ON THE COACH

The power of team coaching

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The power of team coaching is being embraced as an answer by many executives, leaders and managers who are seeking a remedy to workplace ills such as dysfunctional teams. As an executive coach I am often confronted by desperate questions such as:  "Why can't I get my employees to work together?" How do I handle negativity and politics in my team? How do I stop corridor talk and get employees to air their views openly? Why is my team at cross-purposes? If I could just get them to work as a team I could conquer the world."

Building a cohesive team takes effort -- it does not happen automatically just by lumping individuals into a group.  The most common problem for teams is a lack of knowledge as to why they are called together to become a team, and a lack of unified commitment to that purpose. Effective teams must put team goals above individual goals. Managers and leaders can benefit from team coaching to foster healthy teams, individual growth, and positive employee morale. There are a number of commonly cited team dysfunctions:

  • Lack of trust and respect: In this case there is a sense of paranoia, a feeling that the enemy is in the room. Team members cannot cover each others’ backs, and empathy and respect for each other cease to flourish. It is also characterised by a lack of supportiveness and hoarding of information.
  • Fear and lack of openness:  There is fear of expressing views for fear of being labeled or victimised. Openness is seen as career limiting. Gossip and corridor talk flourish, superficial harmony is the acceptable culture and conflicts are avoided at all costs.
  • Lack of commitment and buy-in:  Leaders are seen as making all the decisions with minimal consultation with staff. Management is often viewed as not listening and removed from their staff.  Team leaders blame members for resisting change.  A cycle of blame persists. Because there is no trust, team members have no courage to hold each other accountable. The courage for truth-telling diminishes, the possibility for mature dialogue disappears, and defensiveness grows.
  • Low morale and inattention to focused delivery of results: With low morale, the common vision, purpose and collaboration are lost and the teams, and therefore also the company or organization, slowly becomes dysfunctional.

So what is the remedy to the above dysfunctionalities? Be aware of them, acknowledge them and act by engaging your team in team coaching.   Team coaching is a powerful intervention that creates safe dialogue platforms for all team members to acknowledge what they feel are obstacles to team cohesion and to express these concerns openly. Team members will feel heard and experience a sense of universality once they suddenly realise they are not alone.  The most empowering aspect of team coaching is that team members take ownership to develop action plans to overcome team dysfunctions in order to build the desired healthy team.

Team coaching builds cohesive teams and creates an environment that inspires and unleashes the potential of individuals within the teams; and ensures a sustained focus on business results.

A foundation of trust gets built as team members engage in activities that make them access their capacity for care and empathy.  Individuals in the team gain self-awareness from the feedback they receive from other team members.  The team becomes the mirror for each team member to reflect on their behavior and how their behavior impacts others in the team. Team coaching fosters deep introspection, personal responsibility and ownership -- a realisation that “change starts with me” and shift teams from blaming circumstances beyond their control. It fosters commitment to change the things they can influence.

Effective teamwork requires more than just a collection of individuals grouped around a common task. It requires a conscious and concerted effort to focus the team on a common vision and purpose, building trusting and open relationships, commitment, courage to give each other honest feedback , holding each other accountable and focusing all attention on results.

About the writer

Lindiwe Mkhondo is an Executive Coach and Psychologist @ Change Partners. Visit www.changepartners.co.za

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