Case Study: A Team of Coaches, Coaching a Team
Take a group of random people and ask them to complete a task together, and surely enough a natural leader should emerge. At least, that’s the theory. Sometimes, though, that randomness gets in the way, compromising the group’s efficiency, and in turn effectiveness. Such was the case with one of our recent team coaching engagements.
The client, a government regulatory body, had been around for just three years. They were still in the start-up phase, but had begun to transition into a steady-state organization. That transition came with several challenges:
- The team had lost focus in the process, and fell into a situation where “people just did whatever they believed needed to be done,” – or at least they tried to. It seemed as if every team member had become focused on just getting things done.
- After a while it became unclear exactly who was accountable for what, or more to the point, how do we organize for both efficiency and effectiveness.
- Decision-making was also a challenge. It became unclear how decisions needed to be made, who was responsible for making those decisions, whether it was a team decision, or was it a decision that simply needed team input.
- Tensions grew, which led to a lack of trust among individuals.
The team was clearly struggling. They needed to clarify roles, what we their individual accountabilities, as well as who made certain decisions, and what went into making those decisions. The members of the team was trapped in a pattern of working. They knew things weren’t working very well. They just didn’t know why.
Our job, at first, was to observe the team working together. Only when absolutely necessary would we interject to point out areas, issues, or decisions where the team members seemed to be stuck, and offer strategies to get them past the sticking point.
For this particular engagement, there were many dynamics at play, and three layers of Team Coaching that were required:
- The team leader needed to be coached
- The individual team members needed to be coached
- The team as a whole needed to be coached
Consequently, for the first time, we sent in a team of two to coach the government regulatory body team.
That’s Right: Team Team-Coaching.
With this approach, one coach works with the team leader while the other coach focuses on each team member individually. The two coaches then come together and work with the team as a whole. This:
- Helps to maintain confidentiality, which effective coaching depends on,
- Ensures that the individuals and the team being coached develop a trusting relationship ,
- Creates an environment where people can say whatever they need to say in strict confidence, without judgement.
What the LI coaches learn from each other will help future clients.
Diagnosing the Problem
We used the team diagnostic instrument (TDI) used to assess the situation. In the present case the client was given a survey to be completed by every member of the team. The survey helps them to understand, by mirroring back to them, what major areas need improvement and on what they all need to focus, both individually and as a team.
The TDI focuses on 14 areas across two dimensions: productivity and positivity. Productivity, or efficiency, refers to tasks, decision-making, and organization. Positivity, or effectiveness, refers to how well the team works together, and addresses the issue of trust. We get the team to do the survey at the start of the engagement, and again at the end so that they can see and mark their progress. Toward the end of the present engagement members of the team did indeed comment on how far they’d come.
At the end of the engagement the team re-did the TDI that they’d done at the beginning. The goal, as before, was for them to reflect on what their challenges had been at the beginning, and for them to see how far they had come: Where were they at the end, compared to when we’d started working with them? What had they learned about working as a team?
The proverbial two sets of eyes truly added value to the “Team Team-Coaching” approach. Having two coaches accelerated the improvement for the team; one coach caught what the other one might have missed, and we are able to give the client multiple perspectives.
Once they were given structure – once they focused on the matters at hand – team members were able to get past the interpersonal stuff that got in the way. By improving their effectiveness, or what we call positivity, they were able to improve their efficiency, and thus their productivity. We found that this approach benefitted the client as well as the LI coaches, and embodies our core belief that “knowledge expands and stretches exponentially when it is shared.” Eight months in, the team is performing at a much higher level, and still improving by the day.