Last week I had a conversation with my son Laurens about the differences and similarities between sports coaching and executive coaching. Laurens started to coach the women eight competition team of his student rowing club this semester.

Every September, his club starts a selection process to compose the best competition teams. In this process, they not only look at the rowing capacity of the candidates but also select the candidates on their ability to perform as part of a team. What Laurens described was quite comparable with “The ideal team player” by Patrick Lencioni as I mentioned last week.

The rowers need to be eager and hungry to win; they need to be people smart and humble to focus on team results and share results with their teammates. For ego and soloists is no place in a women’s eight boat. A candidate might be an excellent rower, but if they do not have the right combination of these virtues, then they won’t make the selection.

Laurens shared with me how exhausted he can be after a day of coaching his team. He gives everything to get the best out of his team: to help each single rower improve, for the result of the team. That’s where his focus is, and their success is his success. Like father, like son. Also in my work, the success of my clients is one of the greatest rewards I can have. That is where my focus is as well: to inspire you to achieve the success you aspire.

There is one difference in sports versus executive coaching I noticed in our conversation. That comes down to the acceptance of practice and guidance. To succeed in any sports competition, you need to train and train a lot. The competition rowing teams train six days per week, no exceptions, and every member will make personal sacrifices to participate in the training. That also means that Laurens is coaching them six days a week. In sports, this is a commonly accepted practice: every athlete realizes that they need to train to be competitive and every athlete is working with a coach to get better.

Unfortunately, many business people don’t allow time for thorough practice or coaching to improve. Worse even, some feel that they have already so much experience that they don’t need to practice. Can you imagine world-class athletes proclaiming that they no longer need to practice or need coaching, just because they have so much experience? With the thought alone they might already see their results fade away!

We feel it’s more than natural that in sports, and some other professions like music, practice is essential to succeed. We even have, in several languages, sayings about the fact that “practice makes perfect”. So what is it, that some business people feel that they can do without practice and guidance?

I’m sure you do already a lot to practice, yet here is a question to think about: what do you do to practice and improve, and what additional actions can you take to increase the effectiveness of your practice?

This week’s links: