TALKING TEAMS: IS YOUR TEAM COACH-READY?

Georgina Woudstra seeks to stimulate thinking around the growing landscape of team coaching.

This issue: two frameworks to gauge team readiness

Imagine this scenario: you get a call from Sue, the HR director of a firm whose managing director has asked her to find a coach for his team.

The team has 14 members, comprising heads of various business units plus functional leaders of HR, finance, IT and marketing. Sue says it needs to gel more. A day has been set aside for team coaching and they have asked you to ‘put something together’.

This is a fairly typical invitation for team coaching, however, the coach who quickly leaps into designing the first session may have little impact. In my experience, it is critical to assess whether the team is ready to be coached as a team. There are two fundamental frameworks I use to gauge readiness. The first is the “six conditions for team effectiveness” (Wageman, et al, 2008), which outlines factors that differentiate top performing teams globally (see box below).

TABLE 1

Essential Conditions Enabling Conditions
·       Real team: the team has clear membership (who is on the team), the membership is reasonably stable and members have interdependent goals

·       Compelling purpose: the team has a clear and consequential purpose that expresses the unique added value of the team

·       Right people: team members are skilled, add value to the team, take an enterprise perspective and are able to work collaboratively

·       Solid structure: the team is the right size (5-8 is optimum for a decision-making team), have clear roles and working agreements

·       Supportive organisational context: quality information, rewards that support collaboration, effective working environment and resources

·       Expert team coaching: if all the other conditions are in place, then coaching the team as an entity makes a real difference

Initially, I usually gather this information through interviews with the leader and each team member. Interviews with key stakeholders outside the team can provide more systemic input, however it may be too much data for this stage. The focus is to ensure a solid foundation for team coaching.

The second framework I use is one I have developed and is based on team leadership and my own chemistry with the leader and team. Some questions I ask are:

  • What are the leader’s beliefs around his role as a team leader?
  • How does s/he expect decisions to be made?
  • What earns someone a right to a seat at the team table?
  • What behaviour does s/he expect of team members? What do members expect of
    her/him?
  • In their role as team leader, are they open to being coached by me? (Sometimes the chemistry between us just isn’t there!)
  • Does the leader see herself/himself as part of the team to be coached, or is s/he talking about ‘them’? (Sometimes a leader wants you to fix his team and take no part in it!)
  • What is the anticipated value of team coaching?
  • Are members committed to being coached as a team and to doing what it takes to become more effective?

Next issue: When is a team ready for team coaching?

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