Invest Hamilton County

Memos From Mike

Making Your Swing Work for You
April 14, 2023

Making Your Swing Work For You

Those of us who follow organizational leadership trends are constantly looking for that one best way to run an org, manage a team or even work. Whether Jack Welch from General Electric Co., Bill Gates at Microsoft or the multitude of tech titans who have arisen in the 21st century companies, we look to emulate the highest performers and see how those models can fit into our own spaces. Do you recall how first General Electric Co. then Microsoft used to fire the bottom 10% of performers in every department each year (which they called the “Rank and Yank”)? …

Masters week has golf on the mind. I remember growing up learning to play golf and being told there was one right way to make it work. I practiced and played consistently but frankly just was not athletic and coordinated enough to realize the goals coaches would set. In the era of COVID my golf interest (as did that of many) saw a resurgence. I turned to video lessons and found little changes to make to my own swing that, with practice, have made a significant difference in my scores.

The modern PGA Tour is filled with examples of professionals like Matthew Wolff and Victor Hovland who learned how to play golf by watching YouTube videos. In their formative years they had coaches who said, “I don’t want to change how you swing, I want to help make your swing work for you.” 2023 Masters champion Jon Rahm has a famously unique swing due to being born with a clubbed foot. 

In thinking about how we as professionals get our own work done and how we manage our teams I think this is a valuable lesson. I catch myself hearing a lesson from someone impressive and thinking “I wish I could do what they do…” (if I am in a good head space) after that first-thought I chuckle internally and shift to saying, “what is one part of what they do that could make me better?”

Helping members of our orgs and our teams achieve their goals is not about showing them the one right way to achieve an outcome. It is about showing them the goal, and then coaching them through their own path to put the ball in the hole. In this dynamic they make the decisions and choose their own path to the desired outcome. 

Here are some practical tips to help turn supervisors into coaches:

  • Set the firm KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) that are required for performance, and don’t provide the illusion of input and democracy where it does not exist (Sometimes the ball has to go in the hole).
  • Aside from those requisite areas, open up KPIs and personal goals for people to set themselves (not everyone has to hit a driver off the tee).
  • Shorten feedback cycles to talk about small steps that lead to big outcomes and (as long as the ball is generally going in the right direction) put the impetus on team members to evaluate themselves. Then, when possible, ask, “so what’s next?” instead of telling them where you think they should go.
  • In general… listen more and talk less. A primary evaluation metric for evaluating supervisor’s ability to coach should be, “during your last check in with a team member what did you learn?” along with, “how did you coach.” 

We all achieve our goals and work in different ways. Supervisors should be equipped with tools that allow them to truly be coaches and help their team members swing their own swing.

Mike Thibideau serves as the President & CEO of the Hamilton County Economic Development Corporation (dba Invest Hamilton County). In this role Mike manages workforce development, talent attraction and quality of life initiatives throughout Hamilton County.