Coaching a team is not all that different from coaching individuals. It is a little more complex due to team dynamics and the mixing of different personality styles. Nevertheless, most of the principles and methods are the same. Here are a few handy guidelines.
Team performance management & coaching:
Team performance management is all about helping teams set and achieve meaningful goals.
Coaching helps a team do something new or better in a way that helps the team learn how to do it on its own, i.e., operate more independently (with less hand-holding). A core coaching practice is helping your team reflect on and learn from its experiences to deepen knowledge and accelerate the cycle of learning.
These two definitions draw directly on my definitions of coaching and performance management—almost everything I say in those two blogs applies both to teams and individuals. See also my blog on debriefing for an explanation of how the practice of critical reflection works.
Task determines focus & structure:
As a leader, how do you decide when to focus on individuals and when to focus on teams?
The decision should always be based on the work to be done. Let the task at hand determine your leadership focus. The nature of the work itself, along with the desired results or deliverables, should guide your decisions about strategy, structure, process, people (who needs to be at the table), resources, the kind of team structure and teamwork you need, etc.
Desired results guide your coaching efforts, since you will coach the team to help it achieve its most important objectives.
In other words, if the nature of the work is individual, you will manage your employees individually. For work that requires a high level of teamwork or collaboration—many people working together to create a single product or output—you will need to spend more time managing the group collectively, as a team.
With respect to coaching for problems and opportunities, the general rule is this:
- Challenges: Coach an individual when he or she is struggling and coach the team when the team is struggling, i.e., to overcome a team weakness, challenge, etc.
- Opportunities: Coach individuals on their most important individual opportunities for improvement and coach the team on its most important opportunities for improvement. This kind of coaching is ongoing—each coaching project continues until the opportunity is sufficiently exhausted.
Manage teams almost exactly as you manage individuals—both individuals and teams need care, attention and the same organizational support systems, e.g.,
- Clear goals & metrics: individual goals and metrics to guide individual effort and achievement and teams goals and metrics to guide team effort and achievement.
- Accountability: Hold individuals accountable for individual efforts and results and teams accountable for team efforts and results.
- Reward / Recognition / Appreciation: Reward individuals for individual effort and achievement and reward teams (collectively) for team effort and achievement.
- Performance Management: Manage individual performance individually and manage team performance as a team, i.e., teams need team goals, team feedback and coaching and team (or project) performance evaluations.
- Training & Development: Ensure individuals on your team get the training they need to perform—to be successful in their jobs and prepare for advancement—and also ensure your team gets training in team skills and the collaborative practice it needs to be as efficient and effective as possible as a team.
Just keep in mind that a team is made up of individuals (real human beings), each of whom are expected to contributed to the team; each of whom may struggle and sacrifice; and each of whom need both individual and group recognition. So even in a pure team situation, people still need a bit of personal attention.
Everyone agrees that having clear roles and responsibilities is a cornerstone of good teamwork. Everyone has to know what they are accountable for. It is also extremely helpful when team members have a solid understanding of what others on the team are accountable for.
Each person on your team should easily be able to answer these three questions:
- What am I accountable for?
- What are my team members accountable for?
- What are we accountable for together; where do we need to coordinate and collaborate as a team?
Give Advanture a call. We would be happy to help you take your organization’s leadership practices up the next level for enhance business performance. Performance by design!
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