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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Coaching Teams

High Performance Team Coaching: A Comprehensive System for Leaders and Coaches by Drs. Jacqueline Peters and Catherine Carr (FriesenPress, 2013), reviewed by Steve Gladis, April 2017. 


Overview: Only 1 of 5 teams is high performing, in part because team coaching has lacked a solid performance model—at least until now.  High-performance coaching is systematic and focused on the collective talents, strengths, and goals of the organization. First, the authors define the critical difference between a group and a team. A team is complementary, committed and, especially, interdependent. And a high-performance team hits or exceeds organizational goals they set for themselves. The authors set out several key elements. I’d call them the Key 3s. Three fundamental steps for a team: Assess stakeholder expectations; put a plan in place; measure progress and results. Three critical drivers for success: Team structure, team launch, and team coaching. Three times for best coaching impact: The beginning, middle, and end. And finally, three critical outputs: Quality results, team capabilities and relationships, and individual engagement.

1. Team Coaching: Team and individual coaching are different animals. Only in the past decade has team coaching emerged as a sub-discipline of coaching. Moreover, systemic team coaching focuses on the leader, the team processes, and the team’s impact on stakeholders to transform performance of the team and the business. Typically, an external coach works with the leader, the team and, where needed, individuals on the team. Safety and trust are critical factors for high-performance teams. There are 6 phases of High Performance Team Coaching: Assessment, Design, Launch, Individual Coaching, Team Coaching, and Review.
2. Assessment & Design: Referring to Wageman’s research (2008), the authors cite three essential conditions (a real, defined team; compelling direction; and the right people). Also there are 3 enabling conditions (solid team structure, supportive organizational context, and competent team coaching). Teams need both essential and enabling conditions to be successful. The assessment phase determines the strengths, weaknesses, and gaps between the current and desired states. In general, the essential and enabling conditions that follow provide specific guidance for the first two phases of team coaching.
   a. Essential Conditions of Teams: 1) “Real” Teams have clear boundaries, defined membership, and strong interdependent goals; 2) Compelling direction gives teams a sense of purpose about their work and its impact on their stakeholders; 3) The right people are those with the knowledge, skills and abilities to achieve the team’s goals.
   b. Enabling Conditions: 1) Solid team structure means clear roles, responsibilities, and working guidelines/agreements; 2) Supportive Organizational Context means that a team has resources to support its operation—time, talent, money; 3) Competent Team Coaching refers to coaches with experience in the discipline of team coaching.
3. Team Launch: New teams are launched, and established teams are relaunched to develop and/or refresh their mission and vision and establish a safe, cohesive unit. Led by competent team coaches, such launches are held offsite to focus teams on the purpose and the ground rules (working agreements) of the team. In essence, a team charter is formulated to keep the team on course, especially when things get rocky. If good rules aren’t established up front and adhered to, people will create them, ad hoc.  The authors provide a valuable, simple worksheet to help coaches and teams craft such a charter.
4. Individual Team Coaching: Coaching the team leader through this transitional period helps provide a valuable sounding board and guide to keep the team coaching and processes on track. In general, coaching is good both for the leader and also team members who might get stuck along the way. Coaching team members can be done by the team coach or an internal or external coach and/or, especially, peers. Peer coaching is easy to teach and implement as long as the team coach creates rules, especially around confidentiality, that lead to safety, truth telling and ultimately progress.
5. Ongoing Team Coaching: It may be best to have an external coach when launching a new team. Moreover, having that coach at least monitor the team’s progress in the middle and end of the engagement is critical. Sometimes the team leader will take over the reins after the team is up and running well. In many cases, the team coach provides regular, periodic coaching for the team and leader. Again, peer coaching is viewed as a key driver of employee engagement.  
6. Review of Learning and Successes: Reviewing a team’s progress periodically and then at its completion is a key factor for future team success. One of the coach’s jobs is to push the team to review their experiences (tasks, milestones, etc.) and reflect on their collective and personal learning during the team’s lifecycle. Worth noting—often this step is skipped by many teams, especially in the glow of completing a difficult task. Coaches and team leaders must vigilantly reflect on the team’s journey to ensure both the growth of team members and the organization. Excellent teams produce the following three outputs: Quality results, team capabilities and relationships, and individual engagement.
7. Team Coaching Activities: Chapter 5 is a goldmine for coaches. The authors provide guidance to ensure that a series of key elements of the six-step team coaching process are followed. For example, in support of the assessment step, The Team Coaching Readiness Assessment provides a list of detailed questions to ask prior to coaching to ensure a greater chance of team success. Supporting the launch step, the Team Charter Page offers a simple, effective team summary including vision, mission, values, key goals, success measures and working agreements.

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