Laurie Cozart

Team Coaching

How you can empower your team to create innovative solutions

Team coaching is fast becoming a crucial tool in leadership. Team coaches can play a pivotal role in identifying team development needs and guiding teams through internal and external influences that often inhibit achievement of desired outcomes. We spoke with Laurie Cozart of Brain Squared Solutions and instructor of our Team Coaching for High-Value Results program to learn more. 

The greatest accomplishments in life are not achieved by individuals alone but by proactive people pulling together for a common good. People are not given life to simply take from one another. We are here to offer our gifts to benefit one another. ―John J. Murphy  

In my executive coaching practice, I often start a conversation by asking the client to describe their vision of who they want to be. Increasingly, that vision is shifting from an individual to a team. The reason, according to Ben Wigert, lead researcher for Gallup’s workplace management practice, is that “changes in technology and increased globalization mean that organizations are facing problems so complex that a single individual simply can’t possess all the necessary knowledge to solve them.”

Solutions take a team, and the vision often looks like this—   

  • There is an atmosphere of excitement in our meetings. We feel a sense of purpose, determination and urgency to perform.
  • We adapt to changing customer needs with energy and confidence.
  • We consistently generate well-planned programs that usually achieve their intended outcomes.
  • We treat setbacks as learning experiences.
  • We work together with strong, sustained forward momentum.

This powerful vision is not easy to achieve, even by a team of individual high-performers. That is because vibrant, innovative teamwork is “principle-based,” writes John J. Murphy in his book Pulling Together: 10 Rules for High Performance Teamwork. In other words, you can’t achieve a superior level of teamwork without following the principles that support it. So, as a team coach, your great overarching task is to understand and embody those principles.

Five Principles for Coaching a High-Performing Team

Experience has taught me that people are so complex that no single set of rules or steps works for everyone. But for this discussion, five basic principles provide a good start for coaching a team toward its vision.

Principle 1: Treat the team as a single entity

What it means
Each team member shifts perspective from "Me" to "We." Individuals see themselves as a single, high-performing unit with a common identity and purpose. Each person freely contributes their experiences and competencies to the team’s pool of resources—which grows synergistically.

How you can help
You can consistently promote team identity and self-sufficiency. As team coach, you can help team members become aware of the depth and breadth of their collective capabilities by encouraging them to speak freely in meetings, to express their perceptions, concerns, beliefs, hopes and suggestions.

It is essential that you understand and clarify the collective feelings, perceptions, concerns, beliefs and hopes of the team.

Just as you should be aware and respectful of each client’s cultural context, you should also know that the team may have its own culture, which might vary from the organization’s culture.

Principle 2: Create psychological safety

What it means
Studies show that innovation can happen only when communication within the team is open and collaborative. The most creative solutions emerge only in an environment of trust that lets team members raise sensitive topics, ask “stupid” questions, propose “infeasible” ideas, and receive sincere, constructive feedback. 

How you can help
First, keep in mind that whenever strong, capable people work together, you’ll see many dynamics of power, control, expertise and disparate goals. Be alert to how these dynamics might play out in team interactions and remain objective at all times.

Some conflict is inevitable within every team. You can partner with the team to identify and resolve internal conflict, bring it to the surface and deal with it in a way that promotes learning and growth. 

Fluid communication is vital to team success. A skilled coach encourages the team to own the dialogue by redirecting communication from individual members to the coach and back to the team.   

Principle 3: Capitalize on diversity

What it means
According to research by the consulting firm McKinsey & Company, teams made up of members from diverse backgrounds (gender, age, ethnicity, etc.) are more creative and perform better by up to 35 percent, compared to more homogeneous teams. One reason is that by sharing information and experiences, team members essentially cross train each other. They can also speed up the continuous improvement cycle by learning from someone else’s mistakes.

How you can help
Partner with your team to identify ways to make equity and inclusion part of the collaborative process. Train team members to spot and challenge underlying assumptions and perceptions, and encourage team members to purposefully ask each other for ideas, insights or alternatives that are outside the mainstream.

Principle 4: Use a rational problem-solving process

What it means
Assessing customer or internal needs as a team can be complex to say the least. In fact, understanding a problem, let alone finding solutions, often requires gathering and interpreting data from many team members, who must decide not only what matters but also what can be safely shared. Trust and expertise are critical elements of a rational process.     

How you can help
When decision-making seems stalled, you can safeguard the team’s synergy by avoiding the temptation to fall back on taking a vote. Defaulting to a majority-rules approach creates winners and losers and erodes team unity. Instead, you can encourage dialogue and reflection to help the team clarify a team vision and mission, identify their goals and then plan the steps to achieve those goals.

You can also facilitate a process of problem analysis, setting criteria, and evaluating possible solutions based on those criteria.  

Team Coaching for High-Value Results

These five principles are only a brief sample of the contribution a skilled team coach can make to an organization. Our Team Coaching training will help you manage the complexities of interpersonal dynamics, while focusing the team on their collective identity, purpose and intended results. You’ll develop the skills and competencies you need to coach your team toward their vision. Learn more about our program.

Principle 5: Manage resistance

What it means
Despite everyone’s intentions to unify as a mission-driven, collaborative team, some people might oppose teamwork by refusing to accept team norms or by undermining consensus. They typically expect double standards or refuse to share and participate. They tend to shift responsibility and reject accountability. They might complain that rules and criteria are unnecessary obstacles to getting the job done. In short, they retain a “me” perspective.

How you can help
You can choose to hold a compassionate perspective. Even the most effective team members can struggle with selfishness, ego, fear and insecurity. Over the long haul, patience and perseverance are vitally important. 

According to Team Coaching Competencies by the International Coaching Federation, a team coach must “notice how each team member impacts the collective team energy, engagement and focus.” Watch for verbal and non-verbal communication patterns among team members, recognize potential alliances, conflicts and growth opportunities.

Regardless of resistance, you can model confident, effective communication and collaboration as you work with a co-coach or other experts. Bottom line: Trust the principles and allow the process to take its course.

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