The Development Center

Leadership Development

Coaching Teams for Effectiveness

For more than two decades I have coached senior leaders and their teams. These include teams of persons from several locations and racial ethnic groups—European American, Korean, Hispanic, Asian, African American, and Middle Eastern.

My focus is on what is necessary to build high performance teams—the conception of the team's purpose, recruitment and formation, setting direction, planning and decision making, offering opportunities for members to use their skills and take new leadership roles, holding people accountable with freedom to do their work, anticipating political potholes, executing the task within organization's culture and context, and incorporating learning and evaluation.

Team coaching is contextual coaching.  My approach is to focus team efforts on the work that needs to be done. This usually involves creating products and services or organizational change. In the team setting I observe, assess, and make group and leadership interventions to move the work forward and for leadership learning. My experience tells me and research has confirmed that teams coalesce through working towards a common goal.

Formal learning is dictated by group needs. I ask myself: What does the group and its members need to know and do to reach their goal? What impediments need to be overcome? How can members bring their best to the table?

I also work individually with the team leader. Coaching both the team and its leader optimizes the chance that the team will run smoothly. Members learn how to facilitate by being part of a well functioning team and watching a leader with well-honed skills and sensitivity.

My first task is to build trust in me and within the team. I do this by being consistent and reliable, bringing up difficult issues, and dealing with conflict in the team. As trust deepens so does the quality of the team's work.

My stance is as a participant observer. Being a participant helps me understand what it is like being on the team. As an observer I gain enough distance to see patterns and not get caught up in "group think." It also provides the opportunity to observe member's leadership styles, interpersonal skills, and the team's dynamics. To this work I bring expertise and experience in organizational systems, group relations, psychology, and leadership.

Teams are more than a conglomeration of people. They have a life of their own with covert and overt dynamics. In team coaching I pay attention to the group and its members while keeping an eye on its purpose. Team participation is different than traditional leadership and followership.  In teams persons are encouraged to take up their own authority, openly offer their expertise and support that of others, make decisions together, and trade off roles as needed.

A team exists in the minds of its members, not just when they are in the same room. When the members are aware of this teams can continue to be active between meetings.

by Frances Unsell