way which could be just having a discussion, providing training, providing expert advice, or coaching over a period of time.

I’d like to quote Leipus here, as mentioned in a famous interview: “My first job was to chalk out various programs. There was one for quick bowlers, one for batsmen, and so on. Then I sat with each individual player, and tailored the program to his particular needs. In that sense, each player was given an individually tailored program to follow.” With an approach like that, he couldn’t go wrong, could he?

While all this may sound idealistic, applying these fundamental principles will help coaches truly achieve their goals of supporting and facilitating business. In the KAP example in my first article, a truly involved functional coach would ensure that support is provided at each stage of the process.

By Anand Parameswaran | September 19th, 2016

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