This season, for the first time, I have been coaching an adult football team. For more than 15 years I’ve coached juniors, but this is the first time I’ve been involved in men’s football.

As I’ve reflected on the approach I’ve taken, I’ve become aware of the parallels with leading organizational change. In fact, I think that there are at least these five lessons that you can take from my football coaching expereince into change projects:

  1. Set crystal clear objectives. Together with the Martin, the team manager, I have established an overall philosophy for the team and create a clear focus and theme for each training session. The guys didn’t necessarily understand what was required at first, but they can now repeat back our key goals and objectives.
  2. Provide plenty of opportunities to practice new behaviours. Whether the session is on playing out from the back, finishing skills or defending, I try to provide many opportunities for all the lads to develop and practice these new skills. Only through repetition and practice will they be able to show their skills in the pressure of a game.
  3. Reward behaviours, not just results. During our practice we play small-sided games. In each game I will change the scoring system to focus the players’ minds on the skill we’re trying to develop. For instance, on a session focused on passing and possession, I give the teams a point for every five consecutive passes and three points if they score a goal from a five-pass move.
  4. Combine team and individual challenges. Most of the session is focused on how the team overall is doing, but I balance that with specific challenges and goals for individuals. That way, we’re developing each player as well as the team.
  5. Review progress regularly. I review each session in detail, based on feedback from Martin, the players and my own observations, building lessons learned into future sessions. I also build accountability by updating Martin who challenges me to try new things and manage performance.

To be honest, I get frustrated with training sessions where the players just have a kick-about, or where they spend half the session waiting in line to carry out a drill. I think it’s essential that the players should be challenged and developed, and that the session should maximise their involvement.

I get equally frustrated with organisational change programmes that are reduced to introducing new IT systems supported by some one-off training sessions. Developing high-performing organisations, and building new skills and behaviours requires a more holistic approach. Which of these five lessons could help you improve the delivery of organisational change across your business?

Off The Record: Sally MacLennane by The Pogues

I was sad to learn that Shane Magowan had passed away this week. Everyone knows Fairy Tale of New York, but The Pogues wrote and recorded many great songs. My favourites include Fiesta, A Pair of Brown Eyes, A Rainy Night in Soho, If I Should Fall From Grace With God, Thousands Are Sailing and this great sing-along track from the group’s 1985 album, Rum Sodomy & The Lash:

Sad to say, I must be on my way

So buy me beer and whiskey, ‘cause I’m going far away (far away)

I’d like to think of me returning when I can

To the greatest little boozer and to Sally MacLennane