Working in teams is a norm. Team relationships can be varied, and the more common ones are described as “solid-line”, “dotted-line”, “virtual”, “project”, and so on.
Teams are formed when individuals come together to achieve common objectives. This gives rise to a whole new set of challenges for leaders.
If managing individuals is a challenge, managing a team of people is an even bigger challenge.
A leader tasked to lead and manage a team will need a different set of skills to be effective. Team coaching could be useful under the following circumstances:
1 Team members are not aligned on the objectives of the team
Teams may be formed by members coming together on a voluntarily basis, that is, they choose to be participating in a team project. When this happens, there is a smaller likelihood of a mis-alignment.
However, challenges can and do arise when some or all members of the team are assigned to the project. As they may not have a choice to opt out, they are forced to participate in the team’s activities.
This is when some members may not fully buy in to the objectives or they may be less than fully supportive. The easiest solution is to pull these people from the team, but this may not always be possible.
Removing team members is potentially disruptive and, in the worst-case scenario, may cause the project to be abandoned.
A coach may play a useful role here in helping everyone to support the original objectives.
This will initially slow down the progress of the team’s efforts, but they can catch up subsequently, especially once they are working better together. A coach’s help may prevent the need for more disruptive measures later.
2 The motivation levels of team members vary widely
There are a variety of reasons why this may happen, including conflicting or concurrent work assignments, time pressures and travel demands.
This situation will obviously distract the leader from his role of managing the project.
Rather than spend precious time coaching each individual, team coaching could be more effective.
A typical approach is for the coach to identify and discover the strengths of the team and the perceived gaps, then move on to develop strategies to fully exploit the strengths and close the gaps.
This approach requires individual members to each own and be responsible for a part of the strategy.
This, in turn, forges team spirit as it forces team members to channel more of their energies on team objectives.
3 The leader is not effective
This is a sensitive situation, and a common mistake is to take the easy way out and replace the team leader.
This will not only damage the morale and confidence of the leader, it may affect the rest of the team too.
Solution-focused trained coaches would prefer to adopt an approach that identifies solutions, opting for the more effective ones, and implementing them, instead of running away from the problem.
A coach can potentially harness the energy of the entire team – including the leader — by deploying an approach that identifies individual team member’s strengths and using these to manage those aspects of the project that requires them.
4 The team is under duress
This is a relatively common situation, given the dynamics and challenges of the world we operate in.
A team coach can potentially help by identifying those factors that can be influenced by team members, and those that they can’t.
This will allow members to put things in perspective and be more able to manage the situation, and their individual stress levels.
5 Personal differences exist
Everyone is wired differently and personal chemistry is a tricky animal.
Choice of words, body language, even personal stereotyping can lead to personal differences, and the resulting behaviour could range from not conforming to direct defiance and petty quarrels and ugly shouting matches.
Sometimes, one team member may have a domineering personality, leading to increased tension between him and the other members.
The role of a team coach could be to intervene and help members to identify negative personal traits and work on eradicating or minimising them.
6 Making a good team better
Even when a team is working very well, team coaching can still be useful.
The objective of such a coaching programme will be to focus on what are the key success factors that make the team perform well, and how the findings can be applied to the formation of future teams.
The ideal approach is to invest in team coaching once the people for a project are confirmed. This pro-active approach is usually more effective and productive.
Article by Paul Heng, founder/managing director and executive coach of NeXT Career Consulting Group, Asia. For more information, visit www.nextcareer.net