As the pre-eminent Harvard scholar on teams Richard Hackman said: “I have no question that a team can generate magic. But don’t count on it.”
At all levels, teams are vital to organisations. If an organisation wants to perform it will require its teams to do the same. Or, to put it another way, when teams perform, so do their organisations.
However, many things can get in the way of team performance. These range from classical challenges such as creating alignment or resolving conflict, to newer ones that have emerged as a result of the COVID pandemic over recent months.
Teams have had to mobilise quickly in response to external factors and find new ways of working. In many cases they have had to learn to connect and collaborate remotely in this ‘new world’. Not surprisingly, finding ways of continuing to adapt and develop working practices while bolstering resilience and promoting well-being are high on many teams’ agendas today.
We believe teams have huge potential
The ability to connect, communicate, and collaborate effectively is a far cry for many teams. Most teams under-whelm and perform, and some can become seriously dysfunctional. Sadly, working as a member of a team is anything but a positive experience for many people. While there can be many reasons for these issues, they are neither pre-determined nor fixed. Teams can become effective and high performing, and they can be the source of much satisfaction for their members.
Teams can find it hard to identify and work through these issues by themselves and can benefit from outside help. However, the client teams we talked with were unhappy with the programmes, tools and approaches available to support them. So, we set out to do something about this: we created teamGenie® to help release the magic of teams.
We were receiving what we might call ‘distress purchase’ calls from teams and their leaders. They typically described team member behaviours that were causing some difficulty. On enquiry, these descriptions were often manifestations of the issue rather than the cause of it, and teams were finding it difficult to pinpoint these exactly on their own. If causality was unclear, they were equally uncertain on what actions they might take, and which were the most important and would make the biggest difference. We created teamSalient® to meet these needs: a team discovery tool aimed at helping teams establish and improve their effectiveness and then translate this into higher performance.
From our experience working with teams, we often find them thrown together with little thought. This resulted in an unclear contribution, overlapping roles with associated conflicts, and inefficiency and lacklustre results all round. Teams benefit from careful and deliberate design and so we decided to offer a team advisory service to help teams get structured and set up for success.
We have also found that teams – even senior leadership teams – sometimes lack core skills in how to ‘team’ effectively. This could be anything from handing conflict, to listening well, bolstering well-being or making decisions effectively. While we can (and sometimes do) coach a team to develop these skills, it can be quicker to meet these skills deficits through practice-based development embedded into an overall team development journey: bite-sized learning to meet specific skill gaps.
The glue that can hold these different elements together into an overall cohesive journey is team coaching. We define this as “Coaching the whole team over time to improve its connection, communication and collaboration and deliver on stakeholders’ expectations.”
Having created the team coaching standard for the coaching industry (Association for Coaching), we are uniquely well positioned to talk about team coaching and are pioneers in the art and practice of it. Teams are messy things and rarely follow neat linear models and processes. The art of team allows a coach to respond to a team and its needs as these emerge and change, not only over time, but in the moment. We make particular use of the meta-skills of presence, use of self and experimentation to help teams make sense of what is going on and to enable change.
So, who are we? We are a team of hand-picked team practitioners that share a passion for working with teams. We are based and work internationally (in person or remotely), predominantly with teams in large, complex organisations.
We work with single teams or multiple teams concurrently, the latter particularly when organisations are re-structuring. We work with co-dependent teams inside an organisation or with teams across functions, supply chains or organisations. The in-built dashboard and actions plans in teamSalient® allow teams to keep track of their progress, as they develop. Do get in touch if you’d like to discuss any challenge or opportunity facing your teams.
Our mission is to transform teams. Join us on this journey. Get ready for take-off!
Dr. Declan Woods
Founder of teamGenie®