Leading Like a Coach


Hi this is Mike Lipkin and I’d like to tell you a story that you’ve experienced often. It’s a story about a frontline employee that enabled another employee to make me very happy. I was checking into the Grand Hyatt in the Bahamas on August 13 2018. I discovered that my room faced the parking lot. Naturally, I asked for an ocean view but I was told that the rate being paid by my client didn’t qualify me for the superior view. When I protested that I had flown all the way from Toronto to enjoy the beautiful Bahamian sunset, I was informed that that it simply wasn’t possible for the price I was paying. That’s when my shero stepped in. She was a supervisor that observed the transaction. She saw my rising frustration and disappointment. She gently pointed out to her colleague that it was late in the day and that a smaller room with a “partial sea view” was available for the same price.  She suggested to her colleague that I may be happier with less space and more ocean. I certainly was. She shared the solution with her colleague and enabled her to satisfy a guest.

What’s the moral of the story? – no matter what you do, you’re a leader and you’re a coach. The two are inseparable from each other. Leading without coaching is malpractice. It’s short-sighted, unsustainable and selfish. On the other hand, “Leading like a coach” Is when you enable, not mandate. You inspire, not intimidate. You expand, not constrict. You trust, not second guess. You’re authentic, not disingenuous. You make people happy, not miserable – including yourself.

So here are Mike Lipkin’s ten ways to leading like a coach, whatever you do.

1. Be Curious. Discover for yourself. Find everything fascinating. Be authentically interested in others. If you’re ready to learn, the teacher will appear. Go looking for trouble. Invest in breakthroughs. Have skin in the game. Weave your network of scouts and confidantes that give you the heads up. The most curious employees seek the most information from their coworkers and the information helped them in their jobs.

When we are curious, we view tough situations more creatively. Studies have found that curiosity is associated with less defensive reactions to stress and less aggressive reactions to provocation. Curiosity also reduces group conflict and generates more open communication.

2. Make It Your Mission. Identify yourself as a capacity catalyst. See yourself as a growth agent. Become happy, lucky and successful by making others happy, lucky and successfulWe become what we repeatedly do. I have trained my mental muscles to build other’s belief in their future. That’s literally my job. But no matter what you do, it’s also yours. In every role, turn your cast into stars. Excite people into remarkable actions. Link others to their dreams and they will accelerate you towards yours.

3. Focus On The Prize. Declare the goal in specific, motivational, achievable, understandable terms. Never have more than three main goals. Train other people’s eyes on their prize. Become a conduit of fulfillment. Discipline yourself against distraction. The longer the game, the stronger your focus needs to be. In 2019, my prize is motivating 100 000 people to achieve their goals. That means 100 sessions at an average of 1000 people each. In turn, I want every person in every one of my sessions to achieve their goals. It’s an audacious ambition. And that’s what makes it so exciting. I’m always in the stretch. And I love hearing how I’ve impacted so many people’s lives.

4. Make A Plan.Discern the 6 W’sA – What’s the main goal by what time? B – Why is that so important?If you have a strong enough why, you’ll find the how. C – How will it be achieved – in other words what’s the one sentence or phrase that distills your strategy? In my case it’s “Excite people into powerful action so they achieve remarkable results.” D – Who will help you achieve it? Who are the stakeholders with whom you need to align to achieve the goal? E – When do you need to take action? How often do you need to reach out to people? And F – Where are you going to play? What’s your arena of success? Build people’s confidence in your process. Pivot constantly in response to changing circumstances. Continuously communicate your success. Have a passion for the GRIND. That means: Get Ready, It’s  a New Day!

5. Partner With Purpose. Choose your stakeholders carefully. Select the best. Then, make everyone an owner. Dialogue for success. Encourage diversity in thought and styles. Grow an ecosystem of resources that shares its genius. Make such an impact that you become a source of their joy and pride. Treat everyone as an equal. Speak truth to power. Don’t back down, back your people. Pull for your team. If you develop a reputation as someone that helps others win, winners will want to work with you. Every breakthrough builds your power of attraction. That’s exactly what I’m building right now.

6. Ask, Don’t Tell.Open peoples’ minds through powerful questions; Spotlight key areas with illuminating questions. For example, if there were no constraints and anything was possible, what actions would you take now? What would you do if you were in charge? How can we change the game? What can we do to make our customers love us? What do we need to get ready for? How can we inspire our people and our customers to do what they’ve never done before?

7. Actively Listen.Make the time to hear others’ opinions. Create the space for others to talk. Conduct daily check-ins. Encourage people to share through every channel. Build platforms for communal conversations. Foster an emotional safety-zone where people can be brutally candid. Invite people to be vocal. Create a culture of collective collaboration and individual accountability. Celebrate feedback in all its forms. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It just has to be better than yesterday.

8. Get Out There.Nothing worthwhile ever happens behind your desk. Model your desired behaviours. Showcase your contribution. Walk the walk. be acutely self-aware but never self-conscious. Be the best you can be every day. Leave nothing on the field. Smile, laugh, cry, but never go stale, cynical or bitter. Do it with passion but never with anger. Be visible. And remember, it’s always day one. Every day is your entire career in miniature. 

9. Communicate Like a Champion.ABC – always be connecting F2F, voice, text, video. Talk the talk all the time. Champions are a class act. They sound like opportunity. They create possibility. They build their vocabulary of victory. Conjure up your own words of remarkability – Championate, Fabulate, Staminize. Carpe-Celebration every day. Admire, adore, appreciate – no-one ever gets enough recognition. Be as transparent as possible – in the right way. Never reveal the worst part of yourself. Always expose the best. Talk straight. Say what you mean, mean what you say, but don’t be mean when you say what you mean.

10. Never forget why you signed up. Play to win. Live the perception that you want others to have of you. Master your moods. Be grateful to the game. Love NO – it means you’re making a big ask. Stand tall. Be easily WOWed. Train like an athlete. You’re only as good as your staying power. Remember, you chose to be wherever you are. Act like you just made the decision today. I signed up because I want to help you win, whoever you are and wherever you are. We all belong to the same global village. When one of us wins, we all win.

Those are the ten ways to leading like a coach: be curious; make it your mission; focus on the prize; make a plan; partner with purpose; ask, don’t tell; actively listen; get out there; communicate like a champion and never forget why you signed up. This is Mike Lipkin and I approve this message. Now please pay it forward.

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2 thoughts on “Leading Like a Coach

  1. Jennifer

    Mike I first listened to you speak about 14 years ago. In my copy of your book you wrote “Be Brilliant”! You continue to inspire me. Thanks for your words of wisdom and encouragement.


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