What is needed NOW & how do we transform?
Today’s challenges need collaborative teams – and they need them NOW. Companies are facing a new set of obstacles and are struggling to solve them using yesterday’s solutions. A new model of leadership is needed. One that can deliver swift results and remove the limits of traditional organizational development.
Let’s first start with what is a team?
This can be an extensive discussion, especially if needing to distinguish between a team vs. a group, but a popular definition from John Katzenbach is, “A small number of people with complimentary skill, who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable.” Without a common purpose, individual priorities and intentions will dominate what people do and there will be little coordination.
A performance goals(s) is needed to ensure that everyone has the same understanding of what the outcomes of their work should be.
Commitment to a common approach concerns HOW the team manages its tasks including the methods, processes, and communication channels used to coordinate and collaborate.
Mutual accountability is the flip side to the above mutual commitment and key to effective
teams otherwise responsibility tend to delegate responsibility upwards.
What type of team?
We can distinguish teams in how they are led or determine their direction. These include Manager-led, Self-managing, Self-designing, and Self-governing (see Exhibit 1). No model is good or bad, each has its own advantages and disadvantages. What is important is that the team determines what model best fits their circumstances and organizational structure.
For a Leadership team that is accountable to an ownership or Board of Directors, the more successful teams will be self-designing. Self-designing provides more engagement and fully utilizes the expertise and collective synergy of the team. This also allows for more adaptability which is critical in our VUCA world (VUCA – Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity).
Other terms used interchangeably for a self-designing team are a self-directing or the self-coaching team. This model strives for team-based leadership (similar to distributed leadership) which replaces the traditional hub and spoke model used by the ‘heroic’ leader.
What is a successful team?
The literature and research on this is extensive as it has been a popular quest to achieve greater things through the power of teams. It is well documented that teams effectively leveraging their diversity will make better decisions and develop more innovative and timely solutions. The challenge is that this diversity, along with the basic challenge of communication and individual motivations, naturally creates conflict.
Teams therefore need to learn how create the conditions and develop the skills needed to maneuver in this complexity. Teams also need to learn so they can adapt and be resilient to unpredicted change, manage conflict, collaborate, communicate, develop safety and trust, and provide mutual support and respect to derive higher levels of performance and member retention.
Member retention and engagement, of course, have become prominent topics as the great resignation or realignment has impacted most organizations, especially over the last two years.
A good working definition of a high performing team as proposed by Clutterbuck is: One, which consistently maintains and evolves a climate that encourages and achieves a level of effective collaboration that meets or exceeds stakeholder expectations.
Improving individual performance does not necessarily improve team performance so the key is a combination of self-awareness and self-development, skills development within the team, team learning, and coaching. Coaching has been widely accepted for individuals and in athletics for both teams and individuals, but team coaching (distinguished apart from team training, team building, or process facilitation) whether by an outside team coach, the leader as coach, or as a team that has become proficient at coaching itself, is more in its infancy. Certification for team coaches has recently been developed within the EMCC and is in process within the ICF (International Coaching Federation).
How do teams become successful?
Models that help identify the significant aspects of team functions that underpin performance can help teams and their leaders and coaches focus on where the gaps are and where the team needs development.
We can then look at where there is alignment, helping the team perform at its best, and where they are malfunctioning, resulting in underperformance.
David Clutterbuck, a leading authority, researcher, and practitioner of team coaching, and author of “Coaching the Team at Work. The definitive guide to team coaching”, has, through extensive research with teams, isolated six significant aspects of team functioning that are key to performance. Understanding the complex dynamics within and between these areas help the team focus to develop more effective ways of working together. David has coined his model the PERILL model (see below).
• Purpose and motivation
• External Systems and Processes relating to external stakeholder
• Internal Systems and processes relating to internal functions
Addressing the above elements through constructive dialogue, adopting the known tools and techniques, and integrating team coaching principles will help create the conditions that foster mutual trust and respect. Mutual trust and respect is critical for effective and efficient problem solving and to drive organizational transformation and exceptional performance. This positive loop accelerates success for the leadership team and the organization but the elements must be constantly reinforced to promote that which builds trust and address behaviors that break down trust.
