Matt Dixon is an international triathlon coach to a growing number of the most successful professional triathletes on the globe. He and his team at purplepatch Fitness use the same baseline philosophies to also train elite amateurs and the mere mortals (casual but committed like me) who are hoping to eek out some race improvements, even as we find those AARP mailers in our boxes.

Dixon wrote about the journey of one of his pros, Laura Siddall, and what it took for her to succeed. There is a certain dose of humility and humble pie cooking with the purplepatch team. It helps us mere mortals appreciate even more that it’s not just us who have to constantly evolve. Matt wants to help an athlete sort his or her individual responsibility and then also reflect on how purplepatch’s coaching could have been different.

You’ve seen me use sports/athlete analogies in the context of Colosi Associates’ executive search practice. Specifically, in identifying talent for your team. I often find that business professionals who have some athletic threads in their lives often have grit, determination, calculated risk-taking and goal setting in their DNA and will use those mindsets to bring success to their teams.

Comments from purplepatch Fitness, excerpted at the end, are directly analogous to you as a Financial Officer, or any leader coaching a team, really. If you yourself are an A Player, and an A Player Coach at that, then you have hired at least some hi-potentials for your team. A lot is written about rehabilitating poor performers, but what about feeding the eagles?

How are you coaching your very best?

Did you actually push them enough? If you are the confident, secure-in-yourself leader you think you are, don’t be afraid that the hi-po might be capable of doing things better than you could.

Are they more resilient than you thought?

How will you balance that hi-po’s (downside) potential to burn themselves out, with making sure you push them enough? If they burn out and move on to another role, you will feel some responsibility and likely some loss, for all that time and emotion invested in the hi-po. As the coach, what’s your part? How can you sort out if you need to evolve?

Let them know that it is ok to fail sometimes.

And not just ok, but a necessary part of their journey that you support. Although my overall career has been successful, I had some failures that came from taking risks. Some of the risks paid off, for sure. Interestingly I’ve been told several times that I don’t know where the fail point is in my casual-but-committed athletic endeavors, and that’s why I haven’t made breakthrough race improvements. They are right!

My opinion is that talent is not equal on a team. I think it’s fair to treat team members differently and fair to adjust your leadership for each person to match what the company needs and what works for the individual. Your hi-po’s will put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed. You play a critical role in balancing all this out.  Don’t die wondering if you could have done more to be a better coach.

Here’s the excerpt from purplepatch Fitness:

Developing The Coaching Relationship

“Working with Laura has been a wonderful experience, but our path towards world class has been a constant evolution between coach and athlete. Laura's mental toughness and physical resilience were great attributes, but also a great recipe for potentially over training, over racing, and long-term decline. In the early stages of Laura’s development I think I actually under-trained her relative to what she needed to thrive. Treating her like other athletes was our undoing, especially considering the internal pressure she put on herself, which made the first year a real challenge for athlete and coach. It took about 12 to 18 months for coach-athlete to begin to develop the recipe that truly worked for optimizing Laura's performance and life. All the while, she desperately cherished results, which offered exposure, financial reward, and personal satisfaction. This took massive patience, but also trust in me, Paul Buick and the purplepatch coaching philosophy.

…..The biggest component was a baseline mental approach to every race - giving herself freedom to fail. Laura loves a statement ‘don’t die wondering’, so at this year’s Challenge Roth, I decided to push this right back in her face. If she didn’t want to die wondering, she’d better be willing to fail! The words went from being written on the back of her hand to being written on her heart, and when she began to truly believe, her body was able to express her preparation.”

Full article here.

Reach out to me at any time to talk about your teams and team development. Executive recruiting isn't about a role by itself in isolation, but about the whole team over time. We see the best of them....and those with potential to be the best.