By Mattson Newell, a Director for Partners In Leadership who works with leaders to create greater workplace accountability and facilitates enterprise-wide culture change.

The closing ceremonies of the Rio Olympic Games concluded the global event that brought together top athletes from all over the world. After watching them for weeks, one can't help but reflect on how these athletes became so incredible at what they do. They came from widely different backgrounds, participated in different sports and had many different motivations driving them to compete.

Yet they all have at least two things in common: They have spent years diligently honing their skills, and they all have great coaches.

Whether in sports, business, or life in general, to become the best and stay the best, you need a world-class coach. These coaches may not be superior in any way to the people they train, but they bring unique perspectives that are integral to success. 

Let's look at just a few stories from the 2016 Rio Games and examine what business leaders can learn from them:

Simone Biles/Aimee Boorman

The relationship between gymnast Simone Biles and Coach Aimee Boorman is built on a strong foundation of trust and communication.

Boorman describes how the two grew together: "As coaches, this is our dream also. It's my career, it's my passion and it has been great being on this journey with her."

Biles now has more world championships than any other female gymnast in history, and Boorman shares in that success.

Takeaway: A part of the role as a leader is to share the journey--both failures and successes--with those that you coach. Understand that there may be obstacles along the way, but through trust, open communication, and establishing an understanding of one another, you'll ultimately win together.

Michael Phelps/Bob Bowman

Even an athlete as decorated and as respected as swimmer Michael Phelps needs a coach.

When asked what good training can do for an athlete, Coach Bob Bowman said, "For a swimmer, I'm their eyes out of the water. They can't see what they're doing."

"A lot of times what you think you're feeling isn't exactly what you're supposed to be doing," he continued. "The most important thing a coach does is give feedback. Also, I think we give guidance and motivation and some other things. The coach really is a partner in your activity, and I think it's so much better when you have one."

Takeaway: We all live in our own heads, and it's often difficult to evaluate ourselves. Outside perspectives are vital to development as an individual and as a leader. Just as you are looking at others and coaching them, make sure you also have a mentor guiding your way.

Usain Bolt/Glen Mills

Glen Mills, a 42-year coaching veteran, is known as a technical coach who helped Usain Bolt fine-tune his running technique. Many attribute Bolt's amazing speed to the drills and guidance that Mills provided.

Mills describes his role as such: "Coaches have to continuously react and replay and redo the drills, getting the athlete to run over and over to break habits."

Takeaway: To coach effectively, you need to address both the positives and the negatives in your team's performance. This means consistently applauding them when they do well and guiding when they can do better. Most importantly, no matter what the feedback, it needs to be both appreciative and constructive. When you do this, great things can happen.

Katie Ledecky/Bruce Gemmell

Katie Ledecky is described as a "one in a billion human being." With that kind of description, how does one get better?

Coach Bruce Gemmel had this to say on the subject: "There can be new challenges. There can be new doors. There can be new opportunities. I guess I just don't want to get hung on the faster is necessarily better, and if it's not faster it's not better."

Takeaway: Getting better at something doesn't always mean that you have to beat a specific goal. Better should be seen in the improvements made overall. Not everyone is going to break records on your team, but appreciating their improvements and unique contributions will motivate them to achieve their personal best.

Coach Like a Pro

You, too, can get the most out of your team, just like these Olympic coaches. The key is open, constructive, and honest communication; trust, not only yourself, but in the people you work with.

When their success is your success, together, you can embark on a journey to greatness.

Published on: Aug 23, 2016
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