Is your team performing at its top?

Is your company using teams as part of the development or sales organization?  Are your teams operating at their top performance level?  A group of people working together are not necessarily a team, particularly when they all do the same, or very similar, job in parallel with each other.  Often people introduce themselves as members of a team: but what is a team?  The book “The Wisdom of Teams” from Jon R. Ketzenbach and Douglas K Smith (Harvard Business School Press) defines a team as small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable.

If we think about a football team each member has a precise role that operates in various positions on the pitch (complementary skills), have a common aim (scoring in order to win) and are mutually accountable (the team wins or looses, not the individual).  In the working environment a well performing team delivers results that are well beyond the sum of each individual.  Members of a team tend also to be more motivated, effective and focussed.

A new formed team can sometime fail to take off, particularly in the current economic climate, when the morale in many companies can be below average.   In some cases small groups of people are taken from various companies being downsized, they are put together and asked to operate as a team (for development, design, marketing, sales) from one day to the other.  In other cases a team becomes dysfunctional, due to politics, personal conflicts or friction among members: this can waste precious energy and resources causing long lasting damages for the companies where it operates.

Team coaching can offer a helping hand to ensure the prompt and effective start for a new team or the smooth continuity for a dysfunctional one.  The coach’s role is to manage and control the process and stay as much as possible out of the content, regardless of the kind of team being coached.  Fundamental steps to a successful team coaching is to concentrate and work on the team as an organism per se, avoiding details such as what should be done by each member of the team.  The output of a successful team coaching session will have to establish, to an adequate level of details, the following key factors:

  • A common purpose or mission for the team
  • A common performance goal
  • A commonly agreed working approach
  • A commonly agreed mutual accountability

In those cases when a team is run by a leader the approach to team coaching can take two fundamental directions:

  • The leader is coached together with the team as an integral part of it and for the duration of the coaching he/she has equal rights in the development of the above key outcomes.
  • Team and leader are coached separately: the latter can provide input to the team coach before hand, while following an executive coaching program to help him/her focussing on his/her key goals.

The team coach is usually an individual external to the organization although some larger companies are recruiting their own coaches or training internal personnel to be a coach.

Team coaching uses the same basic techniques and methodologies to other coaching practices while being distinct in two ways:

  • It works on the team as a whole: in some cases each individual or at least the ones causing difficulties might require one to one coaching in addition to the team activity.
  • It operates in 1-3 sessions lasting half day to a day instead of a larger number of shorter sessions.

Coaching can substantially improve the team’s and individual’s performance, having a track record of absolute minimum return on investment of 200%.  Can your company afford to keep its teams operating under their top performance?

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