Don MacNaughton Coaching

Emotional Intelligence and Your Coaching Philosophy

“It’s our job as human beings to develop, to learn, to get better, and to grow.” – Jesse Marsch

As Red Bull Salzburg manager, Jesse Marsch has developed a coaching philosophy designed to get the best out of everyone he works with. He says,

“As a coach, you have to have a plan. You have to have a way of training, a way of playing, and an idea of what you’re strategically trying to do on the pitch. You need a way of executing that plan in your training every day and in your games, but for me, my plan also allows me to do the things I’m passionate about, and that’s relationships, leadership, communication, and finding a way to get the best of everyone.”

As a player, Jesse says his focus was almost entirely on winning. He felt that winning was all that mattered, and it was all he cared about. He always knew he wanted to move into coaching, and he thought that focusing on winning would be a major tenet in his coaching philosophy.

However, the more he coached, the more he started to think differently.

He says,

I realised that focusing on the results was the antithesis of what I was trying to create. I started thinking more about how I could develop a process and build relationships, and I realised that the work was going to be more important than the results; removing the results from daily work was more important than focusing on winning itself. I felt that if we get the process right and the work right, the by-product often is winning.”

The more you give, the more you get.

A phrase Jesse uses frequently is,

“The more you give, the more you get.”

He wants to create a positive environment that influences the attitude and actions of everyone in the team, and he knows that the energy he brings in the way he thinks and behaves rubs off on everyone.  He remembers growing up as a young player with the feeling that coaches were always watching him and judging him, and just waiting for him to do something wrong so they could correct him.

He feels it’s important for coaches today to understand that the new generations of players coming through respond a lot better to positive feedback than they do negative.

He says,

“There’s always negative feedback in our world, there has to be, but it always has to be shaped in the way of an idea for improvement and getting better”

– a far cry from the days of simply being given the hairdryer treatment.

Today, he believes it’s about emotional intelligence: it’s about developing the ability to build relationships, the ability to observe, to listen, and to create a type of environment where the positivity becomes contagious and people want to be a part of it and give their best.

The more energy you put into creating a positive environment, the more you get givers instead of takers.

Making mistakes is a normal part of getting better

Jesse believes that young players need to be given the freedom to fail, and the freedom to make mistakes, but it’s about making the right kinds of mistakes so that an effective learning process is in place. Mistakes are simply part of learning, but for many young players, putting themselves out there where there’s the potential to fail makes them feel vulnerable, and vulnerability is something most of us are uncomfortable with and try to avoid.

To illustrate the importance of accepting vulnerability as part of the learning and improving the process, he uses the example of his on-going desire to learn the German language…

“I speak in German with the team every day. Not because I think I’m great at German, but because unless I practice using it, I can’t improve and getter better. I force myself, it’s an obsession to get better every day, but the funny thing is, in the locker room when I speak in front of the team and I make a mistake, a lot of the time they’ll correct me, they want to help me get better; they feel attached to my learning. By seeing my vulnerability, they’ve gotten closer to me, they want to help me, and it has created a stronger bond. At half-time or after the match, I’ll talk to players about areas where I’m not happy with a decision I made or a change I made. They don’t see my admissions of getting something wrong as weakness, they see it as me being human, just as they are, and making mistakes is a normal part of getting better.”

Not being perfect is good. It’s human.

Embracing vulnerability requires a willingness to get out of your comfort zone, and this is not always easy.

Jesse puts it this way:

“It’s important as the coach that I come up with solutions and lead and inspire the players in the right way, but not being perfect is good. It’s human, and they need to know that it’s the same for me as it is for them, and for all of us. We all need to be ourselves and we all need to think about who we are and how we can grow.

 All of us need to ask, ‘What’s the best version of me and how do I get to that.’”

In terms of improving and being the best version of ourselves it’s possible to be, we have to get to the core of who we are. As a coach or leader in any other field, those who listen to you can sniff out when you’re not being authentic. Jesse says,

“As a leader, you need to be selfless and look for ways to bring out the best in others, but you need to know what things are important to you and how to impart that on a group. That’s not so easy, it takes experience, but a pursuit of your truth is important… It’s our job as human beings to develop, to learn, to get better, and to grow.”

To listen to the full interview click here

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