With the Winter Olympics 2010 going on, and the first ice hockey match involving the Russian team (the 2008 and 2009 world champions!) coming up in just two days, I was happy to find out that one of the Russian channels I have here in the U.S. was going to have a biographical documentary on Vyacheslav “Slava” Bykov.
Bykov is currently the head coach of the Russian team, and he is already a true legend of both Soviet and Russian ice hockey. I myself know very little about ice hockey (I’m a European football fan), but am trying to watch every game the national team of Russia plays. So, it was great to catch this film on TV today.
With “Slava” Bykov, one thing especially hit the nail on the head for me — his style of coaching. Apparently, upon returning to Russia from Switzerland (where he first played, and then coached Fribourg-Gottéron) — when he was invited to coach CSKA Moscow — he stood out in his very different approach to team players. In contrast with the widely accepted dictatorial style of Soviet school coaches, he practiced an approach based on mutual respect between the coach and team players. Later on, when he headed up the national team of Russia, it was his approach that worked best. The reason for this being that when Russian players were returning from their NHL teams to play on the national team, Russian coaches simply did not know how to communicate with them. After being exposed to a very different approach in the West, these hockey players would not respond to dictatorship and tyranny in coaching.
The above illustrates a very important point. Coach Bykov is a true leader. He understands that while some players do benefit from the yelling and harsher style, many do not. The key to the hearts of most is in practicing respect, building a mutual respect as a result.
In affiliate program management (which many still mistakenly believe to be a task of “affiliate management”), it is precisely the same way — the managers that practice sensitive coaching and mutual respect are the ones that achieve more. Affiliates respect them in return, and want to do more for them.
All the best to the Russian hockey team during the Winter Olympics 2010 in Vancouver, and best of luck to every affiliate program manager that reads this post!