Much of the work of organisations relies on the efforts of people working together in small groups whether as work groups, committees, task forces or project teams.
Sometimes teams stop working as effectively as they should. That may happen because circumstances and demands have changed and new ways of working must be adopted; because people are working in silos and are more concerned with their patch than the common good; because team members have come and gone and old roles have been lost and new ones created; or becuase there isn't a clear vision of what the team has to do and how it will do it while keeping everyone engaged.
Team coaching will help a team build its vison of what it wants to be, understand the resources that it already has and take the steps to make its vision a reality.
I typically adopt a solution focussed approach. When a team isn’t working at its best you can ask what has gone wrong and then spend time figuring out why. This is the logical problem solving approach on which we so often rely, but problem talk creates problems. Solution talk creates solutions.
So, an alternative is to start from a different place:
This is an approach that draws on Appreciative Inquiry – it recasts issues in positive terms, values the resources that people already have, encourages them to build a hopeful and optimistic vision of the future as a team and commits them to specific actions to achieve that future.
As an approach this fits well with models of team effectiveness, for example, emphasising the need for clarity of vision and purpose, effective relationships, psychological safety as well as with the idea of team roles – the particular gifts and talents that each of us bring to a team. So, for example, I may be great critical voice able to spot the flaw in a proposal, but if that gift kills every idea before it has had time to grow and develop, then I will be doing my team a disservice.
What do you bring to your team? Does your contribution habitually focus on one or two activities? How does that help your team to succeed? When does it get in the way? What could you do to ensure that the team is best able to draw on everyone’s gifs and talents?
We spend a lot of our time inside and outside work in groups, but perhaps not enough time thinking about what goes on in those groups or why people behave as they do.
One way of looking at behaviours in groups is to see them in terms of what their function or purpose seems to be.
Task oriented behaviours:
Group maintenance behaviours
As a group member my first decision is whether I want to be in or out. If I’m anxious about this and decide that no one is interested in me, I may decide that the best thing to do is withdraw.
Next is the question of control – am I on top or on the bottom? Control is about relations of power, influence and authority. Who has power? How much do I have? How much do I want?
Finally, there is the question of openness – how willing am I to be open to another person. Underlying openness is the feeling of being likeable or unlikeable, lovable or unlovable.
Openness tends to be the last question that gets answered in the development of a group. First is inclusion (am I in or out?). Second is control (who has it and how do we relate to each other?). Third is openness (how close and how intimate are we?).