IT Coaching – Software Done Well, Part 1


Last week, someone sent me a nice email thanking me for helping them learn SSIS. There’s no greater compliment – I am here to help.

He referred to me as his “SSIS Coach” and that got me thinking… 


I was never a big sports person in school. I played a little basketball in junior high, that was about it. I was in the band (alto sax) and in Nottoway County, VA; you could choose to be in the band or play sports, but it was difficult to do both.

Like many people I enjoy the great sports movies. I finally saw Rudy a couple months back. Hoosiers is one of my favorite movies – I watch it every chance I get. The thing about the coaches in these movies is they’re tough. They want to inspire and motivate the team to get things done. That’s their job. How do they do it?

Let’s use basketball as an example. There’s always a player who could do better. So the coach calls this player over during a time-out and proceeds to punch him in the legs to motivate him. To inspire, he grabs the kids’ ankles and twists fiercely.


Exactly. No, that’s not what happens. (I’m going somewhere with this…) What happens IRL (in real life)?

The coach seeks to change the player’s mind. He or she works on the players attitude and outlook. Good coaches change perspective and encourage reaching shared goals.

Ok. What was all that about the Legs and Ankles?

The reason a coach doesn’t physically hurt or torment the player is because the player’s body is the medium that accomplishes the goal. That’s where the work happens. Beat that up, and you’re only degrading the player’s maximum performance capacity.


We’re knowledge workers. We use our minds to develop T-SQL queries, SSIS Data Flows, and SSRS Expressions. We use the same mind to worry about bullying at work, the stress of a deadline, and NMM (Next Month’s Mortgage).

(…I’m arriving at my destination.) If we’re mentally stressed, it degrades our maximum performance capacity.


I’ve worked in high-stress and low-stress environments. I had an enormous amount of fun while working on a high visibility project with one of the tightest deadlines ever. Why?

  • There was trust and respect on the Development Team.
  • The Project Manager supplied requirements and collected updates, then stayed out of our RAM.
  • The testers were in the room with the developers.

Whenever someone came into the Development Room (a large closet with whiteboard walls) they made one of two observations:

  1. The developers and testers are having fun (laughing and quoting every cheesy movie line conceivable).
  2. The developers and testers are quiet and very serious.

In the first case, we were blowing off steam. Decompressing. We’d hit a wall and needed to clear the mechanism (that’s a movie quote). There was playful banter, too-close-for-comfort observations about personal habits, a healthy debate about the source of the current issue (application or database), and movie quotes.

We delivered a project that should have taken seventeen weeks – except we did it in eleven weeks. Did I mention we had a blast? Were there reasons to stress? Absolutely. Did we? Not really. We kept the medium accomplishing the goal – our minds in this case – operating at maximum performance capacity.


It is possible to motivate and inspire developers, but it’s not accomplished by “punching them in the brain.” The key is creating an environment that allows creativity to thrive. You give up a little control, and you get a lot of deliverable. Think about it.

:{> Andy

Andy Leonard

Christian, husband, dad, grandpa, Data Philosopher, Data Engineer, Azure Data Factory, SSIS guy, and farmer. I was cloud before cloud was cool. :{>

5 thoughts on “IT Coaching – Software Done Well, Part 1

  1. Excellent post and points. Those foosball tables, dart boards, etc. are not perks to ignore work. They’re there exactly for the reasons you’ve mentioned. People need to decompress and recharge for work.
    you might also try Coach Carter as another motivational movie.

  2. Nice column. A guy where I work has spoken wistfully of a company where they do four-day weeks and usually work only eight hours a day. No cubes, either. Productivity is up. Now that’s coaching.  

  3. Hi Andy,
    B.E.A.U.Tiful! (This is also a movie quote!!) post! All managers should learn this lesson! nice one!! thanks for sharing.

  4. YES!  Too often, the motivational blogs or articles ponder on the esoteric aspects of the intellectual thought process (huh?), not on the interpersonal aspects of supervision.  I have meet managers who "beat up the brain" all the time, but rarely do I meet a supervisor who understands people first, then applies that to getting the job done.  Job well done my friend!

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