Team Coaching – Foundations of Success
Team coaching is an effective concept and used well can result in great organisations driven by successful teams. Yet successful teams do not build themselves; this requires good leadership, sense of direction, clear expectations, emphasis on collaboration and effective communication, and team development.
Minus the above is a breeding ground for poor performance, conflict and hostility, high staff turnover, sickness absence which in turn leads to poor productivity and ultimately this affects the financial and reputational management of the organisation.
Yet, it doesn’t have to even occur. With careful and pro-active planning, an inclusive approach, and clear goals these effects can be mitigated. Even a high performing team will require maintenance as there is always room for improvement.
So, where to begin? A good starting point is team coaching. What do we mean by team coaching? And what’s the difference to individual coaching?
WHAT IS TEAM COACHING?
Team coaching focuses on the preferences of the team: peoples’ lens of the world, how they like to learn, how they communicate etc. All of this is essential to get out into the open and explore objectively with the team, if the team is to understand how they can work better with each other. Through understanding each other better, conflict is less likely to arise and working relationships will improve, resulting in greater productivity, efficacy and efficiency.
SO, HOW DO YOU COACH A TEAM?
There are lots of tools to use however, from our experience the Myers Briggs Type Indicator or Pack Types are good tools to start with. Both focus on the preferences of the individuals including interpersonal skills and interactions with others. Both tools use a creative and engaging approach to team coaching which is equally important to drive continuous improvement. Even teams with lots of high performers will not be effective unless they know how to communicate with each other, understand each other, respect each other etc.
Both tools also place an emphasis on team dynamics, which is exploring, analysing and understanding how the team relate to each other. By airing perceptions, in a safe and controlled manner, it can help each team member to appreciate how others perceive and relate to them, what are their triggers for stress, and how they can be have under pressure. By developing a greater understanding of each other, and indeed improved tolerance, the individuals strengths of each team member is highlighted and appreciated by the wider team.
This is particularly important where there has either been conflict, or there is the potential for conflict. Where there is conflict or the potential for conflict, the potential for creativity and innovation to be stifled is huge. People who fear being ‘shot down’ for voicing an idea or opinion will eventually just stay quiet, losing great opportunities for the team as a whole to deliver even greater results. In the long term this could result in poor decision-making, loss of productivity, and low morale.
SO WHAT IS THE ROLE OF A TEAM COACH?
A team coach acts as the facilitator. That is they do not express an opinion or indeed take sides. Their role is to empathise, provide appropriate challenge, encourage those who may be more reserved to speak out, gently remind those who can dominate a conversation that others need to have the opportunity to speak too, to keep the agenda as flexible as possible to allow discussions to take place to tease out issues, and to guide the team through to devising an action plan to address gaps etc., that they are all signed up to.
The team coach also establishes expectations of conduct and behaviour. This is important if team coaching is to be effective. Setting clear expectations helps with building rapport and empathy but also reminds the team that whilst individual preferences are important, the team objectives must always take priority.
We have often used a team charter approach, as this captures the agreed behaviours eg: actively listen, don’t use jargon etc, are all behaviours which can be included in a charter. Everyone signs up to this, and it is the responsibility of the team to check each other when it is not being adhered to. It can even include an agreed process eg: when a team member doesn’t listen: remind them of the charter, state the situation, set out the behaviour and define the impact.
Team charters are also a useful tool to explore the individual values of a team. Differing values can undermine team unity and consequently effectiveness. So, if one member of the team values trust and another team member values ambition, this on the surface can cause conflict. Yet, if sensitively explored both parties can appreciate why the value to the other will be important, and having such differing values in a team can actually strengthen it.
The role of the team coach is to identify these differing values, and facilitate a discussion with the team to resolve them.
For further information on achieving behavioural change through team coaching visit:
Achieving Behavioural Change
SO, WHAT HAPPENS ABOUT THE INDIVIDUAL ELEMENT OF A TEAM?
Individual development is still important. Team coaching is one tool; it is not a panacea and different approaches will need to be used with different people at different times. Team coaches need to be sensitive to this, and adapt their own style to suit, and draw upon different resources to pro-actively problem solve with the individual. Individuals who feel over-looked will not in the long-term always derive the greatest benefit from team coaching. Individual coaching is one solution, as are identifying different learning and development opportunities, giving praise and recognition for a job well done regularly.
Team coaching is not a one size fits all solution. Different teams will need different approaches, and the role of the team coach is to be flexible and draw upon a range of resources to effectively facilitate a session.
The key to great team coaching is to identify and appreciate different preferences, and how these differences if people are allowed to play to their strengths can greatly enhance a team’s overall performance.
It is not an overnight process, and requires time, commitment and investment, particularly at an emotional level if it is to be a sustainable solution in the longer term. However, the result is always worth it, as greater collaboration and improved communication are two of the essential ingredients to organisational success.