Adaptive Performance Management – When “Corrections” Just Aren’t Enough

synchronized_swimming.jpgMy 15 year old daughter is a synchronized swimmer. I would say it is one of the most demanding sports I have ever encountered. An average week of practice totals 18 hours with even more hours required prior to competitions. They practice over and over in an effort to achieve perfection in their execution and synchronization. They rely on their coach to give them “corrections”; feedback to help them improve their performance.

It isn’t a popular sport and good coaches are often hard to come by. A couple of years ago my daughter came home from practice complaining about how horrible it had been. When I asked why she said, “The coach just kept telling us our run-through was awful and to do it again. But she never told us why it was awful, so we didn’t know how to make it better.”

That story has obviously stuck with me. It made me think about the coaches and bosses I have worked with during my life. Some experiences were good, some were not. What made the “good bosses” good? They knew how to inspire me, they communicated effectively, they were honest, and they wanted me to succeed. I knew they cared about me as a whole person and, in turn, I wanted to give them my best.

We all know that a boss can make or break your work experience. We also know that satisfied employees are more productive which makes our company more profitable. Then why is it statistics show that only 30% of the US workforce is happy? Maybe, like my daughter’s coach, most bosses do not know how to effectively manage their employees.

I think my daughter’s coach was like a lot of managers. They are someone who has a lot of success and/or knowledge about the business and are placed in a position of leadership. Just because someone is placed in a management position, however, does not mean they automatically have the knowledge and skills to do this.

A manager needs to be an inspiring leader to employees with various personalities, skills and motivation. My daughter’s coach did not realize that some swimmers are motivated by a challenge, some are motivated by encouragement and some are not motivated at all! Some swimmers are sensitive, but some are very tough. Some have enough skill and experience to “self-correct,” but some are inexperienced and need more guidance.

Like employees, each swimmer has his or her unique combination of personality, skill and motivation. A manager, like a coach, needs to adapt their style to motivate different team members. They need to understand the most effective way to communicate with each person on their team. They need to provide feedback and guidance at a level that is commensurate with each person’s motivation and skill levels.

Unfortunately my daughter’s coach, like many bosses today, didn’t understand that the key to being a good coach/manager is not knowledge of the “business,” but understanding how to coax the best performance out of each individual. She did not realize that knowledge does not determine your success as a leader, it determines the success of those you lead.


Adaptive Performance Management™ is Signature’s newest program, created to provide leaders with the knowledge, skills and practice to identify when their employees need close supervision and direction and when they simply need to be empowered to excel. Click here to learn more.

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