Lots of opinions out there regarding the most critical skills to build effective managers. Coaching Skills? Sure. Performance Management skills? You Bet.....
Mothering skills?... Excuse me?
Two-time MVP of the NBA Steve Nash was on Charlie Rose, and talked at length about his job. One of the most under-appreciated aspects of his role, says Nash, is the need to be a mother and a psychologist to his teammates. From the "True Hoops" breakdown of the interview:
"The Phoenix guard knows a lot of stuff and talks about mastering the kinds of skills you might learn in some communications class, including non-verbal things like how his teammates are holding their shoulders, what's in their eyes, and what they're talking about. Who is frustrated? Who has lost confidence? Nash sees it as a key to his job to "take them all in at once."
What's the hardest part of all that? I'm guessing a lot of people can tell when Shawn Marion is feeling low, just watching on TV. Reading body language need not be rocket science. But the difference with Nash? He put his finger right on it: "To care."
That's the crucial difference. That's the special part. We all see Marion upset and think it's his problem. Nash sees Marion upset and sees that as, at least in some manner, Nash's problem.
Caring about his team like that, Nash says with the smirk of the understater, "takes some effort."
The emotional element of being an effective manager is probably the one we talk least about, and is likely the most difficult for a lot of first-time managers. That's especially true when young managers are frozen by HR demands to watch the interpersonal side of work relationships in an effort to avoid being sued.
Great leaders like Nash seem to transcend the normal models, and do it in such a classy way it's rarely misinterpreted. Not sure you can teach this type of instinct.... Video of the interview below is worth your time if you want to see what a humble superstar sounds like...