Super Bowl: Sideline Lessons for the Front Line

by Mike O'Neill

OK, the wait is almost over. Even if you don’t like football, you’re likely going to be joining the 100+ million who will be tuning into Super Bowl LII this Sunday. The Philadelphia Eagles, coached by Doug Pederson are the underdogs to beat Bill Belichick’s New England Patriots.

Personally, I’m more drawn to the coaching match-up. Though most of the attention will be on Pederson & Belichick, they have assembled a team of coaches that is impressive.

It raises a question, can lessons learned on the sidelines, be useful on the front lines?
Of all management skills, research shows that Coaching is what separates highly effective managers from average managers.
Monique Valcour in her Harvard Business Review article points out that if your job involves leading others, the most important thing you can do each day is to help your team members experience progress at meaningful work.
To do so, you must understand what drives each person, help build connections between each person’s work and the organization’s mission & strategic objectives, provide timely feedback, and help each person learn & grow on an ongoing basis. Regular communication around development – having coaching conversations – is essential. Monique offers the following:

You can open a coaching conversation with a question such as “How would you like to grow this month?” Your choice of words is less important than your intention to clear your mind, listen with your full attention, and create a high-quality connection that invites your team member to open up and to think creatively.


In a coaching conversation, it’s essential to restrain your impulse to provide the answers. Open-ended questions, not answers, are the tools of coaching. You succeed as a coach by helping your team members articulate their goals & challenges and find their own answers.


While your role as a coach is not to provide answers, supporting your team members’ developmental goals and strategies is essential. Follow-up is critical to build trust and to make your coaching more effective. The more you follow through on supporting your employees’ developmental plans, the more productive your coaching becomes, the greater your employees’ trust in you, and the more engaged you all become.


Oftentimes in a coaching conversation, the person you’re coaching will get caught up in detailing their frustrations. Take a moment to acknowledge your employee’s frustrations, but then encourage her to think about how to move past them.


In addition to making sure you follow through on any commitments you make, it’s also useful to build accountability for the employee’s side of formulating & implementing developmental plans. Accountability increases the positive impact of coaching conversations and solidifies their rightful place as keys to organizational effectiveness.

What will coaching your employees do for you? It will build stronger bonds between you and your team members, support them in taking ownership over their own learning, and help them develop the skills they need to perform at their peak.

COACH – Enjoy the Game!


“Coaches who can outline plays on a blackboard are a dime-a-dozen.

The ones who win, get inside their players and motivate

– Vince Lombardi

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