Kevin MacDonald is a principal in this Vancouver based practice.
I’m a coach.  And I used to be a club manager.  The more I work with club managers the more I see how coaching can be a process that enhances the success, raises the professionalism and builds the confidence of club management professionals.  In this article I want to give the reader some ideas of some of the ways coaching has worked for the people I work with. 

I think of myself when I was beginning as a rookie club manager and then, a few years later, how I operated as a manager with a few years experience and, a few years after that, how I felt and saw things as I took more senior roles in the industry.  And I think that although each club manager has specific unique experiences, there is also a consistency in the experiences club managers have.  At every level, it makes so much sense for every manager to take a look at how he operates, what his skills and proficiencies are, and understand his or her beliefs.  Beliefs are something we all have.  By definition we believe them to be true.  But whether the belief is true or not, it is what we believe.   So much understanding about what we have or don’t have, what we accomplish or don’t accomplish, how we are seen or not seen can stem from the beliefs that we hold true in our minds. 

There are a number of beliefs I see club managers being challenged by.  Things like “there’s not enough money”, “members don’t appreciate what I do”  “good staff won’t work for what our club pays”  “there’s never enough time in the day”  and on and on.  Let’s take one of them for example; “good staff won’t work for what our club pays”.  If you believe that to be true then are you not questioning the competence and commitment of your own staff?  And it you don’t believe in your staff, then what are your expectations for and from them?  And if you don’t believe in them, how do you treat them?   How do you motivate them?  And how do you inspire them?  As you can see from this example they may, in fact, be great staff but if you come from a place of having limiting beliefs about them you won’t get greatness out of them. 

One of the things a coach helps his client do is to shift his beliefs.   Taking the example above, if the belief was shifted to, “I attract committed, competent people who will continually strive to improve”, the way your staff perceives you, what’s expected of them and your beliefs about them would be radically different.  The shift in thinking in itself doesn’t change the situation.  The shift in thinking allows the situation to change. 

Another common belief for club managers is one that often comes from a need.  The need to be liked, appreciated or accepted.  If you operate from a belief that you need people to like you, it is a belief that can get in your way in many ways.  On the other hand, because we are a service industry, we do care how people feel, and it is very positive to want to please our customers.  It is when this need becomes extreme that it gets in our way.  The ways I often see it manifesting itself is in managers who “over promise and under deliver”.  In the act of over promising we are trying to please the person we are giving the promise to.  And we are approaching the situation with a “can do” attitude that’s going to win respect in our people.  But if we get into this habit, we start to whittle away at our level of integrity.  I try to get my clients to shift their thinking to an “under promise and over deliver” mind set.  This results in the person being in integrity and looking much more professional to those he or she serves. 

Another symptom of the person who is trying to please people is that they are constantly trying to change who they are.  Instead of being brilliant with their own gifts and skills they try to mold themselves when a member tells them they should be more this or more that.  This is a game that is seldom won and isn’t very fun.

A third manifestation of this belief (the need to be liked) I commonly see is that a club manager develops the habit of not dealing with the tough issues.  Knowing that making tough decisions about certain difficult issues will not be popular and the resulting avoidance of dealing with those issues results in a diminished sense of confidence and power within the club manager. 

So what is the shift?  The shift may be to a belief that “I like me and the need to please 100% of the people 100% of the time is unnecessary and unrealistic”.  The shift might be “I’m going to do what’s right for the club whether it makes individuals happy or not”.

Let’s talk about another common limiting belief.  Some club managers believe that they need to be right.  Perhaps the rookie manager feels he must prove himself.  Perhaps the veteran manager has seen it all and knows how it all operates.  But this belief that the club manager always needs to be right can do damage and if it does not do damage it will definitely contribute to the diminishment of the brilliance of the team as a whole.  When a manager has to be right all the time, his need takes away the accountability and power that his people feel when they come up with an answer to a challenge.  In effect, he weakens his team by believing he always has to be right. It may come from a belief that “if I’m the one that has all the answers I’m more secure in my job”.  It may come from a need to have power over those he leads.  But so often the real power comes from developing a team that can be brilliant in your absence.  By trying to be secure we can be adding to our insecurity. 

This was so evident to me when I shifted from the role of a manager to that of a coach.  As a manager I saw myself as a person who needed to have all the answers.  As a coach I am the person who needs to have the questions because the answers that come from the clients I am coaching are the things that make the profound difference to them.  When you let go of your need to be right or your need to have all the answers you are empowering your people with accountability and maybe giving yourself the opportunity to see things in a new light. 

What’s the shift?  From “I need to be right” to “I don’t have to have all the answers”.  From “I need to be right” to “There’s a gift in learning from our mistakes”.  From “I need to be right” to “Together we can to find the right solution”.

Kevin MacDonald,  Clarity Success Coaching
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Shifting Gears

by Kevin MacDonald
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