Lately, I’ve been blogging on ways to improve team performance, including team coaching. This blog piece discusses the actual process of team coaching, as distinguished from preparation, scheduling, sponsorship and measurement, which I have discussed previously. It focuses on the actual coaching actions and conversations that take place during active team coaching.
Our team coaching process mirrors our executive coaching process which is based on the process taught in Columbia University’s Coaching Certification Program. It creates the opportunity for teams to improve by surfacing new insights, making decisions and implementing them — in effect re-framing the way team members think and work together. Here are the steps:
- Entry and Contracting. The team decides what areas it wants to address through coaching. Expectations for the coaching engagement are clarified and hopes and concerns are surfaced. This is a discussion that needs to be facilitated — not led — by experienced team coaches.
- Developmental Frames. The team will have thoughts and feelings about itself and its goals. These thoughts and feelings, like those of individuals, impact the the team’s capacity for growth and change. They need to be surfaced and discussed. The ability of a team, with the coaches’ assistance, to re-frame its affective perspective is often critical to effective coaching and team success. It is critical a this stage to gain a strong understanding of the team’s internal and external relationships.
- Situation Analysis. This is the phase where the team brings clarity to its challenges, diagnosing the situation in detail and identifying any further information needed to move forward. Where more data is required, clear process and accountability are established for getting it.
- Feedback. At the start of a team coaching engagement, we use a combination of individual assessments and team assessments which provide important feedback on the personality types and internal motivators of team members as well as relationship strength between respective pairs of team members. We also use team 360 assessments to assemble perceptions about the team’s effectiveness, potential and opportunities. Feedback from these sources, and informal feedback from within the business, suppliers or customers, provide an important source of information about the team’s capabilities and challenges. It is an important collection of data that needs to be considered collectively and individually before actions are taken.
- Exploring Options. This is where the team looks at as many options as possible for achieving its goals. It is at this stage of the process that the team will re-frame its thinking and surface fresh insights. For this to happen, the coaches must encourage the team to surface as many options as possible, going well beyond the obvious. This requires asking powerful open questions as well as pushing the team to look at impacts, including costs and benefits, of different options. Really completing the list of options may require a fresh look at the underlying situation, the feedback and other available data.
- Planning. At this stage, the team is ready to make decisions among possible options. The focus is twofold: business case and alignment with business strategy. The team picks which option(s) to pursue and sets specific goals and milestones expressed in an action plan. Clear accountability is established among team members and external dependencies are identified and placed on stakeholder maps. Possible risks of all types are surfaced and summarized for further consideration.
- Action Strategies. This is the initial bridge between planning and execution. It can involve different types of activities such as conducting pilots, socializing decisions with stakeholders, seeking approvals, market testing or building prototypes. To keep the team fresh and energetic, the team should take a pause at this stage and celebrate success. While execution on often complex plans is still in the future, great progress has been made, exceeding expectations. This needs to be enthusiastically recognized by the team and guided by the coaches.
- Growth & Renewal. This step completes the bridge to execution. At this point, required team skills and competencies may change. It is a time for questioning and learning by the team as a prelude to the long march ahead. Often, new members join the team at this point, and some depart. This is a time when coaching is essential to maintain team cohesiveness through the changes. It’s also a great time for an offsite Growth & Renewal Workshop facilitated by the coaches. And a great time to look back at insights surfaced so far and their implications for the future.
- Execution. This is where tangible results get delivered. The team needs to be held accountable by the coaches for its commitments. Often, much of execution will move to larger groups beyond the team, putting team members in influencing roles where they can showcase their subject matter expertise and act as the institutional conscience for the work. In effect, team members are holding the organization accountable to achieve the business benefits envisioned from the team’s work.
Team coaching is a rigorous process. It delivers tremendous value if followed properly under the guidance of experienced team coaches who are deeply familiar with its elements. Most important work of businesses today is done by teams and the research shows that teams which are coached properly far outperform other teams.