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Team Coaching

Hello everybody. In this edition of the coaching conversation, I'm going to talk about team coaching, coaching a group of people, rather than individuals. So, it's now time to sit back, relax and enjoy The Coaching Conversation.



Team coaching is clearly designed to lift the performance of the group of people in that team and to reap all the benefits of that step-change in performance for the organisation as a whole. Typically, team coaching comes around because the leader of the organisation is seeking some form of significant change, and there's usually a background to that. It could be that there’s a new leader. It could be that there's been something materially significant that happened in the organisation's business; positive growth. It could be some form of competitive disadvantage. It could be anything that needs a response through the change performance of the leadership team. It could be that there's a lot of new members of the team, and it's a way of bonding them and building the relationships that are needed to drive performance as a team coach.

It's very likely that not only will you be coaching the team as a group, you'll also be coaching the individual members in a normal one-to-one executive coaching program. And for the period of the coaching program, people are going to be focused on their own individual goals, their own individual performance, as well as their role and their participation in the team.

There are a number of tools that executive coaches can bring to this kind of initiative. But whichever tool is being used, they have some common elements. The first is trust.

Teams will only perform, can only move forward, if there is trust between the team members, and that includes the leader, and they have to trust whoever the leader is. The thing about trust is it allows people to become vulnerable because they're prepared to say ‘I've made a mistake’. They're prepared to say ‘I'm having a problem’ because they know they are not going to lose out.

As a consequence of that vulnerability, the politics of the organisation don't seek blame, because of that trust they open themselves up through vulnerability, which means they're responsive to development. They're responsive to criticism. They're not defensive to any of this. They're opening up their mind, they're opening their eyes to change. And that allows conflict.

Now, conflict is not an argument. It's not finger poking - it's an exchange of ideas that differ. So, if I disagree with you in a trusting team environment, I can say so constructively. And if I'm right, I've added to your abilities, I've added to your understanding. And if I'm wrong, I've learned something. And so, conflict in this environment; in an open strong team is encouraged. It's actually the process by which the organisation finds improvement.

As you move through conflict, people become accountable. They become accountable for their part of the delivery program. And because it's open because they're prepared to be vulnerable because they're prepared to accept conflict and criticism. They're much more likely to say ‘I'm having a problem with delivering my part of the bargain. I've got this problem, that problem, or I'm not able to do this’.

And that will solicit support that doesn't solicit criticism in the sense of aggression or blame. It enables people who are truly accountable, who truly want the team to perform, to report that they are doing so, or that they're not. As you get accountability, you start to get absolute commitment from every member to the goals that each of them has signed up to. And indeed, cumulatively to the goals that all of them have signed up to.

Team coaching is broadly about the relationship between each of the team members and how that relationship can be strengthened for the greater good. Now, sometimes as you go through that process, you will find that certain members find it very difficult. But if the leader is very clear that he or she is participating in this in exactly the same way, they are making themselves vulnerable, they are truly accepting criticism and conflict. They are truly accountable for their part of the bargain, whatever that might be. Most people will respond positively to this new way of working.

Now, if you add this team dynamic development to the individual performance improvements that are coming through - people being coached on their own individual goals - you can see that in a very short space of time there's going to be a very significant shift in overall performance, and the cumulative effect is huge.

I've got numerous examples of teams that I've coached where they transformed the organisation. They completely reinvented it. And as I said at the beginning, sometimes that's because there's been a major change, a new leader, new team members or something in their market; something in their business performance is driving the need to step-change. And this is a very well-proven, very realistic way to reinvent to re-energise the leadership of the organisation.

In one example, there was a board of directors that I was coaching; six people including the chairman and the managing director. The organisation has been around a long time. It was a well-established company, but it had stagnated. It had got stuck. Results were flatlining, then going down, there was nothing new and energy levels were low. I think there was a growing sense of uncertainty about the future because the company didn't appear to have a clear direction of where it was going.

Despite all of that, the leadership team were very committed people and working hard as individuals, but not as a team. We took them through the program and after about nine months you would not have recognised them. You wouldn't have recognised the team dynamic and you certainly wouldn't have recognised the spirit and energy within the business. They hadn’t entirely turned around the difficulties they were facing in their market, but they had got a plan and they were at it. They knew what they were going to do, and they were committed and confident that they were going to achieve it.

Suddenly working there and being in that team was a nice place to be - not easy, but nice. The compounding effect that had with the rest of the people in the organisation is pretty predictable - they all felt they were now being led. They all felt that there was a future. They all felt there was an energy to this, a desire and an ambition. That added momentum and added to the opportunity that they were creating. A fantastic result from team coaching.


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