The "Athlete-Centered" Approach Part 3: Manager's Qualitative Work - Innovate New Albany | New Albany, Ohio

The “Athlete-Centered” Approach Part 3: Manager’s Qualitative Work


Once the entire Tracking System in place, the manager can start working on his/her qualitative input and impact on the team. As we previously mentioned, such quality depends upon 2 key factors: 1) identifying the learning style, and 2) knowing how to ask questions.

The very first element to reiterate is the need for the Manager to express true empathy. If a manager really wants to bring his/her team to success – especially in the long run – the manager needs to truly care about the team members. Let’s never forget that people tend to respond in kind, so team members will more likely buy into the team goals and objectives and care about them if they feel that their manager truly cares about the entire team.

Overall there are 4 major learning styles:

  1. The Activist = Just do it! Tell me what to do and I’ll take care of it. Period.
  2. The Reflector = Show me. Give me all the information and then let me work it out on my own.
  3. The Theorist = Tell me why. I need a clear picture of what success will look like and I need a logical, structured process.
  4. The Pragmatist = Show me the quickest solution/best technique/plan of action. Don’t waste my time and don’t give me too much theory.

Therefore, individuals can take very different paths to reach the very same goal. It is then vital for the manager to clearly identify the learning style of each individual in the team and adjust his/her communication content accordingly. For example, give too many details and directives to an Activist and it will end up being counter-productive, creating more frustration than anything else. On the other hand, a Theorist without any directive will be lost and will most likely do nothing at all.

After the manager knows how to get the message across, the next phase is questioning. Let’s not forget as well that it isn’t just about asking questions. It’s about asking the right question. Otherwise, the wrong question (or the wrong way) will give you the wrong answer.

The key is to know when to ask an open-ended question (how, why…) and a close-ended one (did you…? With yes or no answer). This skill becomes critical when something does not go according to plan. Reason being that, as a manager, we tend to give the answer right away so that we can fix the problem quickly and move on. But the issue is that we are not fixing the problem in the long run; therefore, we are exposing ourselves to a recurring negative pattern.

Let’s take the example of a child learning how to read. The child gets stuck trying to spell a word, and the reaction we all have is to give the answer right away within a couple of seconds. The problem is that a few minutes later this word comes up again and the child will still struggle. Why? Because we didn’t give the tools to fix the problem, we just gave the solution away, so the child does not know how to connect the solution to the original problem. Instead, we need to direct the child to the answer: “Does it sound right when you spell the word this way? Can you find clues in the picture to indicate what this word could mean?”

The same idea goes with the team members at work: instead of giving the solution right away and then asking a close-ended question, “do you understand now?” (everyone will answer yes to avoid looking like a fool), keep the questions open-ended: “What do you think went wrong? How could we fix it then?” Once you reach the solution, utilize close-ended questions to confirm understanding and acknowledge the next step: “Are you able to do it this way again?”

**This blog post is part 3 in a series about how to use the athlete-centered approach for team management in the work place. Check out part one and part two to learn more.

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