Coaching a Team – a Structured yet dynamic process

Slide24Coaching a Team – A structured yet dynamic process

It is clear that successful teams work hard on both team cohesion and team results.  ‘Working hard’ tends to involve a combination of activities that are well planned and facilitated so that there are early success experiences that mobilise & sustain the team to achieve long term deliverables.

We think of the Team Coaching Programme as consisting of a series of structured and well planned interventions and ‘practice development sessions’ in support of the game that each one of you need to play in collaboration with each other in order to achieve your collective ambition.

Ideally, the process is co-created with the team members from the out-set, so that the process itself is a project that is owned by the team rather than imposed on the team.   In reality, however, a generic process is presented to the team based on an initial brief by the organisation or team leader him/herself.

What follows is a brief outline of a typical team coaching process:

  • Initial Engagement with the team (to provide introduction, outline of generic process, guiding principles, etc)
  • Discovery Process that are typically surveys (180˚/360˚ feedback tools), 1-on-1 interviews; and (where indicated) psychometric assessment – where/when individual profiling would help ‘fast track’ team cohesion and/or individual leadership development requirements.  This includes individual coaching feedback sessions to assist team members with interpreting & understanding the feedback and prepare to present their ‘winning edge’ posters to their peers (i.e., my unique contribution, my growth potential, what informs my approach and work style)
  • Team Practice Development Workshop(s) (PDWs).  This is usually one of at least 2 x 2 day “team coaching” sessions that are typically to be off-site to ensure an appropriate balance between formal practice sessions and informal interaction.  The first would be on creating mutual understanding, alignment and commitment to the development process, establishing a common language and/or frame of reference, facilitating team member introductions and surfacing issues impacting on team cohesion.  The second  would focus on considering the team tasks (alignment to organisational vision, mission, strategic agenda and business objectives, and implications for team deliverables).  The sessions also assist the team in setting their own development agenda going forward that would inform the focus of follow-up team PDWs.
  • Follow through support.  Typically, there is a follow through period where the team coach sits in agreed ‘team journey review’ sessions. The frequency of these follow-up sessions are based on where the team is at, and would range from 2-hour review meetings with the core leadership team as part of their business review meeting, to half day ‘team forums’

The process can, at times,  include follow-up leadership coaching, sitting in on team meetings/relevant forums to observe and provide feedback on team progress against the development plan, facilitating specific work sessions where indicated and providing regular reports to key stakeholders.

Why ‘practice development’ to support Team Coaching Programmes?

The Pygmalion approach to team development is rooted in the understanding that management teams rarely find the time for “practice” – they are “in the game”, on the field, and focussed on delivery most of the time.  In South Africa, the approach of once-off, ad hoc or annual ‘team building’ sessions has not delivered on the promises made – people go back to work and revert back into a business as usual approach to their operational demands.  We need an alternative approach to such short term interventions.

Our concept of ‘practice development sessions’ is based on the emerging notion of the value of cultivating “communities of practice”.  The concept of a Community of Practice (or CoP) was pioneered by Etienne Wenger who, in his own words, explains that CoP, in a nutshell, “…are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly”. Pygmalion has had extensive experience in adapting this approach to the development of management and leadership teams over the past few years.

Establishing and nurturing a community of practice (or CoP) is increasingly recognized as the most effective way for organizations to address the knowledge challenges they face.  This means that the focus is on learning together and the sharing of relevant knowledge, theory and practice in support of the work that defines ‘the game that you need to play’.  Where the team coaching was for a Functional Leadership Team, we give the CoP a name such as “The Marketing Forum”.  For a Senior Leadership Team (e.g. Directors), this becomes a “Leadership Forum

The practice development workshops will provide a unique space for team members to focus on developing our individual and shared practice (i.e., knowledge, skills and approach) in support of the objectives that we are working towards; to provide each other with feedback that will improve how we relate to each other and those whom we lead; and to improve how we are playing the game in terms of teamwork. In short: to engage ourselves and each other to improve our performance(s)!