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Olympic Coaching Tips for the Research Department

Posted on  13 August 12  by 

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I may no longer to spend every waking hour of my day tuned to random sporting events (although I’ve already set my date with my DVR for Sochi 2014: Curling!!), but I am interested in translating lessons learned to my day job.  Which is why I was so excited to find an article on the HBR blog network about 5 coaching strengths that produce champions.

Canadian athlete Penny Werthner penned a study that identified critical areas coaches must deliver on to produce champions, and a number of these lessons translate very nicely to business coaching or mentoring relationships:

  1. Help the athlete cultivate self-awareness—we have conducting a lot of research on business training programs, and those that have the most success focus on pre-training motivation.   Providing guidance or training sessions isn’t enough to make teaching stick if researchers don’t think that the need to improve.  Thankfully, most researchers are inherently curious people, and Michelin’s Research department takes advantage by fostering a curiosity-driven learning environmentto make sure improvement happens.
    Breaking conventional understanding is also important for us as we look to teach our business partners.  Companies like H.J. Heinz, Alticor, and Telecom NZ have figured out how to correct business partner overconfidence by engineering multi-sensory, emotional learning moments.
  2. Build a strong coach-athlete relationship—strong working relationships are especially important when teaching non-technical skills like insight creation and influencing skills.  To overcome resistance, consider open-ended discussion sessions that encourage participants learn from their mistakes free of judgment.  MREB members, see how you can foster a “Socratic” coaching method in your department.
  3. Create the optimal training environment—we’ve done the quant, and have found that culture is the key to improving researchers’ insight quality.  And the most successful teams foster support for risk taking and creativity: researchers should not rely on data alone, and departments that encourage employees to utilize their business knowledge will provide better insights to the business.
    See how Diageo shifted researcher focus to encourage the use of business judgment, and how Corning utilizes hypotheses throughout their research process to improve project results.

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