Leading Like a Coach

Sep 18, 2023

In sports, the person who shows up, puts in the hard work, and listens to the coach gets the spot. Just being on the team isn’t enough. You don’t perform, you’re benched. Slack off enough, you’re gone. We not only accept this in athletics, we expect it. Why? Because it’s both logical and effective. So why don’t we treat our businesses the same way?

I submit that we ought to. After all, this is why sports metaphors abound and are highly applicable. They’re logical and effective. Let’s talk about how you can transform your team by leading like a coach. 

“What we do as leaders is we spend all our time asking, ‘What’s wrong with all these players? Why aren’t they doing their jobs?’... Well, why would they? They get to keep the job and not do the job.” – Kris Plachy

What You’ll Learn

  • Continually earning your spot
  • Lack of clarity
  • Lack of coaching
  • Dealing with what we’ve built
  • Transferring blame and gaslighting
  • Working through the discomfort

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

Connect with Kris Plachy

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Email: [email protected]






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Well, hello and welcome to the podcast this week. I'm Kris Plachy and I'm really looking forward to talking to you this week. I want to talk to you about accountability and sports and what that has to do with us. So let's talk about it.

Well, welcome to the Leadership is Feminine podcast. I'm Kris Plachy. If you're returning, glad you're back. If you're new here, hi, thanks for tuning in. This has been a fun week. It's been a crazy couple weeks for me. Last week, we published the Lead with Confidence Masterclass, the 10 things you can do to improve how you lead your team. So hopefully you enjoyed that as a audio and you went in and you got the video and the ebook that complimented that.

We did that because I've been really head down with spending time with my kids who have just recently, you know, each gone off to college. And it's been great, but it's been hard. Not like bad, hard, just hard.

And, you know, I said to my husband a couple of times, the next time we launch twins into college, we should probably take a couple of weeks off. Jokingly, obviously. I'm not going to do that again. It's just been a lot, a lot of things to do, but more so just energetically kind of such a shift, such a change for my husband and I to live here alone after 23 years of having another little person in our house of ultimately big people.

And it's funny. I looked at my husband and said, "Did that even happen? Did we actually do that?" Cause now you get back to kind of where who you guys are and it's like, Oh, here we are again. And it's just trippy. So it's trippy. It's all good. Nothing bad, just different.

So anyway, I'm happy to be grounded here with you to talk to you about something that is relatively prescient in my life, in our world, and also seems very interesting. So I wanted to have a conversation with you about it. And I'll try not to be ranty, but I'm a little feeling a little ranty about it.

So, as you all know, because you listen, my daughter plays soccer and she is now a freshman playing at a D1 program, which is incredibly competitive, as it should be. And we also love soccer. So we watch it almost every night. We're big NWSL fans and just finished with the world cup, all the things. Once you start watching sports, any particular sport for a long time, you get to know all the players and you get to know the starting lineups and all those things.

And of course, there's a lot of movement in starting lineups. There's a lot of movement in the people who actually play. Ever. And it got me thinking about being an athlete, because our daughter is also going through this, right? There's four keepers and only one starting position. And who's going to get it? And that evolves and changes weekly, depending on how you show up at practice, right?

So it got me kind of in my brain, of course, because this is my world - is leading teams and helping clients who lead teams. My brain always seems to go here. It is interesting how there's this general accepted practice in sports that even though you're on the team, it doesn't mean you'll play. And that if you aren't playing to the level that you need to, you will be benched. And ultimately, if you continue to not meet the needs of the team, you will be transferred, traded, kicked off, right? All the things, contract not renewed.

And we completely accept that as normal in sports. That's what happens, right? "What happened to that starting forward? Oh, she's benched this week. She must not have played very well." Right? Or "she hasn't been playing well", or "he hasn't been playing well". And it's totally accepted. Like, nobody questions it.

The players don't unionize and petition that they should all get to be starters, that they should all collectively get promoted to be starters. It's just, that is the process on a sports team, is that you have to practice, you have to earn your spot. And if you haven't earned it, you don't get it. And if you have that spot and you don't continue to earn it, you don't keep it.

