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Adjusting On The Fly: Coaching Tips For That Inevitable Mid-Season Change

October 18, 2017 / by Connor Hewson

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Being the head coach of a major sports franchise isn't easy. In fact, it's one of the toughest jobs in the business.

Whether your team is slumping or your star player is mired in an unproductive streak, it will always be you that takes the blame when the time comes, whether warranted or not.

Put simply, a head coach is viewed by many as the easiest domino to replace. That's why you see so many mid-season coaching changes when things just aren't going right. It's the sputtering franchise's go-to solution.

It's no wonder most coaches seem to age so fast. Heck, I'm starting to get grey hairs just thinking about it!

 

For many teams, a change in coaching systems mid-way through the season can mean utter disaster. For others, however, it can be the spark that the team truly needed, catapulting them to greatness. 

When David Blatt was fired by the Cleveland Cavaliers in January of last year and replaced by-then assistant coach Tyronn Lue, the team went on a 27-14 run to end the regular season and ended up winning a historic seven-game series against the Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

LeBron got his hometown ring and Lue became one of the NBA's most intriguing and buzz-worthy coaches, all because of a mid-season shakeup.

 

In hockey, the 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins found themselves in similar situation to the Cavaliers, in that they possessed a talented team that was playing within a broken system. Penguins ownership sacked head coach Michel Therrien on February 15, 2009 and replaced him with rookie head coach Dan Bylsma, who, at 38, was the youngest NHL head coach at the time.

You can probably guess what happened next. The team finished their remaining regular season games with a record of 18-3-4 and went on to hoist the Stanley Cup later that year. 

 

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Another coaching change, another championship. A nice little pattern, isn't it?

If you're a sales leader, there is a good chance that you will need to go through a similar period of leadership change during your time at the top, just like the Cavaliers and the Penguins. Whether with a new company or a new staff, there will come a time when you need to dig deep and help motivate your sales team to adjust to a change in season, location, or clientele. While it's not guaranteed by any means, there is no harm in being prepared.

If something is broken, it is up to you to fix it and lead the team in a new direction. Here are three tips to make sure your coaching adjustment (if needed) is a success:

 

1. Listen, listen and listen again

When Tyronn Lue became head coach of the Cavs in 2016, he took over a shattered team that had tuned out their coach. As a former player who spent 11 seasons in the NBA, Lue knew the importance of communication between players and coaching staff, and brought that way of thinking to his revamped Cavaliers team, always including their input when making tough coaching decisions.

In sales, listening to your sales team on a daily basis is a vital practice. To make the systematic change as seamless as possible, you will need to include their input every step of the way. If a certain change is hindering development or is confusing to certain individuals, you need to know. Always keep your ear to the ground and be ready to listen to anything.

 

2. Data is your friend

Reviewing game tape and individual performance is a key aspect of coaching, no matter what time of the season it is. When attempting to introduce a team to a new system, however, it becomes even more important, especially at the midway point with playoffs just around the corner.

As a sales leader, you'll need to double down on important sales metrics to help measure performance improvement and individual success. These metrics will be a clear sign of whether the change that you're trying to implement is working or not.

 

3. Establish a rhythm

Establishing a coaching system takes time, that's why most leagues have long training camp sessions before the season starts. Leading a new team is hard for any coach, especially with no real adjustment period and outside pressures from fans and media wanting to see results right away.

As a sales leader, establishing a comfortable rhythm with your sales team is vital to both short-term and long-term success. Organizing work events or hosting daily check-in meetings can help familiarize your team with your system and get everybody on the same page for the strong push ahead. 

 

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Taking over a team late in the season is a difficult task for any coach, but it can be done to great success. Sometimes a new voice or a fresh perspective is all a team needs to reach that next level, as evidenced by the Cleveland Cavaliers last year.

If your sales team is stuck in a rut and deals just aren't being made at the level that they should be, don't be afraid to make that big change. It might seem scary and take some getting used to, but remember, change is a good thing, and can lead to championships if done right.

 

 

Topics: Sales Training & Coaching

Connor Hewson

Written by Connor Hewson

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. Digital marketing specialist at LevelJump, sports fanatic and ‘70s soft rock enthusiast. Formerly a digital content editor with Rogers Sportsnet and freelance content author with Huge Inc.

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