Coaching a team through ‘Cooperation’

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Coaching Skills for Managers

Coaching a team through 'Cooperation'

Coaching a team through ‘Cooperation’

By now you should have worked through a lot of the pain and have a group of people prepared to align to a common goal. Of course you’ll need to make sure the common goal is simply and clearly articulated and communicated and ensure – as far as is possible in a work environment – that it is in keeping with the team member’s personal goals. These issues can be sorted out in individual and team coaching sessions.

By now the team will be ready and wanting to take more responsibility and you can move to a more ‘pure’ coaching style; asking instead of telling, giving choice and ownership and encouraging inter-dependent relationships. Energy will be outwardly focused which you can use to discuss and agree the team goals as outlined above.

Activities I would suggest at this point include:

Socialising together as a team. This is not the universal panacea for team development some would have you believe and needs to be handled sensitively. People have commitments outside of work and wildly different ideas about what is fun and enjoyable. Nevertheless finding something enjoyable to do together outside of work can bring benefits to the quality of working life back in the team.

Learn a skill together. Now I’m biased, but I can think of no more useful skill for all team members to have than coaching. The best performing teams are surely those where everyone knows and applies a little coaching.

Develop and agree the team’s unique ground rules. Clive Woodward, coach of England’s World Cup winning Rugby Union team creates a ‘teamship’ book for all the teams with whom he works. This book contains the standards, values and principles to which all team members are asked to agree. High performing teams pay as much attention to team process as they do to team task and are concerned with operating within a set of guiding principles. However such a set of principles cannot be imposed from outside, rather they must be devised and owned by the team itself. Consequently any such document – if you take it that far – must been seen as fluid and dynamic and must be adapted to take account of new team members or changing external requirements.

No team ever reached the Cooperation stage without first experiencing Inclusion and Assertion. We can move teams quickly through those first two stages but they cannot be bypassed or short circuited. Glossy posters on staff room walls extolling the virtues of a co-operative approach will not work. Neither will teaching team theory or facilitating away days unless the natural, evolutionary conflicts inherent in the first two stages are dealt with.

Just because we develop a cooperative team there is no valve that prevents a team from sliding back down the development scale. A change in team membership, for example, re-introduces an element of inclusion and Assertion that needs to be worked through. Similarly a change in the overall goal may conflict with the personal goals of some team members which again need to be acknowledged and addressed.

You cannot just sit back and enjoy yourself once the team has reached the Cooperation stage. It requires constant maintenance and the coach’s job is to facilitate this process and to monitor and maintain progress.

About 

Matt Somers is the UK’s leading trainer of managers as coaches. His coaching skills training programmes, books, articles and seminars have helped thousands of managers achieve outstanding results through their people.

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