But then when it comes to business, it's not the same, right? So you get hired to be in a position on the team. You are expected to meet the agreements that you made when you committed to coming onto the team. And then if you don't meet those commitments, and those agreements, you get to keep your spot on the team. And we have a real problem because both managers, employers, and team members believe that's true.

And so we have problems in the whole makeup of it in business. The primary one is there's no clarity around how you qualify to be on the team. So we have a real problem in business because, typically speaking, one of the reasons why players who don't meet the agreements or commitments on the team in a business is because there's no clear agreements and commitments. Nobody really knows how to be successful. They got hired to do a job and they got a job description, but they don't have goals. They don't have clearly defined measures that they have to achieve. That's a problem.

The second problem is they don't have coaches. They have people who are in management positions who are not coaching. They're telling. And then, worse yet, they tell with no feedbac. And B, no follow through. And then because we have this culture of hiring people and keeping them, even if they don't achieve the goals of the position, it's just accepted. And then what we do as leaders is we spend all our time asking, what's wrong with all these players? Why aren't they doing their jobs?

Well, why would they? They get to keep the job and not do the job. Why would they change? Humans are "path of least resistance" creatures. We know this about ourselves. So as the leader coach of a team, if you're running a company, if you're leading a big team, a small team, I want you to start with yourself.

Have you set expectations? Do people in every position that reports to you, do they know how to win? Do they know how to keep their spot? And are you giving them feedback? Are you showing them how they can be better? And are you telling them if they aren't doing what you, or the business, needs done? Are you honest? And is there ultimately any consequence if people don't meet the agreements of their position?

So think about this. If you're running a soccer program and you have 30 players, there's 11 spots on a field. And if you just are like, "Well, whoever wants to play, you know, it's okay if we don't win, it's okay if you don't score, it's okay if you don't defend, it's fine. You just get to stay. It's whoever I feel like putting out there today." No one's going to work to be better.

If you want champion players on your team, you have to treat them like a champion, and we have to start this way earlier than even they get to you at work. See, I think that the huge issue isn't even leadership at work. I think y'all are just trying to make do with what we've all built. And frankly, I also want to say the same thing to you as a leader. Do you have to fight for your spot or do you just get to keep it even if your team's not performing? Because what does a club do if the coach is failing, if the coach is running a team that is last place, what happens? Guess who gets fired first? The coach.

But we don't have that in business, right? Where do we go? We go right down to the employee. Oh, it must be the employee's problem. Not necessarily. But we're not developing people to be coaches, and we're not developing them to know how to lead. It's a big problem, y'all.

Because it also starts with how people show up to work in general. Like, what is the development process of exceptionalism from the time you're young? We're all, I say we, Gen Xers, we're all reaping the, I put in air quotes, rewards of raising a generation of people where everybody won. Nobody wanted anybody to feel bad. Now, every now and then you get a coach in your life that actually will speak the truth to you.

And we had that happen in my daughter's program, soccer program. And this coach was the best coach we've ever had. He was the most honest, the most clear, the best feedback. He was so skilled. He knew exactly how to build a top performing team. He's done it over and over and over again. He's been the coach of a world champion soccer player, more than one, but because he was honest and he did bench you if you didn't do what you were supposed to do, if you didn't meet the expectations of the position.

What happened? The parents got him fired. It was the most important thing I've seen. This happened several years ago. I don't even remember if I talked about it on my podcast. I was so furious. And y'all wonder why we have an accountability dilemma conundrum on our hands. It's because we don't play in it. And then as soon as any of us are held accountable- so let's just, let's just take this out of work.

Let's just talk about what happens to you when somebody else holds you accountable for a commitment that you've made and you don't deliver. Do you accept responsibility for it and say, "You know what? You're right. I did not live up to what I said I would do. My apologies. Let me try again." Or, "I'm not your person."

Or do we blame the thing? Do we blame the person holding us accountable? Do we say, "Yeah, well, you know, the system's rigged." I mean, listen to me, we have such a problem right now. And then in our day to day lives, it affects us because we do encounter our own frustration with lack of accountability. I just got a coffee today. I ordered a large iced Americano decaf. I got a medium. I said, "Wait, is this a large? I ordered a large."

