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Sometimes, it's better to drive performance using the strengths available than to teach your team new skills

Innovation based on insights leads to glory

Gary Kirsten is the "best (coach) I have ever seen", India's dashing opening batsman Virender Sehwag said in an interview to PTI in January, 2009. Coming from a batsman of the stature of Sehwag, who has played under various coaches, this demonstrates the mindset of a man who knows his strengths & limitations, respects authority, and is raring to win matches for his team. 

The previous coach, Greg Chappell, tried equally hard to build a strong team by understanding each player's shortcomings and working on correcting the same during training. He also focused on identifying & honing additional skills of each player, so they could take on additional responsibilities and contribute much more. The clear agenda being to mould the Indian Cricketers into a winning unit, through the correct 'textbook approach'. 

Sehwag, who is not exactly a copybook cricketer, and whose strength lies in playing the ball through the line with his hand-eye co-ordination, found his natural style being curbed when he was asked to correct his footwork. Another team member, Irfan Pathan, who showed a lot of promise towards becoming the elusive genuine all-rounder that India needed desperately, was given the task of opening the batting, apart from spearheading the Indian pace attack. Good intentions, but the results were not so encouraging. Sehwag lost his edge as a 'daredevil batsman' and Irfan lost his penetration as a 'fiery bowler', and in the end, they were both not performing even up to their earlier potential. 

Both these examples show that the coach attempted to modify the players to perfection and to suit the team needs, without focusing enough on their core skills & capabilities. Resultantly, their performance suffered, and the Indian team lost great, confident players. Gary Kirsten, after taking over the reins, worked on honing the existing skills of all players, guiding & mentoring them along the way, to bring out the very best in them, rather than imploring them to develop new skills.

Organizations today spend a fortune in search for a right kind of talent. They spend millions on psychometric tests, multiple rounds of interviews and group discussions, to identify the right kind of skill and right kind of attitude. However, getting the people to perform is another task. Your people are there in your organization at their respective positions because they have certain qualities that fit the role. To get the best results, allow them the freedom to utilize their strengths to achieve the organizational goals... don't burden them to work on the skills that you think they require!

Editor, CEO Lessons from Cricket
The author is a strategist & is a cricket enthusiast, and writes on Cricket. The views expressed here are his own.