The “Athlete-Centered” Approach Part 2: Setting the Stage at Work - Innovate New Albany | New Albany, Ohio

The “Athlete-Centered” Approach Part 2: Setting the Stage at Work


As mentioned in my last blog post, the key to success for an Athlete-Centered Environment is to see the leader/manager become a facilitator, gradually giving more control to the team while making sure that core objectives are still being met.

Before reaching out to the team to implement the new approach, the manager must create a tracking system in order to guarantee one core element: consistency. The main issue with the Athlete-Centered approach is that it follows an exponential growth curve: slow to grow at first and then soars. Therefore, a tracking system will allow the manager to put everything in perspective during the slow growth period, staying patient and letting time do the work. The worst thing that can happen would be to revert to the old system in the middle of the curve right before it takes off!

In sport, even though the main goal is to win championships, seasons are broken down into small chunks/cycles (4-6 weeks), and each one of them has its own objectives. Those objectives must be both quantitative and qualitative, each side having a different weight in the balance depending on when the cycle occurs. For instance, early on in the implementation, quantitative < qualitative goals as the goal isn’t to get results right away but to build mindset and team structure.

Though the quantitative side is quite obvious (sales numbers, # of projects, or projects steps completed), the qualitative part is more delicate as it measures how the team is reacting and adjusting to the new system. This is where empathy plays a major role, as the manager needs to listen and watch in order to identify key changes in behavior (either negative or positive), as a team and also individually.

Are the team members adjusting well to the new environment?
Any confusion or frustration to address?
Is there a buy-in starting to happen?
Do we have some individuals taking the leadership sooner than others?
How is the dynamic within the group?

At the same time, the manager needs to set up his/her personal goal system. For the manager, the quantity aspect involves the amount of time dedicated to the team and the level of interaction. This requires micro- vs macro-management balance. The manager needs to frequently check for understanding, making sure through questioning that everyone is on the same page. After that, the team has to be on its own, on the field, trying to find solutions on their own. This micro/macro ratio isn’t set in stone: at first, more micro-management will be required as the team needs to get used to the new style and will have a lot of questions. Gradually, the manager has to sense when to start letting go, delegating and transferring more control.

The qualitative part for the manager is all about the content of the interaction: asking questions instead of just saying what to do, alternating open and close-ended questions; identifying the learning style of all team members (Activist, Reflector, Theorist, Pragmatist…?). Therefore, along the way, the manager will learn how to unlock the potential from each team member and lead them all to their peak performances.

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