Coaching and Mentoring
In Team-Based Coaching the focus is on overall group, business or organizational improvement, not just individual improvement. Leaders therefore have the opportunity to access personal coaching but the emphasis on what needs to be done in the future, or achieved by way of outcomes is focused on the leader’s team as a whole. These leaders or managers consequently share with the external coach the responsibility to think about the team’s needs.
In order to implement a team-based coaching approach, a diagnostic process is recommended for both the manager and other individuals within the team. There are a number of ways on which this can be done but ideally it will involve using or developing an assessment framework which is fit for purpose. This will typically offer a way to think about where the team is now, where it needs to get in the future and the different ways in which it might get there. One approach is to use the Management Team Role process, developed by Steve Myers (see http://www.teamtechnology.co.uk/tda/ for more detail). Another useful approach is the RESULTS Coaching® process framework that can also be used to undertake this diagnostic assessment. Let’s therefore look at this in a little more detail.
The RESULTS Coaching® process is helpful because it provides a comprehensive seven step approach to plan a future set of goals or changes for the team. In brief, these seven steps are 1. To Reflect -Take time to think, ask questions and re-frame, 2. To Evaluate -Carefully assess all the forward options, 3. To Strategize -Select the plan(s) with the best chance of succeeding, 4. To Understand -Appreciate what resources will be needed to succeed, 5. To Listen – Pay attention to the input of employees and colleagues, 6. Take Action – Implement plans and follow-though persistently and finally 7. To Systematize – Ensure that processes are permanently changed. The headings in this process provide considerably scope to think about team issues but what are the kind of team problems that we most often try to address by coaching.
What Problems do Teams Commonly Experience?
Although it’s clearly not practical to list all of the problems that different teams tend to face, it is possible to outline some commonly occurring problems that almost all teams encounter at one stage or another. In their book, “Why Teams don’t work”, the authors, Mike Finely and Harvey Robbins, highlight the “roadblocks” to effective teamwork and cite several reasons for poor team performance including:
- Mismatched needs
- Cluttered objectives
- Bad decision making
- Bad policies
- Bleary vision
- Anti-team culture
- Insufficient feedback & information
- Unwillingness to change
- Confused goals
- Unresolved roles
- Uncertain boundaries
- Stupid procedures
- Personality conflicts
- Bad leadership
- Ill-conceived reward systems
- Lack of team trust
The authors suggest that every one of these dysfunctions represents a failure to learn and are therefore an opportunity to change this through team coaching.
In their book “Team Players and Teamwork: The New Competitive Business Strategy”, Glenn Parker similarly noted some common “Signs of Trouble for team performance”:
- Team members cannot easily describe the team’s mission
- Team meetings are too formal, stuffy, or tense
- There is great deal of participation but little accomplishment
- There is talk but not much communication
- Disagreements are aired in private conversations after team meetings
- Decisions tend to be made by the formal leader with little meaningful involvement of other team members
- Team members are not open with each other because trust is low
- There is confusion or disagreement about team roles or work assignments
- People in other parts of the organization who are critical to the success of the team are not cooperating
- The team is overloaded with people who have the same or similar team-player style
- The team may have been in existence for some time but never assesses its functioning.
As both of these authors indicate, if a team is not carefully managed, many of these issues may not only arise, but may fester if left unchecked. In some circumstances, even a relatively skilled leader may become quickly overwhelmed and may need assistance from an external coach (not to mention a process to engage team members in discussions about particular problems and issues and where these problems might be coming from). By using the RESULTS coaching® process (or any other similar diagnostic approach) a team may take any one of the issues or problems described above and start to work its way through to a better outcome. Over time, several problems may therefore be addressed and overall team performance lifted significantly.