I’m guessing that if you’re reading this post, you’re part of one or more teams in your place of work. You might be in something called a Sales Team or an Admin Team. You might even be in a Senior Management Team. Your team might be temporary or permanent; based in one place or scattered across many sites. You might be the leader of one and a member of others. Work is complex and few tasks can be completed by one person working in isolation. The nature of work compels us to operate as teams to get things done.
Why then, when teams are the prevalent model for bringing people together to achieve a common goal, does it seem to be so difficult.? Why do so many teams seem to fall short of what they could really achieve if they could properly harness the talents of its members? Most would argue that there has never been a greater need to deploy teams to meet business challenges, but I would contend that it seems as difficult as ever to develop a team towards high performance.
There are many reasons for this. The world of work is more complicated these days, with more complex problems requiring more complex solutions. The increasing utilisation of ephemeral project teams has seen the timescales in which teams are expected to form and perform shrink drastically. Teams these days are not always housed in the same country, let alone the same building. Furthermore ‘working from home’ and other flexible working patterns make it difficult for many teams to come together physically. Rigid hierarchies have collapsed and been replaced with fluid, matrix style workgroups.
My aim in the next few posts is to show that coaching provides an antidote to these issues and more besides. Not because it provides some magic bullet that makes team issues disappear but because coaching, as we know, is concerned with enabling people to perform at their best and teams, in the end, are nothing more than collections of people.
Furthermore, a coaching style of team leadership (or indeed team membership; the team leader need not be the only coach) is a style that is appropriate at all stages of team development, whereas other styles may prove to be ineffective as the nature of a team changes over time.
There are many frameworks of team development in popular use, with perhaps the best known being Tuckman’s four stage model (Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing). Personally, I prefer John Whitmore’s three stage version (Inclusion, Assertion, Cooperation)
This classic ‘act in three parts’ viewpoint appears throughout nature: the sun rises, hovers above us at noon then sets. As people we are born, we grow and then we die. A three stage model then will resonate in a way which makes it very easy to relate what happens in teams with other experiences which you and your team may have worked through.
Before we consider how teams develop though, we’ll firstly focus next time on the level of high performance we’re aiming to move the team towards.