In the Game: Coaching Makes a Difference for Employees


I used to think it was funny to see professional athletes being coached during spring training or training camp. If they’re pros, I thought, and they’re good enough, why would they need help? Even the most skilled athletes need guidance to foster their craft and reach their true potential. Much like a coach helps an athlete excel, part of the role as a manager is to mentor employees. With the right coaching, an employee can benefit the common good of the team.

Coaching your Way Through Critical Conversations

Like the .300 hitter or long-ball hitting golfer, employees get in slumps and need a nudge. The motivational gurus say coaching is a process, that’s it’s not just holding a playbook and barking out instructions.

“Coaches help an athlete be the best athlete they can be,” says Terri Norvell, a former multifamily executive who has spent the last 20 years as a national keynote and corporate workshop trainer. Most recently, she shared her techniques at the Texas Apartment Association 2016 Education Conference and Lone Star Expo in Houston. “Ideally, that’s what we’re doing in business as well. We’re helping employees to bring out their best. If you’re not giving feedback on somebody on their performance, you are doing them a disservice.”

And through a formula, the coach or manager is able to better approach uncomfortable conversations with employees, as well as help them achieve goals and improve overall performance.

Coaching Makes a Difference for Employees

Turning angst and hesitancy into productive reinforcement

Norvell has spent more than 20 years working with small businesses, organizations, associations and corporations to focus on what’s working and turning challenges into opportunities. Her resume includes work with Stanford University, Molson-Coors Brewing, and Comcast.

Part of her coaching clinic addressed the anxiety and reluctance of having difficult conversations, ones that address performance issues like not maintaining a rent roll or always clocking in late. The kind of stuff that raises the hair on the necks of site managers to regional managers and vice presidents.

Yet those sorts of things can cause leaders to get in their own way when it’s time to put the cards on the table. A natural tendency for some might be to view the conversation defensively, as a confrontation, rather than move offensively and work collaboratively toward a resolution.

“You have to peel back layers of hesitation and angst,” Norvell said. “It’s about bringing out the best in people as a coaching leader. Accountability is motivational. Your folks really do want to be held accountable. It’s human nature. We really truly want to do our best. If you have people on your team who don’t want to do their best, you have my permission to go back and say I don’t think you want to be here.”

Understand what your employees are thinking

She offered some textbook accountability approaches that include getting employees to understand the bigger picture, establishing expectations and involvement, offering feedback and recognition and monitoring progress.

But what she also suggested is that managers and leaders have to get into the minds of their employees, much like an athlete envisions a performance. As a leader, you have to understand what your people are thinking and help them visualize their future performance. And also visualize your own.

Norvell says to start with the end in mind and rehearse the outcome. Just like Ty Webb was the ball at Bushwood, and Annie Savoy breathed through her eyelids in Durham.

“When an athlete trains, they are mentally rehearsing that jump over and over,” she said. “You can see they have prepared for the best outcome to win.”

Coaching Makes a Difference for Employees 2

Rehearse the outcome and keep your eye on the ball

You won’t know the outcome of the conversation, she says, because you’re half of the equation. So, imagine yourself in the difficult situation, as though you’re on the big screen. Keep the discussion focused on the task at hand and don’t get sidetracked when the employee tries to change direction.

“Create the specific situation in your mind – get vivid and compelling,” Norvell said. “In your mind, step into the movie and practice responding. Mentally rehearse multiple times until you feel confident.”

I’m no Tony Gwynn, but after more than 40 years on the diamond I can still swing a bat. I’ve taught the mechanics of hitting to a couple of frustrated young ballplayers in the last couple of years through repeated instruction, including demonstration, and reinforcement.

It’s unusual to have employees who need little or no guidance. At some point, managers – no matter if they’re C-level or on property – need to show the way to ensure proper execution and personal growth.

Now, get back out on the field, coach.


Contributing Editor, Property Management Insider
President, Ballpark Impressions, LLC

author photo two

Tim Blackwell is a long-time publishing and printing executive in the Dallas/Fort Worth area who writes about the multifamily housing and transportation industries. He has contributed numerous articles to Property Management Insider, and worked as a newspaper reporter in the D/FW area. Blackwell is president of Ballpark Impressions, and publishes the Cowcatcher Magazine. He is a member of the Fort Worth Chapter/Society of Professional Journalists.

One response to “In the Game: Coaching Makes a Difference for Employees”

  1. Lisa Kassoff says:

    Excellent article Coach. I like the term Coaching. Those of us in the multi-family industry recognize the hard truth: that some folks will NEVER be at the top of their game. Attitude is
    driving many of our trainees..Active listening is so important to be engaged and in the game,
    as a great football coach said,”it’s not whether you get knocked down-it’s whether you get up”
    “Leaders are made-They are not born”

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