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Coaching for Effective Team Working – Fresh Insights

Back in 2017 we wrote about team work and proposed 7 steps to effective team working (https://www.level7live.com/category/level-seven/page/3/).  Since then, we have found ourselves increasingly integrating our work as  consultants, coaches and mediators in order to address the team development challenges brought to us by our clients. This approach has enabled us to help create and sustain thoughtful, collaborative and accountable ways of working in a team context.

In this occasional blog series we will revisit each of those 7 steps, to show how an integrated approach has worked for our clients and can work for you:

Insight 1: Create a common sense of purpose

A team’s sense of purpose is something that has proven to be an interesting area of discussion in our exploratory conversations at the start of a client contract. Many times on contracting with an organisation to address some team issue or another, this is not explicitly identified until we ask about it. The fundamental basis of the work of the team is often taken for granted. And yet, it is this that can be at the heart of the team challenge…or at least strongly underpinning it. Hawkins (2017) in his book on Leadership Team Coaching talks about ‘clarifying the collective endeavour’ and its importance in leading to ‘higher levels of ownership and clarity’ for the team. That collective focus then needs to be explicitly aligned with individual and organisational values if the team is to achieve its goals. Clarity of understanding and application of that sense of purpose in congruence with that of the organisation provides the solid foundation for the subsequent building blocks of the team development process.

Woudstra (2019) also highlights this in her 2 ‘core’ team coaching competencies that support ‘Setting the Foundation’.   She talks about meeting ethical and professional standards,  specifically making the point that an ethical future should be ‘ based on our ability to collaborate, compromise and act together’ and that this is ‘fostered by the lived experience of great team coaching’.

Working with a recent client, an initial one to one coaching relationship with individual members of the senior team around leadership roles and behaviours quickly led all stakeholders to recognise common themes and challenges across team members. At this stage, there was a reversion into a consultancy focus when we sought to establishing the current organisational reality and ensuring consistency of understanding before embarking on a team coaching intervention.  Our team coaching involved using a design thinking approach (https://www.level7live.com/design-thinking/) to support the team to find their own identity through exploration, sense making, experimentation, action planning and implementation. At this stage, we found that sometimes conflicts became apparent; in particular, conflicts around personal/organisational values, perceived behaviours and actions. By bringing key mediation skills into the process, these conflicts could be addressed. In particular we focused on: supporting a sharing dialogue between team members in which issues could be aired; providing non judgemental support to share needs and develop a shared approach to resolution.

In our next blog we will expand on how we can support that shared dialogue and address some of the challenges of team communication in an increasingly multi stakeholder world.