There are several key concepts that drive our work with leadership teams:
1. Hold up a mirror
As a team coach my job is to hold up the mirror for my clients – not to tell them what to do or how to do it. I want teams to see themselves accurately. As I work with them, they’re going to get information that helps them to see who they are and how they operate.
They get to decide if they like what they see. If they identify changes they want to make, I’m here to support them.
2. Say what needs to be said
Teams, like families, develop habits and patterns when they’ve worked together for a while. This is especially true when perspectives differ. Rather than have the most difficult conversations, we start working around people, having back-door conversations and having meetings after the meetings. All of those behaviors create inefficiencies and undermine the work that needs to get done.
By learning how to have the tough conversations with each other, even if they are uncomfortable, teams dramatically improve their effectiveness.
An important outcome of our off-sites with teams is that they walk out of the room having said things that they’ve never said to each other before. They realize that it’s ok to have the conversations that they’ve been holding back on, because we make it safe and we show them how to do it in a way that is helpful for everyone concerned.
3. High performing teams know how to give, receive and utilize feedback.
Giving feedback is integrally related to saying what needs to be said – and there is a very specific way to use feedback that goes beyond hashing out strategic issues and decisions. Members of high performing teams give direct feedback to others on the team about what’s working and what’s not working. They’re vigilant about it; they speak up. They learn not only how to give feedback that is appropriate, but how to receive feedback. When all team members agree that feedback is not a personal criticism, rather it’s about achieving results, effective feedback becomes an integral part of team culture.
When we work with teams we give them skills and specific tools to give and receive effective feedback. They have the opportunity to practice. In our work together, they develop the capability to do it well.
4. Learn optimal ways to communicate
People get off track all the time without realizing it. It wastes time and it’s not productive. Important examples of unproductive patterns include: interrupting, advocating too strongly by over-expressing opinions, ‘yes butting,” discounting other points of view without hearing the other person out, using leading questions, attacking and blaming.
In our work with teams, we help them to identify unproductive patterns and provide strategies to improve communication that are appropriate for that specific team. When the team becomes aware of its unproductive patterns of communication, and then makes the changes they agree upon, performance typically improves quickly and dramatically.
5. Write a Team Contract
A formal team contract enables teams to be more intentional about how they’re working together. It becomes the roadmap for how the team operates.
The contract is a set of agreements designed by the team itself. For example, the contract addresses:
- The culture they are trying to create: what behaviors they encourage, what behaviors they discourage or are not acceptable on the team.
- How they will handle disagreements when things don’t go well.
- How they are going to measure the success of the team contact –are they working the way they said they wanted to?
The team contract is something the team as whole, and the individual members, hold themselves accountable to. By adhering to its agreements, teams increase their level of performance.