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Coaching and Managing: On Gen-X

September 2, 2008
I want to sell real estate, coach!

I want to sell real estate, coach!

I love that Wendy Forsythe, VP of Broker Services for Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, often blogs on Gen-X and Gen-Y issues in real estate. I suspect that Wendy and I are both Gen-Xers, and if you searched our past photographs, I’m sure there will be a few blackmail-worthy examples involving neon clothing, Z-Cavaricci’s, penny loafers, pastel blazers, Aqua-Net, and The Cure t-shirts.

Her latest post, however, makes us Gen-Xers out to be some sort of emotionally fragile prima donnas:

Professional sports teams have managers and coaches. The reason for this is because these are two different jobs. In most real estate offices, the leader has to wear many hats. If you want to attract and retain Gen X and Gen Y agents you have to wear your coaching hat, not your manager’s hat.

With all due respect to the redoubtable Ms. Forsythe, I’d like to extend the sports analogy a bit more and beat it until it completely collapses under its own weight.

Yes, professional sports teams have both managers and coaches.  If you’re going to wear the coaching hat, and do everything positive and shiny, then by golly, make sure someone is wearing the General Manager hat and being a total results-driven hardass.

The coach might be telling some young rookie, “Hey, kid, I believe in your abilities — just get out there, focus on the ball, and swing away.  The hits will come.”  The GM, however, is like, “Hey you — you hit .220 for the past twenty at-bats.  It’s time for you to get sent down to the minors.”

Wendy gives us this as an example of the difference between manager and coach:

  • Manager’s message: “You’ll have to be patient, it takes time to get established in this business. It is not going to happen overnight.”
  • Coach’s message: “You can do it. You are doing all the right things. Keep focused.”

Let me add the General Manager’s message:

  • General Manager’s message: “Get your ass in gear and start producing, or I’m cutting you to make roster spots for someone who will.”

Look, Gen-Xers are in our 30’s.  We’re no business neophytes with stars in our eyes and dreams in our heads.  Most of us remain idealistic, perhaps, but I can say with reasonable confidence that the Gen-Xers who have moved on into the real world are hardnosed, experienced businesspeople who know how to get things done.  Ain’t no use in whining and crying.  When it’s game time, it’s game time.  We know that.  All the excuses in the world won’t turn that routine flyball into a base-clearing double.  We know that too.

I am now in the position of working with the so-called Millenials, who report to me.  You know what?  I’m finding that the good old fashioned motivation works just fine with this so-called “coddled generation” as well.  Sure, have all the freedom and initiative you want — but when it’s game time, it’s produce or else, kiddo.  If that don’t make you happy, well, it’s a big wide world; I’m sure there’s a job out there for ya.

Strangely, they all get it.  They all respond to such clear, unambiguous direction.  I don’t feel like I have to coddle them, or be their therapist.

If anything, I think every employee of whatever generation responds better to clear, unambiguous goals and expectations.  There really is not fudging around, “Hit this number to keep your job; hit that number to get promoted.”  Just like in sports — there’s no getting around that final score that determines who the winner is and who the loser is.  Gen-X’ers, Gen-Y’ers, Millenials, Boomers, Greatest Generation — we all understand it in the end.

The continual Oprahization of our society, including our workplace, is causing confusion amongst the employees.  And I write as an employee and as a manager both.  Trying so hard to “feel your concerns” and “understand your motivations” and such is actually counterproductive.  At the end of the day, business is simple: the money coming in has to be greater than the money going out.  This iron law of business has not changed since the day Thag traded his woolly mammoth tusk to Krang for the pretty cowrie shells, and it will not change until the end of time.

And you, as part of an organization, are either helping to have more money coming in or to have less money going out.  Simple, isn’t it?

So… yes, by all means, be nice to your people.  Be sweet and kind to your employees.  They’ll maybe be motivated better and respond.  But really, if you’re going to do the coaching thing, encouraging and motivating, then make sure they also see the General Manager thing, that expects, demands results.  Or else.

It’ll be good for both of you.


2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 3, 2008 12:53 pm

    Thanks for the pick up on my blog post. Great extention of the sports analogy. You are right, I have lots of eighties photos with big hair and regrettable clothing!

  2. September 6, 2008 8:46 pm

    Coaching, managing, parenting is a blend of encouragement and instruction.
    Most advise a healthy and sometimes overdose of praise and positive reinforcement.
    While this works to an extent, if underperformance, lack of production etc are not duly noted and the displeasure with those shortcomings and recommendations to correct the same, mediocrity will ensue.

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