Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

Coaching Trees and What to Look for in a Leader, When Making a Career Change

My pitch to candidates who might join my team is generally fairly simple. Yes, I talk about the team. And, yes, I talk about the organization. And, yes, I talk about our culture. But, for those who are going to be my direct reports, I also tell give them a version of this monologue.

Making a career change is daunting. There’s a number of unknowns. There’s a number of promises. I don’t want you to join based on my promises. I want you to join based on my track record. Over the last decade, my direct reports have gone on to lead, develop, and grow organizations. If you join my team, I will make you better. And when you leave, because we all eventually leave, you will leave to run a team, a department, or an organization. And while I may not be able to teach you certain things that improve your technical skills, I will teach you how to navigate organizations, drive change, and transform teams.

That’s it. That’s my pitch. And, as the kids say, I have the “receipts” to prove it. I tell them, in the same way we conduct reference checks on them, they should conduct reference checks on me.

Roughly 10 years ago I started to change what mattered the most to me in my role. It wasn’t money. It wasn’t a title. It was how much I was learning and how much time my leader was investing in me to make me better. That’s it. All I want to do is get better.

This isn’t a new concept. Sports calls this the “coaching tree” and the most famous coaching tree is Bill Walsh.

When people debate the best coaches they can look at championships, rings, wins, losses, memorable seasons, and a number of other points of criteria. But, more and more, the strength of the coaching tree matters. As a coach, and let’s be honest, so much of being a leader is being a coach – your ability to develop others is critical. It’s how you build depth, how you stop trying to do it all, and how you make organizations better.

As a job seeker, I would urge you to give more weight to the quality of the manager you’ll be working for, than you probably currently are. Ask them, “what’s your approach to developing leaders?” Implore them to provide examples of the leaders they’ve developed and what they’re doing now.

Ask for the receipts. It’s your career. You deserve to see them.