Posts Tagged ‘teams’

A coaching approach to team leadership

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


A coaching approach to team leadership

A coaching approach to team leadership

In the earlier post, The Qualities of a High Performing Team, we saw that effective leadership need not necessarily come from the nominated team leader. But working on the assumption that you probably are the leader in your team let’s turn our sights on how to combine coaching or team development with other elements of effective leadership.

Look for tomorrow’s problems and issues today

Good leaders tend to be alert, their antennae are permanently raised and they try to spot problems and opportunities early. Try to deal with problems when they are small. If, for example, team members are falling out – and this seems to be more than just the natural jockeying for position at the Assertion stage – intervene and restore communication. It won’t be easy and it won’t be comfortable but you’ll otherwise end up having to solve a much bigger problem.

Learn to adapt to change and turn it to your advantage

In the modern world of work, nothing stays the same. Your team will find the constant change frustrating and wearing and so will you. However you have to be the one to focus on the glass as half-full rather than half-empty. You have to be the eternal optimist and to see changes as opportunities rather than threats. Remember the team will model their reaction to change on yours.

Set high standards and clear goals

Before the team can align behind common goals as we described earlier, they must have common goals to work towards. Often it will be your job to create those goals. Ideally working with the team to create them, but being prepared to take the lead if there is disagreement or the process is taking too long.

Create a sense of purpose, so that individuals can believe in what they’re doing

In these modern times, people are looking from far more from their work than just a living wage. Teams need to believe that their work is meaningful and worthwhile if they are to give of their best. More difficult in a commercial setting than a charitable endeavour perhaps but every business process has a customer at the end of the chain. A person like us who must surely benefit in some way from us doing the best job we can.

Act decisively but not impulsively

Your team will respect you more if you’re prepared to take a position and stand by a decision. Sometimes your decisions will be wrong and you will have to clean up the mess. Other times you’ll be the hero. As long as you act in accordance with your values and can honestly say you believed you were doing the right thing your team will back you.

Practice what you preach

Have a clear view of exactly what you think it means to be a member of that team and then be that person before you expect it of anyone else.

Keep your composure at all times

‘Composed’ needs to be your default setting, unfair though that may seem. Rather than worry about times when it may be appropriate to shout and swear and lose control just don’t do it. Or at the very least, don’t do it in front of the team.

Provide an atmosphere of enthusiasm

Remembering that the team’s level of enthusiasm can never exceed your own.

Be sensitive to the needs of all team members

Finally, despite all this talk of teams, let’s remember that teams are just collections of individuals who’ll have their own unique set of characteristics, beliefs and values that you’re seeking to gel. Everyone has potential, everyone has a powerful contribution to make and if you coach them properly, make it they will!

Communicating in teams

Written by Matt Somers on . Posted in Team Coaching, Uncategorized


Communicating in Teams

Communicating in Teams

Throughout these recent posts we’ve seen that great communication is a component of the high performing team and that it is the quality of that communication rather than the quantity that counts.

There are countless models and theories on team communication and group behaviour to guide you, but I find the categories put forward by Neil Rackham in Behaviour Analysis in Training to be most closely aligned with coaching principles.

In his original research Rackham identified 15 separate communication behaviours that distinguished the super-successful managers from the merely successful. We can extend that thought to recognise that all members of a group communicate, not just the managers so the behaviours which follow can be utilised by everyone. Note that none of the items on the list that follows is right or wrong in and of itself; it’s more a question of appropriateness and context, and which are most conductive to building a high performing team. Experience suggests that 15 is too large a number to work with practically, so I’ll show the 8 main categories:

Seeking information Asking questions to find out what people think
Bringing in Used to involve a quiet member of the team in the conversation, normally includes using their name
Testing understanding Making certain that you have really understood another’s contribution, usually by asking questions
Proposing Suggesting something on which the team can take action. ‘it’s really cold today’ is not a proposal, ‘let’s turn up the heating’ is
Giving information Offering views and making statements
Shutting out Any way in which you stop another person from contributing. It can include interruptions, side conversations, asking a question of one person but letting another answer, etc. It can be very subtle
Disagreeing Anything that says you can’t go along with what’s being proposed or stated
Defending/Attacking Graduating from disagreeing; getting off the topic and talking about the person. ‘Why can’t you ever make a sensible suggestion?’ is one example. It usually results in the other party fighting back and can continue in a loop for a long time.

I’d like to make some sweeping generalisations now based on my own experience. I suggest though that you experiment yourself in your own teams to see how much of this holds true in your own environment.

When shown the list of categories most people in teams would say it’s desirable to do more of the communication described by the first four categories. These are people-centred, coaching style communication categories and they are also socially desirable; that is, we would like people to think of us as communicating in this way. They are also the types of behaviour that Rackham noted were used often by super successful managers.

In reality, when observed, most teams operate with the reverse. In meetings in particular they do lots and lots of Proposing, and Giving Information and relatively little Testing Understanding and Bringing In. When things get heated or there is the pressure of a looming deadline you will also see much Disagreeing and Defending/Attacking.

This is again symptomatic of the team caught at the Assertion stage but can be remedied by team coaching with an emphasis on raising group awareness. One great way to do this is to nominate a communication monitor at team sessions. Provide this person a sheet with the behaviours down the side and the team names across the top. Their job is to put a mark against the appropriate behaviour each time someone speaks. Provided this is then fed back with sensitivity, the team will move quite easily to the more successful communication behaviours