Coach the Person Not Just the Position

This past week, I traveled with my youngest son to a large volleyball tournament.  At this tournament, there were about 39 courts being used from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. for a full week.  Needless to say, there was plenty of volleyball to watch. Watching my sons participate in their activities is one of my favorite things, so I knew I was in for a fun week. Another of my favorite things is studying coaches as they lead their teams.  I enjoy watching how they motivate, what they say, and how they communicate with their non-verbal actions.  So with volleyball games on courts all around me, I had the chance to watch many coaches in action.

What I learned while watching the coaches at this tournament is that far too many coaches focus solely on strategy and neglect their responsibilities of motivating and encouraging individual players.  As I looked all around, I heard coaches talking about strategies and tactics; I heard coaches getting aggravated at their players’ mistakes; I saw coaches saying nothing, but clearly communicating their disgust with the way their teams were playing through their non-verbal actions. Unfortunately, I heard very few comments like, “Nice try” or “Great effort” or “Forget about that one, you’ll get the next one.”  Strategy was clearly the priority; and individual player emotions, feelings, and motivations were secondary.

Essentially, coaches were so focused on coaching the position, they forgot to coach the player.  To coach the player, you must establish a personal connection with the individual.  You must know what motivates that individual player and then coach to get the most from that specific player.  Focusing solely on the strategy of the particular position is not enough.  To maximize performance, we must coach the player not just the position.

As leaders, we must remember that our job is more than just directing strategies and tactics.  A significant part of our role as leaders is to unite our teams, to motivate our team members, and to offer encouragement when it is needed most.  To do these things, we must lead the person, not just the position.  If we forget this, it will be difficult for us to maximize the performance of our teams.  To lead the person, we must work on building a personal relationship with each of our team members.  We need to connect with them to understand their feelings and emotions and to know what their personal goals are and what drives them toward these goals.  This takes time and effort.  Unfortunately, many managers don’t see the return in this investment of time and, thus, focus solely on leading the position.  But when managers fail at leading the person, they don’t get the full potential from each individual team member.

This week, think about the many volleyball coaches I saw and instead of just leading the position, make an attempt to lead the person.  Commit that a critical part of your leadership role is motivating your individual team members to greater heights.  If you are brilliant at strategy, but fail to motivate and encourage your team members, your organization will fall short of its potential.  So make an effort to lead the person, not just the position. Take time to build a personal connection with each of your team members and then really work to motivate and encourage them.  When you do this, I think you’ll find you have a greater commitment from your team when it comes time to implement the great strategic decisions that you make.

Thanks for reading,


P.S. – My new website is now live at Please visit the site and let me know if you have any feedback.

Ways to follow Dr. Jim Earle:
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