One of my clients is the FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015 National Organizing Committee and this past weekend they hosted their Official Draw for the tournament to be held June 6 – July 5, 2015. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to be a part of the Draw organization and delivery. I like sports and I like competitions so this was a good fit for my fun factor.
Since the Draw I’ve thought about what it must have been like for the athletes to watch that process of finding out who will be in their initial group and ultimately who they face in the first match. I thought about how it affects their ability to mentally prepare when they don’t know who their opponent is. They knew the 24 nations that had qualified and they knew who had been seeded in each of the six groups, with Canada taking one spot as host nation. 
There is nothing that prevents them from practising and training their skills for the upcoming matches. But once you know your opponent you can fine tune your approach and strategy to win. You can do an analysis of the opposing team and study their players, their strengths and their weaknesses. You can look at how they fair throughout a match and if their endurance suffers in the second half, you can review their roster and look for reoccurring injuries, you can look at player statistics and the amount of time the team has played together. There are a lot of variables you can analyze to improve your chances when you know your opponent.
But I wondered if they looked at the Coaches. Will they review the Coaches win/loss record, will they look at the Coaches approach or the Coaches demeanor in tense games? Do they research if that Coach is liked by their players and does that matter? Do they look at their history in the game? Do they look at whether or not they are a leader? Does that matter?
Because when a business is or is not performing optimally we look at the leader, the owner, the CEO, the Grand Poohbah. We say, ‘its top down’, and then we judge the quality of the leader by the quality of the service or product provided by the team. 
If you are a leader, are you also a coach?  Do you need a coach? What does a coach do? How could a coach make you a better leader?  Bob Nardelli, former CEO of Home Depot said, ‘I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.’ And the truth is a coach, whether in sports or business really offers a few key elements that help people realize their personal best.
A coach should;
Provide accountability – someone to answer to, be responsible to and explain your actions or lack of action to. People who are accountable to no one can be dangerous, we all need someone to help us remember who we are and what the intent of our commitment is – keeping your word can be hard work. 
Provide honest feedback – this is a big one, and it’s essential to the growth of an individual and a team. If you don’t get honest feedback on how you can improve you will never maximize your potential. If you are afraid to tell your team the truth about their performance you are impairing their chances of improving. Equally, if you cannot tolerate someone providing you with honest feedback then you either think you know it all or your ego is out of whack with your reality. We can all improve, we can all do better.
Increase self-awareness – building a relationship with your team is important because that will give you the avenue to help them become more aware of who they are at work and also, who they are not. Self-awareness is a reality check – it provides us an opportunity to look at where we are versus where we want to be, it can be motivating or crushing. If it’s crushing, your work as a leader is to help them understand their own strength and to appreciate that self-honesty is really the best opportunity to grow. 
Provide a safe sounding board – a good leader and a good coach will keep confidential conversations confidential, which also lend to building trust in the relationship. A safe place to vent or hide will always serve an athlete or an employee with the opportunity to take on the next challenge. The fact is, sometimes we just need a moment to collect ourselves and our thoughts, to re-align our perspective with our talents before we get back in the ring. Failing to provide a safe place will fail you and your team in the long run.
Provide a different perspective – we all see the world differently, but a good coach is also a good listener. A different perspective from someone you can trust could make the difference between giving up or giving it another try. There are times we don’t see ourselves that clearly, we feel like frauds and we start to second guess our abilities, this is where a coach can be invaluable. They can help you understand the situation from a different position to help you adjust your view – and your behaviour – and your reality – and your self-perception – and your initiative…and…and…
Reduce stress – just having someone they can trust with their ideas or concerns will increase their confidence and promote the attempt at garnering new skills or trying new things. Knowing that you are not in it alone automatically reduces peoples stress levels.
Improve relationship and communication skills – this ties into self-awareness and self-acceptance. A coach provides guidance and tools and options to improve skills. The best way to improve is to understand where you are today. The best way to hear that is from someone you trust and the best way to action it is to understand it clearly, which is all part of effective communication. And a good coach will know that they can’t talk to everyone the same way because everyone doesn’t hear things the same way. Improve your relationship with your team and you will improve your communication – its a domino effect.
Improved leadership or management – the more self-aware you are the higher your emotional quotient, which means you also have more room for empathy which is a building block for leadership. Throw in some confidence, new tools, honest feedback, reliable confidentiality and you will get less stress and more productivity with a roll off benefit of being a better leader and people manager. 

The goal of a coach, and I hope a leader, is for their team to become masters of their chosen game. Mastery is about familiarity and judgment. You learn the problems or risks that can occur and you learn how to either prevent or respond to those problems or risks. It is with practice, diligence and a relentless desire to improve that mastery even becomes possible. Those same rules apply to leadership – practice, diligence and a relentless desire to improve. 

What kind of coach are you? Better yet, what kind of coach does your team think you are? Proof might be in your game plan or your win/loss record, but I’ll bet another, perhaps better indication is if your opponent is paying attention and looking a little deeper into what mastery you bring to the table.