He said, "Oh, it says medium."

Okay. I don't have it in me. And so I left, I left the restaurant. Do not hate me on me for what I'm about to say. Okay. Just don't. I get it. I'm not making any - I'm not defending anything - but I did walk out and I thought, Okay, I'm a 53 year old blonde woman. If I had gone back to the register and said, "Hey, I actually ordered a large and I got a medium," what would y'all have called me? I know what you would call me. You'd call me a Karen, right?

Now, listen, I understand why the Karen connotation exists. And I am not defending the people who typically really fall under that umbrella. But I can see how there's a lot of us who are a little more mature who have an expectation of accountability in the world. And when we don't experience it, it's so frustrating.

And so what are we all doing? We're just internalizing it because we get gaslit. I don't have a solution. That's why I said, I don't know if this is what this podcast is, other than maybe just a rant. And maybe you're sitting in your car saying, "Yes!" All I know, is what I know, that I have a locus of control over, which is the world that I'm in.

And I'll be honest with you. Had I not been in a hurry, I probably would have asked for my large. I paid for it. If I had more time, this is what so many of my clients say. "I just don't have time to deal with all these people not doing their jobs. It's just easier to handle and do the rework." But imagine if a world cup team coach said that, "Yeah, some of our forwards are just not really getting it done, but I don't really have time to figure out how to deal with that. Takes too long to find new, good player." It would sound ridiculous, right? It would sound silly.

Why else do we hire people to play on our team, our sports team, so the team wins? Isn't that why you hire people on your team, is so the team wins? So why do you have people on your team that don't contribute to that, and actually injure your possibility, impair your possibility of winning?

And I would argue the reason that you keep them is because A, you're not comfortable with how to coach and lead them. B, there aren't clear parameters for how they can win. And C, you don't want to be the bad guy. You don't want people to not like you. You don't want people to think you're difficult, you're mean. You're too demanding. Your expectations are too high.

And for as long as we keep that up, we're going to have average. And maybe average is okay. I don't know. Never is for me. It's been so interesting to watch my daughter, who has always been exceptional as a soccer player. And now she's playing with 30 plus other exceptional soccer players, because that's what happens when we leave club and we go to college. And the amount of work it's going to take for her to earn a spot, it's significant. It's important. And I don't dismiss it and I don't begrudge it. I think it's excellent.

But it got me thinking, what if that culture of sports was also acceptable at work? And for some reason it isn't, even though being an athlete on a team is a job. It's so fascinating. I challenge it. I challenge that we couldn't all decide, meaning business owners, leaders, and businesses and team members, employees, we couldn't all actually start to decide, Oh, wait, the point of all of this is to be successful and to achieve the goals of the business.

Too many employees think the point of a business is to take care of you, to take care of them, to make sure that they have a paycheck and benefits and time off and la la la. There are too many people in leadership who do not have the skills they need to start to resolve this as a big, big, big problem. And so if you ever want to know why I stand on my soapbox every week and I tell you every week to come and work with me, and now join this Lead for Women program - which we started this week, which is amazing, that people in this program are amazing.

This is why I know you're in a slog out there. I know you're struggling out there. And I also know it gets better when you get better. But it's big, this challenge we have. It's big. I get it. But you have a locus of control and you have authority over yourself. And you have authority over how you show up. And you have authority over your own decision making. And you have authority over your own emotional resilience so that you can move through difficult conversations, and difficult moments, and difficult decisions. I know that about you.

But we have to sometimes bolster that with real tools and skill. So I'm always curious what you think. You can always email us: [email protected].

If you love this podcast, I'd love it if you take two minutes right now and write a review, that would be so amazing. I appreciate you doing that.

And if and when you're ready, you should come and join us and lead. Thevisionary.ceo/lead. We're doing a cool thing right now that you might want to check out. But you got to go to the website to find out what it is. I'll talk to you next time.

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While it's not for everyone, it really is for you if you are a woman who is ready to learn how to think better, so you can lead better, and you can live better. You have a legacy to leave here and I wanna help you leave it by enhancing and improving how you show up as a woman who leads. Join us there.

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