I’m no sports expert. Little league baseball and high school football were my only exposure to organized sports. I played pick-up basketball and ran 5 K’s into my early 60’s (I’m thinking about doing both again if my legs will hold out), but that’s about it. Like I said – I’m no expert. However, I’ve watched college and professional coaches attempt to fit a team to a game plan rather than fit the game plan to the personnel. What I learned was this approach seldom works.

The Game Plan

For example, a former head coach of an NFL franchise did this for several years. He had a plan, and regardless of the talents of his team, he attempted to put square pegs into round holes. I’m confident his plan had merit if he had the players to fit the plan, but quite often he didn’t have the right personnel for his plan. It didn’t work. Like I said, he’s a former head coach.

I was excitedly watching my favorite men’s college basketball team last week. They were ahead by double figures with less than 10 minutes to go. The coach decided to change what had got them the lead, which had much to do with allowing the players to use their special skills. They ended up losing by three points. They might have lost the game regardless of the coaching move, but it didn’t help.

Back up quarterback Nick Foles, become the 2018 Superbowl MVP, leading the Eagles to the championship, and a lot of the reason he was able to accomplish this was the coaching staff changed to a run pass offense, which fit their quarterbacks talents.

Does Your Team Fit Your Plan?

In business, I’ve seen too many managers attempt to fit their employees to a plan when they should have been looking for ways to use the talents of their teammates.

For example, when I was younger I loved Volkswagens. I was recruited and took a job at a Volkswagen dealership in 1975. The manager that hired me watched me manage a retail outlet. Our mall store was loose and fun and one of the most profitable stores in this national chain. He wanted to bring that same fun approach to his dealership. It wasn’t long before my unorthodox methods made me the top salesperson and led to management. It worked because the leadership team understood my talents and allowed me to use them.

I was hired away by another VW dealership. Unfortunately they only saw my numbers; they didn’t know what they were getting. After two weeks they fired me, and I quit or vice versa. My point is they expected me to fit their plan regardless of my talents and my success using those talents

It’s Not All About the Money

Much of my work career has been in sales in some capacity or another. In business, it’s assumed that salespeople are motivated by money. Many are. I’m not one of them. I’m more motivated by recognition and being part of a winning team than by money. Once when I was a sales manager an outside consultant was brought in to profile our sales team. She informed the owner that I was a bad fit, and that sales wasn’t the place for me and certainly not as a sales manager.

She based much of her conclusion on the fact that I wasn’t money motivated. The owner of the business didn’t listen to her. I later became district sales manager, and eventually VP of Operations. During my time in management, the company grew more than 300 %. The growth certainly wasn’t due to my efforts alone, but I was part of the equation. I think the owner made the right choice.

Which Coach Are You?

Many coaches take the time to learn their team’s individual skills, personalities, and character traits, and then use this information to develop training plans to fit players to the coach’s game plan. Some coaches take it further and not only work on improving their players but use teammates individual talents to help the team. The question is which coach are you? Do you try to fit your players to a plan or fit a plan to the talents of your team?

Photo by Alvaro Reyes on Unsplash