The Leadership Playbook

"I use sports analogies because I run my businesses like wining sports teams in which skill development and effective coaching makes the team better."

- The Leadership Playbook, page 6

Nathan Jamail is known as that sales guy. He’s published three books on this topic and has consulted for several fortune 100 companies. Nathan uses sport illustrations and metaphors to communicate life lessons and sales best practices. In his latest book, The Leadership Playbook, Nathan uses this same strategy to express leadership principles. The book represents the “Playbook” and each chapter outlines a “play”. Each play uses X’s and O’s to diagram the principles and activities common between sports teams (like football) and business.

His book asserts that the way to lead is to coach and that great coaches will be great leaders. All leaders, especially managers, must learn to coach and ought to cultivate a coaching culture in their business environment. Management is an outdated strategy and coaching is the new way to effectively lead and build winning business teams. Business leaders have much to learn from the Nick Sabans and Phil Jacksons of this generation.

This book is not only for businesspeople. It benefits all those who lead teams. Team leading can be applied in the context of academia, athletics, business, families, non-profits, etc. You name it! I utilized these coaching principles to lead my team working in a non-profit. I particularly enjoyed the concepts of mandating everyone to practice and dealing with underperformers. I recommend anyone looking for a fresh perspective on inspiring and mobilizing a team to read this book.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Stop managing. Start coaching.

"Hire good people and let them do their jobs? That’s a line handed down from outdated business books more than a generation old. Leaders today need to get involved and coach their teams to success, rather than manage them to mediocrity."
- The Leadership Playbook, page 13

Conventional business knowledge would tell us to lead by managing results and working for your people. The coaching perspective shows us to lead by managing the team and working on your people. A proactively involved coach actuates a team member and emphasizes team growth. Financial results will follow the leader who focus on the right individuals and aligns the team towards a common aim.

Managing is not inherently wrong. The essence of management is excellent execution. Coaches must know how to get things done and how to execute plays. Leaders cannot effectively inspire people without implementing their game plan. The problem is not that leaders and businesses practice management skills. The problem is that most companies have leaders in management cultures when leaders today ought to get involved and coach their teams to success.

There is a fundamental difference between coaching and managing. Here are the “Five Essential Principles of Coaching” that Jamail’s details throughout his book:

  1. Make the team more important than any individual
  2. Don’t avoid conflict – use it!
  3. Act before a response is needed
  4. Pay attention to top performers
  5. Mandate EVERYBODY to practice

I think coaches have the moral obligation to deal with bad attitudes and performers. This coaching technique requires special leadership and people skills. Anyone can learn to combat a team’s ineffectiveness, it only takes diligent study and experience in the essential principles of coaching.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Practice? We talkin’ about practice!

"Discuss possible scenarios and scrimmage those scenarios"
- The Leadership Playbook, page 48

Practice is the art of failing and getting back up. Practice is of the most effective means to learn and grow. I think it’s the principle that unlocks growth in all areas of life: personal, professional, spiritual, social, financial, etc. How does a baseball player improve his swing? Hit a bucket of balls every day. How can a college student pass an organic chemistry exam? Study the textbook and do practice problems. Practice is baked into the fabric of development and growth.

Jamail encourages leaders to mandate everyone on their team to practice. Practice leads to better results, but is not always emphasized because many teams are too often “in the game”. The greatest athletes practice their game 80-90% of the time and play the rest. Shouldn’t business leaders strive to apply this concept with their team? Here are few concrete, practical ways to practice:

  • Record yourself giving a speech
  • Saying “Hello” and making first impressions
  • Saying “No” to less significant requests

The coaching leader knows that team members improve through targeted practice and training. It’s quite possible that the man with 30 years of experience is less valuable than the man with 5 years of experience and exceptional skills. “Perfect practice makes perfect”. The most valuable teammates are coachable and disciplined to practice the right drills. Mandate your team to practice.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

If you ain’t first, you’re last

"Everyone deserves a chance and respect, but everybody must earn the ‘game ball’."
- The Leadership Playbook, page 61

There are no trophies for participation. Only one team wins the Super Bowl per year. Coaches play their starting goalie during a big soccer game, not the third-stringer. The coach must be performance-oriented. They’re in the game to win. He does not go into a match expecting to lose. Why play the game with an objective to lose? The coach must believe that his team can achieve victory and discipline his team through a practice regimen. Focus the majority of your time on the top players.

Focus on the best, but don’t forget about the bench. You need a backup plan when the starting player gets injured. Leaders should implement apprenticeship systems to create a culture of accountability and mentorship. Once the top guy moves on, he is replaced with an equipped and passionate underling.

Give genuine recognition and rewards often to your top guys and your bench warmers. Leaders create teams that can perform and continue to produce results. He should ensure each team member is uniquely recognized for a job well done. I forget things super easily and often depend on written systems. Coaches should delegate this responsibility to another team member or a system. However you choose to give recognition, just make it happen!

Are you building a coaching or management culture with your team? Culture is the seed of influence the leader plants in an environment to express the collective attitudes and behaviors of a group of people. How are you inspiring and instilling coaching principles in your leadership team? Leaders have the capacity to sustain movement through clearly expressing ideas. Are you willing to commit to the individual’s betterment and the team’s best interest? Coaching a team is an involved and selfless virtue.

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Jonny Petrucco

ABOUT Jonny Petrucco

I was born and raised in a home with two parents who love me and two older sisters who tormented me (just kidding, we actually get along!). I learned about frugality and work ethic working in my Dad's business since age 8...
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