Employees First: A lesson from the coach of my alma mater.

I just ordered a copy of the book Players First: Coaching from the inside out by 41ukMF7URdL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_University of Kentucky basketball coach John Calipari, who just came off a magical tournament run ending just shy of a national championship with a team full of freshmen.  The Kentucky coach is a controversial figure to say the least.  Many detractors claim he is an example of “what is wrong” with college basketball for his record over the past few seasons of recruiting “One-and-Done” athletes that seem to be making a pit stop in college before reaching their dreams in the NBA.  Born and raised in the state of Kentucky, I am a die-hard Kentucky Wildcat fan, so I’ll say that this blog post is very biased.  If Coach Cal was at Duke, I would have a very hard time writing anything positive about the guy.  With that said, I’d like to move past the pro-Calipari, pro-Kentucky propaganda, and dive into a more important point that this controversial coach is trying to make.  Leadership is about serving those that follow you.

In the beginning of the book, Calipari uses the example of “coaching for the names on the backs of the jerseys – not just the front.”  This flies in the face of a traditional team sport viewpoint that it is about the team, not the individual.  Some schools even refuse to put players names on jerseys to make this point.  Calipari is making the case that these two concepts do NOT have to be mutually exclusive.  Can you be for the individual AND the team?  Can the goals of both be achieved collectively?  Whether you coach a basketball team or run a small business, you have to understand that your individual players or employees have needs/wants/dreams and personal desires.  Does that make them selfish? No.  It makes them human.  Finding a way to align all the individuals that work for you so that achieving their goals helps move your business forward is the ultimate win-win.  This is why many businesses invest in the growth of their employees because they realize building their human capital also helps the value of the company.

Meeting regularly with employees to identify ways they can improve to help advance them in the company shows that you are committed to their success and not just your own goals.  As John Maxwell states in his book, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, people don’t care how much you know until they know you care.  Showing a genuine interest in an employee’s life and career success strengthens the boss-employee relationship (aka: Leader-member exchange, LMX), which could help increase job satisfaction and improve outcomes for the business.  If an employee wants to be promoted or hired for a position outside of your department (ie: the individual goal conflicts with the department goal), some managers may work against the employee to “hold them back” and keep them in the department.  Once the employee realizes what is happening, they will likely “check out” or become disgruntled, riddled with a lack of trust.  This is why as a leader, you have to recognize that helping the employee reach their dreams (even if it means having to replace great employees every couple of years) they will be more devoted to you and will work ten times as hard while they are on your team.  Then after they are gone, they will be great for future recruitment because they will sing your praises as a manager who helped them along the way.

Think about how you are helping your own employees, coworkers, or students achieve their goals.  Ask yourself if there is anything else you can do to help.  Make it a priority to put THEM first and see what it can do for your business.

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Joey Mattingly, PharmD, MBA is an assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy located in Baltimore, Maryland. Joey has managed retail and long-term care pharmacy operations in Kentucky, Illinois and Indiana. Leading Over The Counter is a blog of Joey's views and opinions on the topics of pharmacy leadership and management and do not represent the University of Maryland, Baltimore. Joey can be followed on Twitter @joeymattingly.

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