When the U.S. women’s soccer team won the coveted World Cup, Sports Illustrated acknowledged their achievements by publishing 25 different magazine covers—one for the coach, one for each player, and one for the team in its entirety. It was their way of acknowledging the accomplishments of this remarkable team. Those of us in the U.S. probably felt especially proud because our team won in a world where soccer is THE sport. (In fact, I recall one cardinal lamenting that football (what we call soccer) is the religion of Italy.)
Considering how passionate most soccer teams and fans are, would it ever be possible for a team of B players to win this coveted trophy? It turns out that this is exactly what happened in 2004 in the men’s tournament when the Greek National Team were crowned World Champions.
In a world where soccer players are often treated as superstars and given celebrity status, few fans even knew the names of the players on the Greek team. How could a team of virtual unknowns be good enough to win the World Cup? How could a team that entered the tournament with the odds of winning 150 to 1 actually win the World Cup title?
The simple answer is that they had an A+ coach: Otto Rehhagel. In my mind, this is a great story about the power and influence of great coaches. In his blog How to Manage a Team of B Players, Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic captures the story of how this coach was able to literally transform the Greek team of B players into world champions. It’s a great read. But more than that, I think it is an important lesson for us in business to learn. The power and influence of sports coaches is comparable to first line managers in business—particularly sales managers. It underscores just how much of a difference these first line managers can make.
To be truly effective, sales managers need to know how to coach. Yet when you ask a dozen senior leaders or a dozen first line sales managers “What is coaching?” you will likely get an equal number of different responses. Despite this, first line sales managers are the number one factor in determining how successful their teams will be. And without a doubt, sales managers are an important factor directly affecting the bottom line.
Great coaches are not born, they are developed. And when you hear about real world situations where a coach literally takes a team of average performers and develops them into not only world class competitors but champions, it tends to make you wonder. What opportunities is your business missing by not investing in training your first line sales managers on how to be great coaches?