December 17, 2012

Topic: Management & Leadership

Billionaire Coach

No, this isn’t a story about highly paid coaches or Bret Bielema. It’s about a guy named Joe Moglia, who was hired this past year to coach Coastal Carolina’s football team. In his first year, he led the team to a share of the Big South Conference title. What is interesting about this is that in the last few years, he only had one paid coaching job. He’s been in the business world since 1984, and from 2001-8 was the CEO of TD Ameritrade and led the company as its market cap increased from $700 million to $9 billion.

Is this a fluke? I don’t think so.Managing and coaching call for many similar skills.

First I want to make a distinction between coaching and teaching. Coaching is similar to teaching in that you instruct and motivate. But coaching also includes directing and organizing a group’s activities as part of a strategy and being held accountable for the group’s success. If a student fails to learn, the teacher typically isn’t blamed (case in point, my guitar instructor David had no responsibility for my failed attempt to learn to play – that was a student/talent issue). But in a group activity, it’s the coach who is held accountable if the team does not succeed. In big-time sports, if the team fails, you fire the coach. In business, gulp, it could be the CEO.

And coaching isn’t just limited to football or even sports; it’s really any group activity that involves individual development and team accountability.

What’s useful about this in business is the reverse is also true. Good coaches are likely to be good managers. We recently needed to fill a supervisory position. We found a good candidate who was technically sound and a cultural fit, but lacked formal supervisory experience, which was one of our initial requirements. This candidate did, however, have successful coaching experience. The coaching experience heavily influenced our decision to hire her as it helped us feel comfortable that she had the potential to be a good manager.

So if you’re looking to hire someone for a supervisory or management position, look for that coaching experience. And if you’re someone who aspires to be a supervisor, look for an opportunity to coach and hone your skills in developing and organizing a group’s activities. There’s probably an under-6 soccer team looking for a coach. Or as I write this, there’s still an open posting to coach the Badger football team if you’re really ambitious.


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