How can you help your team create the solutions no one imagined?

The greatest accomplishments in life are not achieved by individuals alone but by proactive people pulling together for a common good. People are not given life to simply take from one another. We are here to offer our gifts to benefit one another. ―John J. Murphy  

In our experience with executive team coaching, a conversation is often started by asking the client to describe the vision of who they want to be. Increasingly, that vision is shifting from an individual to a team.

The reason for this mindset shift, according to Ben Wigert, lead researcher for Gallup’s workplace management practice, is that “changes in technology and increased globalization mean that organizations are facing problems so complex that a single individual simply can’t possess all the necessary knowledge to solve them.” Solutions require a team, so high-performance team coaching focuses on these goals:

  • An atmosphere of excitement in meetings, driving a sense of purpose, determination, and urgency to perform.

  • Adapting to changing customer needs with energy and confidence.

  • Consistently generating well-planned programs that achieve their intended outcomes.

  • Treating setbacks as learning experiences.

Working together with strong sustained forward momentum.

This powerful vision is not easy to achieve, even by a team of individual high-performers. Vibrant, innovative teamwork is “principle-based,” writes John J. Murphy, author of Pulling Together: 10 Rules for High Performance Teamwork.

In other words, you can’t achieve a superior level of teamwork without following the principles that support it. As a team coach, our great, overarching task is to understand and embody those principles.

Five Principles for High Performance Team Coaching  

Experience has taught me that people are so complex that no single set of rules or steps works for everyone. High performance teach coaching is a nuanced process that requires leaders to build an entire workplace culture. For this discussion, five basic principles provide a good start for coaching a team toward its vision.

Principle 1: Treat the team as a single entity.

Principle 2: Create psychological safety.

Principle 3: Capitalize on diversity.

Principle 4: Use a rational problem-solving process.

Principle 5: Manage resistance.

Here’s how each of these principles breaks down, and how executive coaching can elevate your team by putting them into practice.

Principle 1. Treat the team as a single entity

What it means
Treating your team as a single entity requires each team member to shift their perspective from “Me” to “We.” Individuals see themselves as a single, high-performing unit with a common identity and purpose. Each person freely contributes their experiences and competencies to the team’s pool of resources—which grows synergistically.

Even with the individual contributions and talents of each team member, they all pull in the same direction as a unified front.

How you can help

An effective leader consistently promotes team identity and self-sufficiency. As team coach, you can help team members become aware of the depth and breadth of their collective capabilities by encouraging them to speak freely in meetings, to express their perceptions, concerns, beliefs, hopes, and suggestions.

It is essential that you understand and clarify the collective feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs, and hopes of the team.

Just as you should be aware and respectful of each client’s cultural context, you should also know that the team may have its own culture, which might vary from the organization’s culture.

Principle 2. Create psychological safety

What it means

Studies show that innovation can happen only when communication within the team is open and collaborative. The most creative solutions emerge only in an environment of trust that lets team members raise sensitive topics, ask “stupid” questions, propose “infeasible” ideas, and receive sincere, constructive feedback.

How you can help

First, keep in mind that whenever strong, capable people work together, you’ll see many dynamics of power, control, expertise, and disparate goals. Be alert to how these dynamics might play out in team interactions and remain objective at all times.

Some conflict is inevitable within every team. You can partner with the team to identify and resolve internal conflict, bring it to the surface, and deal with it in a way that promotes learning and growth.

Fluid communication is vital to team success. A skilled coach encourages the team to own the dialogue by redirecting communication from individual members to the coach back to the team.

Principle 3: Capitalize on diversity

According to research by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, teams made up of members from diverse backgrounds (gender, age, ethnicity, etc.) are more creative and perform better by up to 35 percent, compared to more homogeneous teams. One reason is that by sharing information and experiences, team members essentially cross train each other. They can also speed up the continuous improvement cycle by learning from someone else’s mistakes.

How you can help

An effective coach will focus on partnering with the team in identifying ways to make equity and inclusion part of the collaborative process.

It’s also important to train team members to spot and challenge underlying assumptions and perceptions. Biases, though they may not be conscious, will hinder the unity of your team.

Finally, remember to encourage team members to purposefully ask each other for ideas, insights, or alternatives that are outside the mainstream.

Principle 4: Use a rational problem-solving process

What it means

Assessing customer or internal needs as a team can be complex to say the least. In fact, understanding a problem, let alone finding solutions, often requires gathering and interpreting data from many team members, who must decide not only what matters but also what can be safely shared. Trust and expertise are critical elements of a rational process.

How you can help

When decision-making seems stalled, it’s crucial to safeguard the team’s synergy by avoiding the temptation to fall back on taking a vote. Defaulting to a majority-rules approach creates winners and losers and erodes team unity. Instead, you can encourage dialogue and reflection to help the team clarify a team vision and mission, identify their goals, and then plan the steps to achieve those goals.

A leader as coach can also facilitate a process of problem analysis, setting criteria, and evaluating possible solutions based on those criteria.

Principle 5: Manage resistance.

What it means

Despite everyone’s intentions to unify as a mission-driven, collaborative team, some people might oppose teamwork by refusing to accept team norms or by undermining consensus. They typically expect double standards or refuse to share and participate.

These employees tend to shift responsibility and reject accountability. They might complain that rules and criteria are unnecessary obstacles to getting the job done. In short, they retain a “Me” perspective.

How you can help

A leader as coach should choose to hold a compassionate perspective. Even the most effective team members can struggle with selfishness, ego, fear, and insecurity. Over the long haul, patience and perseverance are vitally important.

According to the International Coaching Federation, a team coach must “notice how each team member impacts the collective team energy, engagement, and focus.” Watch for verbal and non-verbal communication patterns among team members, recognize potential alliances, conflicts, and growth opportunities.

Regardless of resistance, you can model confident, effective communication and collaboration as you work with a co-coach or other experts. Bottom line: Trust the principles and allow the process to take its course.

High Performance Team Coaching Can Be Learned 

These five principles are only a brief sample of the contribution a skilled leader as coach can make to an organization. We are here to help you develop the skills and competencies you need to coach your team toward their vision!

Churchill Leadership Group is a leadership development resource that delivers measurable results. Our executive coaching services provide a human-centric, leader-as-coach approach that has proven to be effective across dozens of industries. Are you ready to talk about your own team coaching strategies? Get in touch with us! We would love to guide you through the next steps.

Author: Laurie Cozart

Laurie is an Executive Coach and Leadeship Consultant who is dedicated to using neuroscience to help leaders reach their greates aspirations and step into their fullest potential. Additionally, Laurie is currently an ICF Master Certified Coach (MCC) in the top 5% of our profession in the world. She is also a seasoned executive with C-Suite experience wh brings a mature perspective aand broad expertise to leadership coaching and consulting. For more than 30 years, Laurie has coached and mentored emerging leaders, mid-level and senior executives in a wide range of industries including technology, engineering, nuclear, medicine, education and governement. Her additional certifications:  Agile EQ, Work of Leaders, Everything Disc Workplace, Clifton Strengths.

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