Are you a Coach or a Referee?

Jocelyn Bérard, M.Ps. MBA is the Vice President of International Leadership and Business Solutions (Vice-président Leadership et Solutions d’Affaires  —  Internationale) at Global Knowledge Canada

In the last decade we saw our share of leaders taking some liberty with financial practices and fundamental business rules. Some of them are in jail with a lot of time to rethink their choices; others are probably enjoying their gains with large hope that their choice won’t come back to haunt them.

Personal and Business Ethics


Corresponds to an employee’s demonstration and promotion of ethically appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships. These individuals place a high value on authenticity, relational transparency, and an unwavering commitment to fairness.


Key descriptors: Personal and Business Ethics; Fairness; Authenticity; Honesty; Integrity; Trust

In today’s organization we need our leaders to ensure everybody respects the rules and regulations set by our employers, government, and industries and keep ethics top of mind. In our recent research on factors predicting high potential leaders we saw “Personal and Business Ethics” make the list of the top key factors. Nobody can argue with that. It is necessary and makes total sense. This is the leaders’ referee role.

As leaders and managers, we ultimately need to ensure we achieve the objectives laid down for our departments and organizations. To do that, we need to set expectations, offer excellent service to our internal or external clients, align our systems, have the right people on our team and provide them with the right guidance and support.

To make sure our team achieves its objectives and reaches a high performance level, we need to be more than referees. We need to be coaches too, because coaches are as crucial to the performance of our employees as they are to the success of athletes.

In sports the referees care about the rules, a key role, but they never help the players. In organizations, the leaders acting as coaches need to do both. The role that will contribute the most to enhancing performance is the coaching one.

Becoming a coach leverages a lot of our existing skills and may require development in some new leadership and communication “reflex”, such as: 

  • Better understand the reality of the people they coach
  • Build trust, mutual respect
  • Open up new possibilities
  • Gain commitment to desired future
  • Enhance communication skills
    • Increase confidence in the ability to perform

To get our businesses back on track, we need to learn a few things about coaching and developing top performers. Referees are required to make sure the players are “playing properly”; the coaches make the teams win.

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