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Ken Keller: The manager who didn’t coach

Posted: July 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: July 14, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Ken Keller

 

Every year in Major League Baseball a highly touted player enters the game as a rookie and initially, blows everyone away with his strong performance.

These young players possess the five tools of baseball: great speed, hitting for average, hitting for power, a great throwing arm and excellence playing defensively.

Last season the Angels introduced Mike Trout. Trout won Rookie of the Year for the American League, and was runner up for Most Valuable Player. He also won the Heart and Hustle Award, for showing passion to the game, and best embodies values, spirits and traditions of baseball.

This year the Dodgers have Yasiel Puig as a rookie. Puig is admired and feared for his talents and enthusiasm. Most are in awe of Puig’s natural abilities. However, he is reckless and immature. He may not be much of a team player either.

The Dodgers are not actually coaching Puig. The coaching staff looks the other way when it comes to his mistakes. Instead of trying to teach Puig so he won’t make the repeat his mistakes, they have so far remained silent.

I believe that Puig is uncoachable. The reason he can’t be coached because of his arrogance. He simply does not listen, or care to listen, regardless who is talking to him.

It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears. Arrogance, unfortunately, is rarely tempered or disappears from the DNA, so in Puig’s case, it is doubtful that a teacher will ever appear.

I had a similar situation some years back. Steve was promoted to head of sales. It didn’t take long to see that Steve lacked management skills. I thought he had trouble managing himself, and within no time, his shortcomings managing others surfaced.

His responsibility, like all managers, was to achieve specific results through the focused effort of others. Steve had to set goals, hold people accountable, address obstacles and coach people to become better. Or coach them out to a new external opportunity.

Four people reported directly to Steve. Two were solid, self-starters, who knew what to do and did a good job on a consistent basis. They weren’t award winners but the company could count on them to do a reliable job.

The third was an underperformer from the start and should never have been hired. Steve recruited and brought him into the company. This new hire was comfortable taking orders, not taking the initiative. Steve became increasingly frustrated with dealing with this person.

The fourth direct report was hard to manage from the start. In no time flat he was over budget, taking unapproved days off, arriving late, leaving early. His follow through was nonexistent.

The first two direct reports might have quickly improved performance if Steve had spent time teaching them what had made him a great salesperson. But Steve didn’t do this because he did not know how.

The third direct report was a failure. Steve spent more time selling his company in the interview. Had Steve been more discerning in his questioning, it would have surfaced that the man he was interviewing just wanted a paycheck not a job. Steve had never been coached on interviewing; he did not think it was important.

The fourth direct report had potential but Steve was going to have to invest time in coaching. Instead, Steve spent even more time defending inexcusable behavior. What Steve should have done was to tell the guy to grow up and get his act together. But Steve didn’t want to “kill his spirit.”

Leading people requires the ongoing investment to first teach, and then coach, so that each team member succeeds to their full potential. If you can’t, or won’t do these two key activities, you should not be leading anyone.

Ken Keller is CEO of STAR Business Consulting Inc., a company that works with small and midsize business owners to grow top line revenue. He can be reached at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

 

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