eams are the force that drives most organisations. As a manager or supervisor, you would have seen hostility, conflicting goals and unclear expectations within your teams. These are symptoms of an unhealthy team. To avoid these harmful effects, you need be proactive about improving team performance. And even when a team meets its objectives, there’s often room for improvement.
So, how can you help your team improve? With good team coaching, you can take your team to the next level? The proven answer is – ‘Yes, you can’.
Today, many organisations rely on coaching to transform them into what are known as ‘learning organisations’. Peter Senge in his book, ‘The Fifth Discipline’,
describes a learning organisation as a ‘place where people continually expand their capacity to create results they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free and where people are continually learning how to learn.’
Creating a learning organisation is no simple task but more and more organisations see sufficient benefit in the concept to devote considerable resources to it.
In a situation dealing with a performance issue, do not react emotionally
Coaching team members is not rocket science. You have to cut through the clutter and address the needs in four simple steps: ‘explain’, ‘ask’, ‘involve’ and ‘appreciate’.
Where are we going? (Strategy)
Step 1: Explain. Clearly describe why something needs to change. Answering the “why” question is a key motivator--it gives meaning to our work. Be proactive by answering the fundamental four questions employees ask, whether or not you actually hear them:
What are we doing to get there? (Plans)
What can I do to contribute? (Roles)
What is in it for me? (Rewards)
Clearly explain to the team member how his or her performance affects the team and how that ultimately affects job security, promotional opportunities, recognition, credibility, chances for new projects and financial rewards.
Step 2: Ask. Confirm that your employee understands. Don’t proceed until you and the employee are both perfectly clear. Listen 80 percent and talk 20 percent. In a situation dealing with a performance issue, do not react emotionally. Wait for an appropriate break in the employee’s work and seek to understand why the employee did not perform. Reserve judgment until you’ve listened to his or her answers.
Collaborate with the employee to set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-framed) performance goals for improvement. Then, ask yourself, “What can I do to prevent this in the future?” Winning leaders always look inside to see what they can improve.
Step 3: Involve. Discuss ideas for potential solutions and approaches. Continue your discussion to identify the root cause for the performance gap (focus on performance, not the person). Solving symptoms is easy (and also futile), so ensure you identify the root cause.
If performance does not improve, your discussion should focus on the team member’s ability to keep commitments to you, rather than on the performance problem itself.
Take these four steps and you will be on the pathway to boosting accountability and performance.
Step 4: Appreciate. Recognize positive movement or effort in order to encourage continued progress toward the agreed-upon goal. Look for things they are doing well and reinforce it. Demonstrate your appreciation for who they are, not just what they do.
Through coaching, you can make good employees better. You can invigorate long-term team members whose jobs may have grown stale for them. You can help your team members find ways to fully use their strengths in their work, or to discover new strengths to apply to the job.
Through coaching, you can make good employees better
A very first place to start team coaching is by understanding the dynamics of the team. This is the process of figuring out how team members relate to one another. We all have different styles of working and communicating and when we encounter a person with a style that’s different from our own, we can often get frustrated with that person and fail to recognize his or her unique strengths.
Some people can be ‘pushier’ than others. A pushy person may think everything is going great – however, his teammates might have a different perspective. If one person walks away from conflict and another speaks his mind and doesn’t back down from an argument, this can lead to poor decision-making and unproductive work.
Personality and behaviour assessments are great tools for improving a team’s understanding of its own dynamics and they give team members a better understanding of why they react to their colleagues in certain ways.
As a coach, your role is to bring team members together to discuss their individual profiles and help them find ways to work together. With a greater level of understanding, team members begin to see one another differently. This allows them to adjust their own behaviour for better results and they’re able to interpret others’ behaviour with more insight and empathy.
Understanding other people’s perspectives is a great way to improve relationships with them. But, developing a clear set of behaviour and communication expectations is also an important aspect of team coaching. The expectations help to build empathy and understanding and ensure that individual preferences aren’t given more importance than team objectives.
Establish behaviour expectations
A great way to formalize these expectations is with a ‘team charter’. In this document you outline a set of behaviour rules that everyone is expected to follow and support. Treating everyone with respect, offering opinions when needed and talking directly to a person when you feel wronged - are all examples of ground rules that a team can use.
Quite often, people have competing values and these create a major obstacle to team unity and effectiveness. For example, it’s not uncommon for an organisation to promote teamwork but still reward individual behaviour. When this happens, you can naturally expect problems with team members who give personal reward a higher priority than team performance.
Evaluate reward and recognition systems
With cross-functional teams, departmental or business unit loyalties often get in the way of effective teamwork. When team members have personal goals that don’t match team goals, this can lead to ‘secret’, hidden behaviour. As a coach, your role is to identify the sources of competing values – and find ways to fix them.
Finally, be supportive of individual development. Team members may need help to learn new skills, so that they can meet team expectations and follow supporting processes. Each person has a different level of readiness to take the steps necessary to change. As a team coach, be sensitive to those differences and find resources to support each person’s development goals.
Support individual development
In addition to arranging individual coaching where possible, find ways in everyday work situations to coach people. Give feedback regularly, help set individual performance goals, follow up with training opportunities and model great team behaviours yourself.
Winning leaders always look inside to see what they can improve
(Lionel Wijesiri, a corporate director with over 25 years’ senior managerial experience, can be contacted at email@example.com)