I often tell people that it is important to understand that real team coaching is a long-term investment for any business. Given our hectic lifestyle, this notion is rapidly forgotten by executives who mainly seek to increase productivity in the short run.
The easy pitfall when coaching my clients’ teams is that too often, the perception is that we are simply replacing a process with another one. Sometimes people forget to consider the human dimension.
How a coach addresses the human dimension depends on the type of team they are working with. For instance, sometimes I work with teams mainly made up of consultants. In this specific context, we want the team to be functional in the best possible way. There is no reason for you to care about the human development of a team made up of people who will not be there in the long run.
I also work with teams whose members are all permanent employees. Some of them have been working for the organization for quite a while and are comfortable with their current reality (or, at least, they can put up with it).
The challenge with such teams is to suggest to change their way of doing, which will ask them to step out of their comfort zone as well as to deploy efforts to make the change… Not an easy task!
However, even in departments comprising only permanent employees, team composition can change from one project to another. Even though all employees know one another well, sometimes it can be difficult to define this group of individuals as a real team.
What is the difference between a group of individuals working together on a project and a real team working on the same project? It depends on our definition of what is a "real team".
For the purposes of this article, let's agree that a real team consists of a group of individuals:
This type of team does not grow on trees! And it is not possible to create it in just any kind of environment. Hence, my point that coaching is truly an investment your organization makes in their employees!
Another important characteristic of a real team is that it takes time to become one. Over time, a certain chemistry and familiarity settle between team members. To better understand this, let’s use Bruce Tuckman’s high-level model about team development:
If we take into account Tuckman’s team development stages, it is easier to understand why constant changes in a team’s composition compromise its development. To a certain degree, the team has to start over each and every time and, depending on personalities, if they are stuck in the storming stage, it makes the situation even more difficult.
Now, let’s address the matter of environment, since it is an important factor determining whether or not the teams may be real ones.
Does "command and control" reign in your environment? In your organization, was there, at some point, or is there still a culture of blame where it is important to find whose fault it is when there is a problem? Is your culture one where focus is always on productivity and measures?
If it is the case, additional work will be required, since your environment is probably not favourable to transparency and vulnerability. Change is possible, but it will require more time and efforts, and it will have to begin with you and the management team.
What I’m saying is not that productivity is not important. However, we must be very careful to what we value most, because it can have adverse effects on the organization.
Instead of only focusing on productivity, I invite organizations to have a culture where continuous improvement is valued and encouraged. With this type of culture, the teams’ productivity will naturally increase and it will allow their development.
There are many different ways to begin investing in your teams’ development. A simple one is to invest in personality tests for each member in the team (e.g., Nova, Discovery Insights or TRIMA).
Then, based on the results obtained, have group discussions or hold group workshops. Another way would be to invest in a discussion workshop in order to bring out the team’s dysfunctions and start building a development plan for them.
However, if you are more interested in a deeper and durable change, coaching with a dedicated professional would help your teams to go even further!
Are your team members able to hold real conversations? What results would you expect to obtain to consider team coaching an investment?