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What is Team Coaching?

February 1, 2009 by Ruth Gmehlin, Partner, Trillium Teams Inc

I recently attended an event which promised to transform my life in one day. This tagline is a reflection of our expectations today, whether we are talking about a diet, a new piece of technology or our work - immediate results. The thinking goes something like this: If we hire this new person, they will turn things around. If we buy this new software, we will be successful. If we have a team building event, it will solve our communication differences and everyone can then focus on achieving better results.

In this time of instant gratification, did we forget the basic lesson we all know to be true? There is no instant just-add-water quick fix solution when it comes to solving the puzzle of successful human relationships. We are complex beings and communicating positively and effectively with each other is one of the most difficult tasks we face. To achieve better team dynamics and ultimately increase business productivity, it requires time and commitment from each person on the team. To be able to affect real change and tangible hard results, from something as soft and intangible as team dynamics, requires more than a one day event. It is a process which invites and involves everyone to take part, be open, and take ownership of their piece in the puzzle; this process is called team coaching.

Team Coaching

Every team is a collection of individuals who bring their own unique blend of experience, background, education, values, and styles; to blend together to form a unique team dynamic. Every team dynamic is different, and there is no one ready-made formula, it requires customization.

Team coaching is a three step process to help teams identify and address their challenges. As an alternative to the traditional off-the-shelf team building program, the team coaching process is customized to deal with specific team needs allowing time to affect real change and obtain lasting tangible results.

Whether a team is coming together for the first time or if it is facing changing team dynamics with new members or a new manager, or ongoing team conflict, this process allows the team to discover, clarify and own their problem, develop an applicable plan of action to overcome the barriers and be held accountable for the results.

The Team Facilitator

A team facilitator is the person responsible for guiding a team through the team coaching process. Their role is to take everyone on a team through the team coaching three step process. This involves:

Step 1: Personal Development Time

In this step, the team facilitator spends time with each person on the team, discussing their work and communication style using assessment tools as the catalyst for discussion. This step is invaluable, as it allows each participant time to think about their style and set personal goals for the workshop. Equally important, it enables the facilitator to identify the team challenges and customize the team workshop in order to address the current and real issues.

Step 2: Team Workshop

This second step involves two half-day workshops which again allows time for the team to digest and truly own the material and the results. The facilitator first helps the team to recognize their accomplishments and their challenges, and then introduces the team to the differing working styles, relating what this means for their dynamics and productivity. The second session is spent addressing the specific team challenges.

Step 3: Follow up with Manager and Team

The final step of the process is follow up, in order to ensure that each person on the team is accountable for making real change. The facilitator will meet with the manager shortly post workshop to give them strategies for tailoring their style to suit the needs of their employees. Lastly, the team facilitator will meet again with the team within three months post workshop to ensure accountability and follow through in terms of addressing their specific challenges.

Time and Commitment

Transforming a team to address their team challenges takes time and commitment. Transformation is not just a simple change in behaviour; simple changes in behaviour are only temporary. Transformation is a fundamental shift or reorientation of who you are, what you see and how you approach life. The essential distinction that team coaching provides is a shift of how team members view themselves and each other. In this way, a team member can better effect lasting change in behaviour.

The entire team coaching process requires commitment from everyone on the team and is administered over a two month period. In addition to addressing specific team challenges, the team coaching process can also help a team:

  • Gain greater understanding of team dynamics and culture
  • Rebuild during times of change
  • Communicate more effectively
  • Integrate new members to an established team
  • Improve the capacity of the team to overcome conflict and solve problems
  • Learn to see the world through the eyes of on another
  • See the strengths that each person brings to the team and how that benefits the team

Any Team Will Benefit

All types of teams benefit from the team coaching process – executive teams, functional and cross functional teams, as well as project based teams coming together for a specific function. The team coaching process is beneficial for both managers and team members directly, as it is used to educate members about the nature of teams, elements of a good team, impediments to good teamwork and how to overcome these. The team lives with their particular challenges on a daily basis, and the team must take ownership for helping to solve their challenges as they ultimately have to live with the outcome. It is the job of the team facilitator to provide a framework, a process and strategies, but it is up to the team to identify how these processes will work for their particular situation. After all, the claim to transform your team dynamics in one day is not what this process is about.