Developing Stronger Teams

A strong team is a wondrous thing to behold. Focused, effective, resilient, creative, and perfectly in sync. A strong team has a vibe about it that is infectious and that makes it seem like anything is possible for this team. And the productivity of strong teams is typically beyond expectations.

Strong teams don’t arise just because you put people — even really talented people — together. You’re more likely to end up with a collection of talented solo efforts and, eventually, silos. In the process, communications, alignment, and productivity can break down, or perhaps you end up with a team that had great potential but is now merely okay.

So how do you develop and nurture a strong team? The standard approaches include “team building” programs, skill building, leadership development, and various forms of facilitation. And if you’re looking for an overhaul on all teams in the organization, then a company-wide culture change effort might be a consideration.

But real, sustainable change needs to happen at the team level — and as a team, not by working in parallel on individual skills or leadership capabilities. 

Team coaching focuses on the team as a single entity or system. Teams are, of course, comprised of individuals, but there’s a team-focused mindset that develops when the members of the team are in sync with each other and putting the goals of the team ahead of their individual interests.

By working with the team as one entity, with its own voice and set of rules, team coaching helps solidify trust and enable deeper conversations that can spark greater momentum, camaraderie, and resilience for the team. It’s amazing to see when a group finally gets it that they are a team, and then begins to work with greater alignment and engagement.

Every team deserves this kind of identity and presence, this “We can conquer the world!” type of energy. Imagine what is possible in your business if your team has that feeling of being unstoppable.

Team coaching is not a new thing, it’s just been overshadowed by the more established forms of working with individuals and teams. To help you understand the differences, let’s look at team coaching vs. the other primary approaches, through the lens of going to a gym to get fit.

Team Building v. Team Coaching

Team building is like going to the gym for one day. You might have a great experience and some fun memories to share, but you’re not suddenly fit or fundamentally changed. You might remember some of the exercises, but the chances of doing them consistently are (ahem) slim. 

Team coaching is like having a fitness trainer who measures your fitness levels, designs a program to help you reach your goals, and coaches you through the inevitable rough spots until you’re solidly on your way to greater fitness. And a coach will start with the very important question of why, as a team, do you want to get fit?

Skill Building v. Team Coaching

Skill building is like going to the gym and working on your arms or your abs. It’s focused on one thing. And while being stronger at this one thing can help the team, it’s inherently intended for the individual. Even if everyone gets stronger arms or abs, however, that’s only a partial solution and does nothing to help Bob and Jim work out their differences which are polluting the team.

Team coaching works with the whole system, not just specifics for each individual. It’s more like preparing for an adventure race, where it challenges all parts of mind and body, and you can’t succeed without a full team effort. And, along the way, it helps Bob and Jim learn to work effectively together — an effort that the whole team, not just the coach, gets involved in.

Facilitation v. Team Coaching

Facilitation is like going to a workout class. It’s structured, you might have a series of classes, and growth does start to happen. But the classes are typically geared toward a set program or routine; you don’t suddenly change a spinning class to a yoga class.

Team coaching overlaps with facilitation in some ways, but it builds from what the team needs now, even if that’s very different from what was intended before the session began. This keeps the work focused on what matters most at any given moment.

Leadership Development v. Team Coaching

Leadership development is like training new fitness instructors and sending them out into the gym. They may have new ways to work with people, but their abilities are limited by their training — and by their individual agendas.

Team coaching works from the premise that the answers are already within the team. As such, the team doesn’t necessarily need training in how to be a leader, it just needs the opportunity to lead — to lead itself and to help lead others. 

There’s something else that happens when we create stronger teams. By working on the team first and developing a greater sense of agency and empowerment, the members of the team naturally grow their own capabilities as leaders.

Culture Change v. Team Coaching

Culture change is like repainting the gym and putting in new equipment. The gym might look brighter or more inviting (or whatever effect was desired), but that doesn’t guarantee that the people coming to exercise will be changed in any way, other than perhaps trying to find out what happened to the free weights.

Team coaching works from a more granular, engaged level. Rather than having change forced on them from above, change happens on a cellular level within the team. And one team’s change can infect other teams and create a viral spread of change within the organization. 

 

Team coaching is appropriate for any kind of team, from newly-formed or merged teams that need to be in sync and productive fast, to cross-functional teams that might be struggling to really work as one, to executive teams that are tasked with delivering more than they’ve ever done before. 

If you’d like your team to be fit, fast, and strong, contact us at windsorgroup.biz.


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