IT Management Blog: my thoughts about putting the "i" in IT

The eco-coach - what sport can learn from business management

Business management theories often use knowledge and experiences from sports. I have always enjoyed these parallels (see also But now I see that sport also has started to use theories and knowledge from business management. 

Photo by Dick Aalders
I had the privilege to experience briefly Tjalling van den Berg life in action with young football players. Tjalling contributed as coach and educator of coaches to the success of the Dutch gymnast Epke Zonderland. ( Epke won a gold medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. I was impressed with what Tjalling did, though as an observer he came across rather funny strange man. Don’t know if the players saw it that way.

Tjalling wrote with Ruben Bakema a book called “Coachen” in which they present the concept of “eco-coaching” ( ) in which they see the coach to take a more holistic approach to coaching. Not only focus on the technical aspect but place the sportsperson, his personality and his development in the centre. In addition to look at yourself as a coach how you can develop yourself. And they recommend to work with the environment of the sportsperson including family and new technologies. To be an innovator.

The book has three parts. The first part revolves around finding yourself as coach and finding the right talent to coach. The second part revolves around binding with the sportsperson and building team. The third part is about scoring, to achieve results in a sustainable way and to motivate the sportsperson.

Particularly in the first two parts we recognise elements such as characteristics of a good coach (not much different of those of a good manager), the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), communication sciences and ego-state from Transaction Analysis of Eric Berne. The book goes quickly and briefly through a wide variety of theories. In the third part contains more specific sports theories.

Us Abe
The book goes quickly and briefly through a wide variety of theories and is full of on-liners and that is done on purpose so concepts can easily be remembered.

For example “The eco-coach does not let you train harder, but differently, together, smarter and sustainable”.

This reminds me of a project manager who challenged me to work smarter instead of harder when I said that the time to deliver something was insufficient.

Some other one-liners are:

Even when all coaches agree, it does not mean they are right.
What he is trying to say that it is very important to listen to the sportsperson (there is also a section on listening and trying not to talk; In business this not much different and you need to listen to your employees since they often know how to come to a successful outcome.

To be successful over a longer period of time, performance is more important than winning.
We too often aim at short term success which will negatively impact the long term success.  I find this too often the risk with politicians. If they are elected as minister, this is for a short period and in that short period they need to score. That does not always lead to the best decisions.

Without change no innovation and without innovation no progress.
Another angle to this, is not to try to be a strategic partner of the business if the business is not ready for it yet. See Lou Ehrlich in my blog post

Perform first before you start innovating.
We read so much about CIO’s and the IT department that need to drive business improvement. However in so many cases, the internal processes are rather immature. First provide a good optimal service and control what you have before you want to change the business. I don’t say here that you should avoid initiatives that improve the business but more on where you focus on.
Another angle would be to say that before you automate something, you need to have mastered the manual process. I ran in the past in many occasions where we were asked for some smart IT solution. It turned out that the business did not understand actually what was required because they were not able to perform the task via manual processes.

Just as my comments, the one-liners do not always apply. They are guides that help in certain circumstances.