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Be a Sports Coach Not a Boss

Business owners often think that leadership and being the boss are the same thing. To get real results from your employees start thinking about being a sports coach – not the boss.

Lynn Madeley




I was her. It was all about me. I was good at what I did and knew it. The people who worked for me were only there to make me look good. I rose rapidly through organisations, was given management responsibilities early and was quick, hungry and on top of the technical elements of my job. I rose rapidly through the ranks.

What I wasn’t, was a leader. I didn’t even know what leadership was until I was “led” by a man who showed me everything it wasn’t. He tried to fire me.

Related: What Leadership Style Are You and Will It Get Results?

I’d never been unsuccessful before and the process of not being loved and adored taught me the most important leadership lessons I ever learned. So thank you ex-boss, whether intentionally or not you made me better at what I do.

What I learned was that leadership is a continuum. The more you submit to it the better you become. Now, with a few more years on the clock, I describe what I do as being a head sports coach, but for a business. I use the words “sports coach” specifically. As heads of companies we are not executive coaches or life coaches, which are roles all of their own and, when done well, can add enormous value.

As CEOs we are employed to win – but we are only as good as the people we work with and our job must be to guide, inspire, motivate and empower our teams to reach their full potential.

That’s all well and good, but how do you do this?

Ultimately, good leaders figure their own way through the quagmire and in so doing – if they are good enough – they will inspire a healthy mixture of love, respect and, hopefully not fear.

What follows is a long and by no means exhaustive list of what I have learned over an extended career. The list of what not to do would be equally long and onerous but I believe in focusing on what to do not concentrating on what not to do.

Surround yourself with people who really, really want to win


They may not know how to do the job yet but they must have the hunger to be brilliant. I employ people who have excelled at school in something, whether it be sport, music or academics. This tells me that they have the capacity to go the extra mile and that they have already felt the elation of winning and want more of it.

Look for passion

I don’t mind what people are passionate about, but they have to prove an above-average energy for an interest. If the CV says under interests and hobbies, ‘watching television’ it’ll get binned.

Be humble

You need humility as it’s no longer all about you. In fact, it’s about everyone else. You have to be prepared to stay in the shadows and let your players shine. That doesn’t mean you don’t have an opinion or a point of view, you just exercise it less because you need to hear the opinions and points of view of the people around you.

Related: Inspiring Leadership, No Matter Your Style

Allow others to receive recognition

You must want people to be brilliant and don’t try and take credit for ‘making’ them because real superstars will make themselves. They know they need a good coach, so they will keep swapping out (changing jobs) until they find someone that works for them.

Listen and observe

You learn much more about people when you are not speaking. If you see a drop in performance ask “what’s up?” before demanding answers.

If people are honest with you, you can plan and change things. If you intimidate them you will never understand their wants and needs and will not be able to help them maximise their potential for themselves and, therefore, for you.

Be flexible

Don’t find yourself saying no to something because you have said no before. Maybe this time is a good time to say yes.

Stay naive

Keep changing, keep questioning, keep asking “So what?” and “What if?”, to yourself as much as your team.

Stay curious

Be thirsty for knowledge and information and then make sure you share it. Curiosity pays dividends so never stop looking under rocks and never stop looking under the hood of your own organisation to make sure it is operating at maximum efficiency.

Set an example

You can’t be expected to do everyone’s job, but you have to set the standard and the ethic that you require. You don’t do their jobs so this is not about time in the saddle, it is about your emotional and intellectual commitment to the needs of the business.

Related: Here’s How Clothes Can Make You A More Effective Leader

Stay in charge

Don’t think for one moment that a coaching style of management is soft. Successful sports coaches are never weak and they are respected because of what they offer to the players not because they are feared.

If they are feared and do not facilitate their players being brilliant then the players leave. It is the same in business.

Always remain on top of your game

As a leader you don’t have to be able to kick the ball as well as your players, but you do have to know how to make someone kick the ball better. Everyone who works must become one of your coaching staff and share your positive attitude towards being brilliant and constantly learning.

Most importantly, stay hungry. You need to want to win as much or more than the people you work with. You will need more energy and more tenacity than anyone else in your business. Hard work must excite you and you must relish it.

Athletes don’t moan about how much they have to train, neither should your business team, not because they are frightened to do so, but because deep down they just love it. So should you.

Lynn Madeley is the CEO of Havas Southern Africa. She was also an event rider who rode internationally and is a qualified riding coach.



How To Make Speedy Decisions As A Leader

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Dirk Coetsee




“Trusting one another, however can never mean trusting with the lip and mistrusting in the heart.” – Mahatma Gandhi

“Self-trust is the first secret of success” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Rapid decision-making

Harvard research has identified amongst other key traits of the most successful CEOs’ of Fortune 500 companies the ability to make decisions quickly and act on them at a rapid speed albeit with the inherent acknowledgement that they might get it wrong forty percent of the time.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

Why is speedy decision making and a rapid pace of execution so critical? Top leaders know that making quick decisions combined with swift execution creates a much better chance of success as opposed to very slow and bureaucratic verdicts underpinned by little or no action.

When there is a high level of distrust amongst the stakeholders in any entrepreneurial venture literally everything slows down as negative arguments ensue and takes up an enormous amount of precious time. Forced action underpinned by distrust loses quality and speed and can potentially bring a business to its knees.

“The speed of trust” is therefore an extremely valuable principle that all Leaders should live by, that is if they wish to serve a higher purpose than themselves and others. Those Leaders whom have developed a high level of self-trust and have earned the trust of their team members have put themselves in the very advantageous position of being empowered to move towards their vision at a rapid pace through quickfire decisions positively multiplied by confident and competent execution.

