Coaching a supercharged team

It is almost too easy to be hyper-efficient as an individual. Technology and tools have enabled individuals to have so much power to affect change and this individualised world that the notion and value of working in teams is becoming increasingly muddled. However – when you see a supercharged team that is working towards a goal – it is easy to see that you can move mountains and still have time to have a bit of fun.


Team management seems increasingly complex as people come into meetings writing emails and responding to issues with a range of electronic devices and we never really have a long enough attention span to take time to understand the bigger and larger, more complex issues.


Teams are also often distributed across multiple geographies and the closest that people get to being a team is a focused conference call where people dial in from across the world to “share” their perspective on a project or implementation. It is as if the shards of the image that we all need to move forward never gets put together in that crystal clear moment that catalyses everyone to the change that we want to see collectively happen here.


Project managers, consultants and advisors get paid to tell us little bits of what we already know or suspect is the big picture of where we are going. We will spend more time to re-invent ideas rather than getting input from those around us so as to leverage the collective wisdom of the experience of colleagues that work in our industry and that can benefit from understanding the thinking process that guides our collective effort going forward. Our jargon becomes our comfort zones and we resonate, zoom-in and hit it on the head as often as we can. Executives send out video clips to connect thousands to this quarter’s direction and to “reach-out” to the people.


Email, cell phone messages and IM politics rule the day. Who gets included and excluded determines a whole lot of what you are going to put your effort into and the oh-so-measurable KPA drives what will be looked at, at all. Weekly meetings around a range of projects seems to be rehashes of what we have left undone and serves to depress rather than to inspire.


The luxury of thinking seems to have been replaced by large spreadsheets which already highlights the issues and to which a “one-pager” will outline the ultimate solution. These get done at 2 am in the morning and logged into an innovation database for a KPA bonus. Data driven decision-making outweighs feelings and intuition with half-baked ideas that just require a bit of encouragement being totally unfashionable.


Do we think too little? What are we doing to connect teams to the ideals of the organisation and how do we create the inspiration required to create magic in this new age of corporate achievement?


We are all willing to agree that strategic alignment and company culture is the new frontier of management. We employ the best talent, ensure that their values are congruent with the corporate culture and then we sit at the measurement line, waiting for the results to pour in. Yet – how much time to managers spend to build the vision and re-enforce the company direction? More often, we forget that people still need to have a sense of what they can do to contribute to the bottom line. By putting in “self-starter” in the job-advert, it will not mean that the top achiever gets there without support and without having some ideas that may shape the outcome.


Most managers have forgotten to be coaches and leaders. Multiple studies have shown that there is a lack of congruence between what leaders view as essential behaviours in organisations and what is actually practiced by both those leaders and organisations. This contributes to high staff turnover and poor general performance.


Managers and leaders need to remember that they are coaches. A coach is someone that intensively guides and instructs the organisation on its direction. He or she connects the organisation to its direction. They not only connect the organisation to that direction but he or she is also someone that brings out the value of the talent in the organisation towards this direction. The coach achieves the results – not by playing in the game, but by standing outside of it and making sure that all the players understand how to respond to various situations and opportunities.


So how can we take responsibility for creating more opportunities for innovative thinking, unleashing the potential of individuals and teams, and aligning the organisation to its goals?


The basic idea is that every opportunity in which we interact with others – we create an opportunity to connect others to the organisational direction.


Some of the practical steps that can be used to connect and inspire others include


Connect you to you. Understand what you want to achieve.

Rather than multi-task, hopping between calls or writing one document after another, sit down and really think about what you are achieving and what you want to achieve. Where are the gaps? What do you know and what do you not know? What is working and what still needs to get done. Discuss your ideas with one or two people and get a sense of what they think about it. Given enough time you should have a clear idea of where you want to end up.


Connect you to others. Understand who is on the playing field.

The best way to inspire someone is to take time to understand who he or she is. Have you really thought about the people that work with you? What are their abilities and their direction and how does this fit in with what you want to achieve? Have you asked them and had meaningful conversations about whom you are, whom they are and where things need to go? By putting yourself in their shoes you can understand where they are going.


Connect others to you. Put yourself out there.

By linking with others and sharing ideas and supporting people – you build relationships that inspire others. If you do this with your vision in mind, then everyone starts slowly but surely building towards the ideas you starting putting forward. It is important to link yourself to people “above”, on the same level and “below” you. By moving from just doing your job to being a contributor to other people’s jobs you start turning yourself into a shaper that will have the power to work with people to achieve team ideals.


Connect others to the vision. Be the champion of the vision.

People do not connect to ideas that they do not believe in. This is important to understand. If your vision does not align to the vision of others you may have to share your vision and convince others or you may have to look at how both parties can achieve their respective visions through contributing. The vision needs to be re-enforced at every opportunity and different aspects of it may have to be discussed from time to time in more depth to make sure that we all understand the implication of this vision at the present moment.


Connect others to others. Let the vision free.

For a vision to be shared – more than one person has to become the champion. If everyone in the whole organisation can share in a vision, it becomes a very powerful force for change. One team created a space in their regular meeting in which one or more people could tell something about themselves and it was amazing how much this positively influenced the team dynamics. They also discussed what connects themselves to the vision of the organisation and how they can contribute. The interesting aspect of this was that they did this every week and this activity gained its own momentum and those individuals became leaders in their various environments.


While this describes the “big process” that needs to happen – it is also important to use a simple coaching model in our daily conversations to ensure that we move forward towards results. The “GROW” model is one such coaching approach that may be beneficial in structuring conversations around goals.


Grow stands for Goal, Current Reality, Options, Way forward and is a step by step process for having coaching conversations. The steps to a coaching conversation are outline below.


Establish the Goal.


A grow conversations starts out by remembering what we want to achieve here. Some people are clear about their goals, some are not, so the first step is to establish the goal.


Examine the Current Reality


The next step is to find out where we are. Sometimes it is important to challenge what is being said and find out what the real reality is.


Explore the Options


This brainstorming phase creates a range of options, innovations and strategies for getting to the goal. Moving beyond that we think it through and consider the implications of pursuing different options. This is often the most critical phase in a coaching conversation.


Establish the Way forward


If the first few steps went well we should be a position now to really know what can be done and the next step is to commit to the actions that will achieve those results. Any barriers need to be investigated and may lead to more goals, more exploration – until the solution is clear.


So – the task of super-charging a team is not to set bigger KPA’s, have more consultants or be more aggressive on how they get measured, but rather to get everyone to fully understand and agree on what needs to happen to achieve the vision.


It may be tempting to think that this is the task of the top person in an organisation – but it is the task of everyone in the organisation to connect with others in the organisation in a way that builds clarity on the way forward.


And the next meeting where everyone sits and gets reminded of the vision – they will all know that we are in it together and that we are all working towards this ideal that is built and shared by all. The vision will move forward because a team can achieve exponentially more than an individual.


This article has shared some of the tools that teams will need to build a central direction and the skills that each of us can use to make an effective contribution to the team environment.