Aliou Cisse, Louis van Gaal, Gareth Southgate, Walid Regragui, Rigobert Song, Diego Alonso, Luis Suarez, Hajime Moriyasu and Luis Enrique. These are all national team coaches, entrusted with the responsibility of bringing out the best in a team of world-class football players playing for their country in order to win the World Cup in Qatar in 2022. Some of them were world-class national team players decades ago, and some were average players when they were young men. Some of them have won the World Cup before as a player, and many of them have never won the World Cup before either as a player or as a coach. But all of them are entrusted with the responsibility of bringing home the World Cup trophy for their team. Why do football teams need or hire coaches? After all, the teams have world-class football players who know what to do on the pitch and do it on a regular basis for the biggest clubs on the biggest stages. The national teams even have team Captains, and they have incentives for performing well on the world’s biggest stage. So why do they invest so much money in having a Coach? Could it be that simply having great players on your team is not enough for success? Could it be that having a good Captain of the team may not be enough for success? Could it be that having players who are all passionate, talented, and desirous of achieving a team goal may not be enough to assure success?
The United States Army, a fearsome force that is unparalleled in its destructive capacity, for over twenty years, utilized the following slogan to recruit and motivate its soldiers and potential recruits: BE ALL YOU CAN BE. There is an inherent paradox in this slogan for the US Army. A force created to wreak destruction and death upon foreign adversaries motivates young men to join by encouraging them to be all that they can be. Yet, it was one of the most successful recruitment and retention slogans for the US Army, lasting over two decades. Why? Because the Army understood and invested in the leadership development of its soldiers and officers and devised a marketing slogan that aligned with what it was doing. For years, the US Army invested in the use of leadership enhancement tools (including coaching) to improve the leadership capacity of its officers and the results shined through in theatres of war that the US Army inserted itself into; regardless of what one’s political views are, it is impossible to ignore the fact that the US Army is yet to lose a war in the past century and its ratio of inflicting casualties on its enemies versus sustaining casualties is the most impressive of any army anywhere in the world.
In Fortune 1000 companies, International Non-Governmental organizations and International Financial Institutions, Boards of Directors and shareholders recognize the importance of coaching for leadership, team and organizational success. These organizations are staffed with professionals with world-class levels of education and incredibly high levels of passion for their work and their organization; they have talented and capable “team captains” who are respected and sometimes revered by their teams. And yet, the team owners understand that there is a need for Coaches in these organizations. It is increasingly becoming a requirement of these organizations that in order to be promoted to senior levels of responsibility, the executive has to receive executive coaching in order to bring out the best in the executive to help her/him to be all that s/he can be. Many of the executive teams in these companies also receive Team Coaching, a service that supports the entire team to achieve their team goals as each team member is supported to align his/her actions, decisions and behaviors with the objectives of the team.
So, if investments in coaching and leadership enhancement are made by world-class football teams, world-class armies and world-class companies, why are so many African organizations, African companies, African governments and African leaders still trying to achieve success without investing in the coaching of their leaders or their teams?
The answer is hardly the same for every country, company, industry or sector; however, here are four reasons that I have come across as our organization, BCA Leadership, supports leaders in Africa to be the best that they can be:
- Some African leaders have not heard about coaching or have misconceptions about what it is. Yes, it is true that many African leaders have not heard about business or executive or team coaching and/or believe that it is a service only relevant to football or sports teams. Coaching is a service that supports leaders to make optimal decisions. It is not a service for deficient or underperforming leaders or teams; on the contrary, it is a service utilized by the best leaders and teams in the world.
- Some African leaders believe that they are such excellent leaders that they do not need coaching. The “do you know who I am?” syndrome is alive and well in African leadership. If you are one of those leaders that believes that you have arrived or is captivated by the erroneous belief that your level of leadership responsibility and achievement is so high that you cannot get better with coaching, I encourage you to consider the fact that Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema all benefit from coaching. It is what got them to be the best and keeps them at their best.
- Some African leaders believe that coaching is too expensive an investment (money and/or time) to make for their organization. For those who believe this, I encourage you to think of the alternative; you do not invest in becoming the best leader that you can be and your organization most likely fails to achieve its full potential. What is the future of your organization worth to you?
- Some African leaders believe that they cannot find world-class coaches in Africa who understand the African context to support them or their organizations. This is as much of a myth as was the myth that an African football coach cannot lead an African team to success on an international stage; Aliou Cisse proved that once again in 2020 by leading Senegal to the African Nations Cup. In the world of executive and team coaching, there are world-class coaches available to support leaders and organizations in Africa to become all that they can be.
For too long, African organizations have been underperforming, much like African football teams that boast of very good players and yet fail to put it together on the biggest stage.
Dear African Leader – as you enjoy watching the world cup over the next three weeks, reflect on these:
How many of these teams would have made it to the World Cup without the contribution of their coaches?
How long do you want your organization to be watching the World Cup in your industry instead of competing for it and winning it?