Peter Hawkins, also a leading authority, researcher, and practitioner of team coaching, and author of, “Leadership Team Coaching, Developing Collective Transformational Leadership”, has developed a model called the Hawkins Five Disciplines which compliments many of the principles in Agile teaming, made popular in the software development world. See Exhibit 2
The Hawkins Five Disciplines are:
5. Core Learning
Many other models have been developed to better understand, frame, and hopefully improve the complex workings of teams and organizations of teams. These vary in the degree of empirical vs. anecdotal research supporting the observations and conclusions that team coaching, tools, and learning contribute to performance improvement.
Other parallel models of team coaching include ORCS, Team Coaching International, and Team Advantage. Other approaches that may be helpful to team coaches include Patrick Lencioni’s the Five Dysfunctions of Teams, Cape Cod approach, appreciative inquiry, or modelling a sports team coach or orchestra conductor (although these two can be misleading comparisons).
Other tools designed to increase self and other awareness and build relational skills for both individuals and teams include The Birkman Method, Predictive Index (PI), Emotional Intelligence, Somatic Experiential therapy, and Sydney Banks work delivered through the Invisible Power workshops.
This is an abbreviated summary of the models and tools available to help the leader, the coach, and the team. There is always cross over and similarities between tools and approaches since we are working with the same elements which is people working in complex adaptive systems. A good coach will have a variety of tools, models, and approaches that they can draw from to best support a team, provide skills where needed, and help them develop their own adaptive ability to learn, progress, and perform together.
So what is team coaching?
Teams are highly complex social entities, the influences on their performance are even more complex, and there are no simple answers or approaches. The effective coach brings a wide repertoire of flexible response to help the team deal with the wide array of team dynamics. It is about helping the team devise integrated strategies to manage the complexity. Another key role of the coach is to raise the team’s awareness of its own dynamics, the influences on it and it’s reactions, and help the team become proficient at coaching itself so, eventually, the coach is no longer needed.
Hawkins and Clutterbuck teamed up to develop this definition:
Team coaching is Partnering with an entire team in an ongoing relationship, for the purpose of collectively raising awareness and building better connections in the team’s internal and external systems and enhancing the team’s capability to cope with current and future challenges
The Role of the Team Coach:
Hawkins summarizes the role of the team coach as using a wide range of:
• Observations and feedback;
• Process interventions;
• Facilitative interventions to enable the team to explore certain areas and move to new ways of operating and engaging;
• Diagnostic instruments;
• Incisive questions;
• Challenges they need to address;
• Educational inputs;
• Role-modelling behavior;
• Review mechanisms;
But most importantly his or her role it is not to know better or first or to take over leadership of the team. The Team coach is always working to transfer skills and create independence in the team so they can coach themselves. The team coach is successful when he or she is no longer needed.
Team coaching focuses on growing long term team capacity and helping the team co-create value with and for all their stakeholders. It is not just about driving performance. It combines coaching expertise with individual, systemic, organizational, and business understanding.
For more insight on the effectiveness and impact of team coaching please refer to the extensive research conducted by Clutterbuck and Hawkins in the book references below.
- Clutterbuck, D, (2nd edition 2020) Coaching the Team at Work, The definitive guide to team coaching
- Hawkins P, (4th edition 2021) Leadership Team Coaching, Developing Collective Transformational Leadership
- Clutterbuck, Turner, Murphy, (2022) The Team Coaching Casebook
- Certified Team Coach (EMCC) Foundations Team Coaching, GTCI (2021)
- Certification and Course work, Adizes Methodology, 2021
- Certification and Course work, The Birkman Method and Birkman Teams Training (2019)
- Team Coaching Foundations and Practicum in Team Coaching, GTCI (2022)