“The speed of trust” does not mean that decisions are made without careful consideration and stakeholder input putting the level of quality of execution at imminent risk. It simply means that the decision-making process is quicker than most as mistrust does not cast unnecessary shadows of doubt over the intentions and ambitions of all the stakeholders.

A Leader or Leaders whom has fostered self-trust within themselves will not go through lengthy spells of procrastination that those whom lack self -awareness and suffer from severe self- doubt has to go through.

How do I execute at the speed of trust?

How do I practically bring the principle of the “speed of trust” to fruition within my business? Firstly, ensure that this critical principal is applied throughout all business processes which starts with hiring trustworthy people and by working those out of the business whom cannot be trusted.  Secondly, as  a Leader your actions and words echo throughout every aspect of the business therefore do what you say you are going to do. Admit to your mistakes and fix them.

Thirdly be authentic in your pursuit of the vision of your business. One of the possible ways to achieve that is by being a visible and living example of the business values that you advocate as a leader.

Related: Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

Lastly in order for you to be trusted as a leader you must first show trust in others. Trust others by giving them more responsibility and verbalise your high level of trust in your team members. Passionately speak about this principle and its positive fruits at every opportunity. Make the practical display of this principle by employees or any other stakeholders known to all stakeholders and be lavish with your praise when anyone is willing to earn the trust of other team members.

A very good example of this principle in action was embodied by the Supreme Russian commander, Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov whom never lost a battle and was respected by both his men and his enemies. He earned the trust of his men by being amongst them as often as he could, by sharing their hardships and by offering them the most authentic and quality military training known to man within that period of history.

Suvorov was a humble student of warfare and documented every detail of his learning experiences which included setbacks that he faced. He observed the morale of his men first hand and ensured that he inspired them not only through his inspiring speeches but by being a living example of discipline and bravery.

I will leave the reader with an important question to ponder, one that has echoed throughout history: Do you trust enough to be trusted?

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What Kind Of Leader Are You?

Your effectiveness in scaling your business starts with the kind of leader you are. Here’s how you can build yourself up into a leader others will follow.

Nicholas Haralambous




When you are in start-up mode it’s tough to take a step back and think about the kind of leader you are or want to be. Most of the time you’re fighting to keep your business alive, never mind think about how you lead.

This is especially challenging when it’s faster and more efficient to just step up and do things yourself. It’s easier for you to make the decisions, do the work, check the work, follow up on the work, etc. However, it’s this situation that prevents young companies from scaling to the next level.

Ask More Questions

I work really hard every day to be quieter. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail so dismally that I actually do more damage than good. You see, I like to talk. I like to hear other people talk and I like to bash around ideas until they become something bigger, something better and something that can move from idea into action.

Related: Your Leadership Journey Starts Now… And Go!

Coupled with liking to talk, I also like being right. Who doesn’t? Add onto these two things the fact that I like to read and research and then throw in a teeny bit of ego or pride and it’s a recipe for leadership disaster.

If I am the most well-read, loudest and most opinionated person in a meeting then all that happens is that I end up pitching an idea, getting everyone to agree with this idea and then assigning the work on the idea to become a reality. Basically, I am working with, for and amongst myself. It’s an echo chamber that leads to bad ideas surviving and an unhappy team leaving.

The Collective Is More Intelligent Than the Individual

As a leader and founder, you probably feel like you are the person with the best understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and the best person to solve the problem. This can lead to a dictatorial approach to leadership, team inclusion and problem solving. You have an idea, you tell your team and they do what you tell them.

If this is how you do it then I have to ask you a simple question: Why did you hire smart people? Just so you could tell them what to do? If that’s the case rather hire capable but cheap people, not the best.

Your best people are there to help you scale your business beyond your own thinking and time. There are a set amount of hours in the day. There are only so many emails you can answer in your day.

A good example in my business is customer support. We pride ourselves in our impeccable customer service online and offline. I can’t physically answer every question posed by customers but I can hire incredible colleagues, entrust them with my vision and views on our customers and then trust them to go out and use their good judgement.

Work With The Best

Here’s the kicker to being a good leader: You need to work with the best people.

This is not something I say as a passing statement. I want you to stop reading right now and think about the ten people you interact with at your company every day. Are they the best people you could be working with? If not, why not? How do you find the best people and bring them into your business? Go and do that.

Related: You’re The Boss, So Be The Boss

It’s important to work with the best for two very simple reasons.

Working with the best people pushes you to be better. If you are literally the smartest person in the room in every aspect of your business it means that you are surrounded by subpar players and you are not learning anything. The people around you are meant to educate you and push your business into places you didn’t even know were there.

Second, working with the best people attracts other incredible people. If you have a business full of average team members, can you guess what kind of people they pull towards your business? More average or less than average people. Why? Because average people don’t want to be surrounded by incredible people. If they are, they look worse and not better.

It’s incredibly difficult to be a good leader all of the time. In fact, it’s close to impossible. What you can do is try to be a leader who communicates, learns and grows with your team in an open manner.

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All The Business Wisdom You Need From 4 Famous Entrepreneurs

Combine the knowledge of the greatest entrepreneurs with your own hard earned lessons.

Brian Hamilton



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There’s a lot of deification of entrepreneur “personalities.” The truth is that a few entrepreneurs, in my opinion, are probably luckier than good. But, some of the praise and deification is warranted. There have been some fantastic business leaders in this country, and one can learn a ton from studying them. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the four entrepreneurs who have taught me the most over the years.

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