Importance of People

Thursday, December 15, 2011

By Peter Schwab
AFL Director of Coaching

Everyone knows it and says it, “our most important asset are our people.”

No-one is going to disagree with this, but sometimes it isn’t fully explained as to why people are so important to a business, sport, education or family.

In their book ‘The 80 minute MBA”, Richard Reeves and John Knell state, “In straight economic terms, people contribute more value to businesses than any other factor of production.”

But most of us don’t see ourselves as part of a production line. As people we are motivated by more intrinsic factors.

The following three are arguably what makes us do what we do:

  1. A need to achieve – we seek recognition and reward
  2. A desire to learn – we aim to achieve our potential
  3. A want to contribute – it satisfies our self esteem and self-respect.

Great managers of people discover what is unique about each person and then capitalise on it. But how do they do this?

The answer is simple they find time.

They spend time getting to know and understand a person. They know it takes time to gain a full appreciation of a person’s strengths and weaknesses.

Coaches are usually very good at this aspect of management and human relations.

However there is a tendency in sport, and I dare say other areas of endeavour, to focus on a person’s weaknesses first. Looking at improving a weakness before bolstering a strength.

While it’s important to know what a person needs to do to improve, it is more vital and far more beneficial to a sporting team or business to focus on people’s strengths.

To help a coach or manager better understand a person they need to know the following:

  1. The person’s strengths (abilities)
  2. The triggers which activate those strengths.
  3. How best the person learns.

As a coach of a sporting team it is best to focus on a player’s specific strength because it will:

  1. Strengthen the player’s self-assurance
  2. Make them more optimistic
  3. Make them more resilient.

The other critical factor with people is understanding how best they learn so you can teach them in a way that makes the information easier for them to understand. People learn in a variety of ways, but there is usually a dominant method. As a coach you should be using a variety of teaching methods:

  1. Visual -to suit those who understand more by watching.
  2. Auditory and Reading – which suits those who prefer analysing information
  3. Kinaesthetic – This suits those who learn more by doing.

When it comes to addressing a person’s weaknesses we need to also understand a person’s behaviours towards their weaknesses. A weakness is often something a person is not good at, but it is also doing something which drains their energy, is an activity we they don’t want to do, something they don’t look forward to doing and it is definitely an activity they can’t wait to stop doing.

If we understand the negativity involved in how people deal with weaknesses we can do some things to tackle them. There are four approaches to help in overcoming a weakness:

  1. If the problem amounts to a lack of skill or knowledge- offer relevant training and allow some time for the person to incorporate the new skills. Look for signs of improvement.
    If there is no improvement you’ll know the reason is because they are missing certain talents that no amount of skill or knowledge is likely to fix.
  2. A second strategy for overcoming weaknesses is to find them a partner (mentor), someone whose talents are strong in precisely the areas they are weak.
  3. Third strategy is to insert into their world a technique that helps them accomplish through discipline what they struggle to accomplish through instinct.
  4. Fourth and final strategy is to rearrange their sporting/working world to try and render a weakness irrelevant. An example may be to play them only as a forward or get them to handball whenever they can to compensate for their poor kicking or instruct them to kick long if they struggle to hit targets.

It is good to remember whenever you are frustrated with some person the following quote:

“A person can perform only from strength. One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone something they cannot do.”

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