Coaching around team Interference

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Coaching around team Interference
Coaching around team Interference

We’ve already examined one set of interferences, the internal and external interferences that individuals experience and which affect their ability to focus and perform at their best. In team coaching it is also useful to consider another set of interferences that often keep the team anchored at the Assertion stage, unable to move forward.

Individual Interferences

Evaluation apprehension:

This is essentially the fear of being evaluated and judged. Whilst most team members appreciate honest, sensitive, constructive feedback, this is rarely on offer. Instead team leaders fall into the trap of labelling what people are rather than commenting on what they do. This causes resistance to learning and a tendency to cover mistakes.

Social loafing:

This refers to the phenomenon of working less hard in a group than when working alone. For example, you don’t have to sing at a football match there are plenty of others that will… The main explanation for social loafing is that people feel unmotivated when working in a group, because they think that their contributions will not be noticed, but it does not occur when the group members feel that the task or the group itself is important.

To avoid it, get every member involved in the team by assigning them specific, meaningful tasks. People are very reluctant to let the team down when they have specific obligations to complete. Better yet, give the team members the opportunity to choose the task they want to fulfil. Assigning roles in a group can cause complaints and frustration. Allowing group members the freedom to choose their role makes social loafing less likely, and encourages the members to work together as a team.

Playing Politics:

This occurs when the team member chooses personal ambitions over team effectiveness. It is symptomatic of a team stuck at the Assertion stage with an over-emphasis on internal competition. Once again the antidote is to promote a greater focus on the common goal as it creates a move towards a bigger vision or mission.

Lip service:

Nothing destroys trust – so essential to team relationships – quicker than a failure to honour agreements. To increase trust we could try disclosing; that is, telling others aspects about ourselves, our values and our thoughts that they do not currently know. Secondly we can be open to feedback so that people can raise our awareness of things we do or say without realising the effect.

Open and honest communication featuring feedback and disclosure is a quality of all effective teams and helps create a climate where lip service will never occur

Unwillingness to communicate:

As we saw when we looked at the qualities of a high performing team, an ability to communicate effectively is a hallmark of a team that is cooperating. Conversely, an inability or indeed an unwillingness to communicate must be seen as cause for concern. It usually manifests as a lack of listening or an unwillingness to disclose. It is an area of team coaching that is best dealt with by individual, one on one conversation rather than group sessions.

Group Interferences

Group Polarisation:

Do groups make better decisions than individuals? This question has plagued management researchers and team leaders alike for many years and is likely to prove just as perplexing for those of us interested in team coaching. If ‘two heads are better than one’ as the saying goes, it follows that many heads should reach better decisions given the different viewpoints and experiences that can be drawn upon. This would be true were it not for the phenomenon of group polarisation, which occurs when two opposite positions are put forth and team members ‘polarise’ or take sides.

It can result in a paralysis in decision-making and an unwillingness to participate. Eventually, it can lead to groupthink, where the main views and decisions of the group override individual views. The pressure to agree decisions and hit timescales suppresses dissent and the cool appraisal of other options leading to conformity.

To avoid group polarisation and groupthink , leaders need to be non-directive and thus a coaching style offers the best results. All members of the team should be encouraged to contribute views and this should be contrived if necessary. As the team coach you should be prepared to play “Devil’s advocate” from time to time to ensure all views are considered.

Poor decisions:

At the same time we must recognise decisions made in this consultative way may take longer to reach. We need to guard against the team agreeing to a course of action that individually none of them would have backed. This means working hard to reach a consensus rather than a compromise and avoiding the ‘majority vote’.

Small Thinking:

This occurs when the team seeks to reach consensus based on keeping everybody happy rather than on the most productive solution. As with individual coaching, when discussing options and solutions we need to be wary of stopping at the first answer and stopping at the ‘right’ answer.

Often it is enough to simply raise the teams’ awareness of these interferences and leave them to decide how to resolve them for themselves. On other occasions you will need to encourage the team to focus instead on the team goals in order to lessen the distracting effect of these interferences.


Matt Somers

Matt Somers

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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