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Teamwork is built on relationships

It's time to coach

Teams are not just a group of individuals

In his book, An Astronaut’s guide to life on Earth Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, talked about the challenge of becoming an elite individual who then had to learn to truly be a team player. You work your entire life to be top of the class, the best fighter pilot, the one who aces every test. Then you walk into NASA at the bottom level and you have to learn how to become a team player, so the whole team works at peak performance. There is no room for an individual approach in space work. You are a team or you aren’t going. Chris also talked about measuring your impact in a team. If you’re a good team player, you contribute +1 to the team. A bad team player will be -1. So if you aim to be 0 then that’s good. Don’t unbalance the team, put the team first, pay attention to your team and if you get it right, they may just rate you as a +1. 

Interviewing some of our coaches for two  articles on team coaching (this is the second one) was a privilege. Everyone of our team coaches has worked with teams from first line through to executive and C suite. They all understand the incredible impact a great team can have on the broader organization. Sometimes just one single team can lift the performance in the whole company. Getting team performance right is a not only challenging, it’s possibly the single biggest way to improve your entire organization. 

Calculating Trust

Part of the problem with the idea of trust between people in teams, is that it sounds very black and white. I do trust this person, or I don’t trust this person. Most of the time it’s more subtle than that. Our decision on whether to trust someone is based on several factors. How much we trust someone is part of that process. Do we trust other people in the team? How much do we trust them? All of that impacts on our own performance and the performance across the whole team.

You have probably seen the Trust Equation. It looks complicated but it’s quite simple to use. Let’s say you need to go see your doctor about a health issue.

Your doctor is good at their job. You have confidence in your doctor’s ability to assess the situation and offer a solution. That’s the “C” credibility rating. The “R” reliability rating is about whether the doctor’s offices are run well, people expect you, the doctor is on time for the appointment and so on. “I” intimacy means bedside manner in this case. Some doctors score well at how they talk to and deal with patients, others are not so good. You could give your doctor a score out of 10 for each one of those things. Let’s say your doctor is great on all of those measures so you give 10/10 for all of them, so a score of 30.

Now you assess their self-orientation. Let’s say your doctor doesn’t make eye contact with you at all. They are staring at the computer, or the equipment, looking at the clock, or making notes. You feel that although they are doing everything else right, they aren’t truly interested in you. So you score them as high on “S” which is the self orientation. They are more oriented to themselves than to you. Let’s say you score them a 10 on that, too.

30/10 = 3. You don’t trust your doctor much do you?

Tim Sims Programme Director CLS

Tim Sims is a coach and trainer who designed  a specific approach for coaching senior teams, which helps them achieve focus without burnout. Tim works with teams in public and private sector in the UK and Europe. “You don’t develop people by telling them what to do. You need to give them the skills and support to do it for themselves.”

It’s the same in a team. You can work with highly skilled, competent and efficient people all day but if they are only interested in themselves, not in the team, or individuals in the team, if you get the sense that you are irrelevant to them or they are only interested in their own career, then you don’t trust them very much. It really isn’t about their capability. It’s about their ability to work with and commit to the team.

A team member who isn’t quite so good but is committed to the team and the work done by the whole team, will be trusted and valued far more. Ultimately, it’s that commitment to the team you want. It’s all about motivation. If your motivation is you and only you, then you aren’t going to be trusted in your team.

It’s a balancing act too. If you fit into the team and we like you but your work is always late or of poor quality, then we will trust you less because you aren’t reliable. If you’re the manager of someone like this,  then you can actively performance manage them  for quality and reliability of work. If you can’t change that, then your team member isn’t a good fit for you and the team.

This is why the key to team performance lies in the relationships between the different people. When you work on those relationships you can truly change performance. When the team is virtual or remote it makes it harder for everyone. Those little moments of getting to know one another in an informal setting, don’t happen or at least not in the same way. As a manager, you need to work with the team to enable ways to help them have those conversations. Being able to chat casually about what else is going on at work, at home, with other people, is part of the process of building trust. If the only thing you ever talk about is whether this project is on track, then trust doesn’t really happen. The team might work OK but they don’t know each other well enough to take the performance up a level.

Team coaching can help a lot with this. When you bring a coach in to work with the whole team, it’s possible to get the issues out in the open so they can be addressed in a way that helps to build relationships. Team members  don’t have to like each other to get the job done, but they do need to trust each other. That is part of the reason you need to create opportunities for people to work in small groups of 2 or 3 without reporting everything back to the whole group. That’s when relationships and trust are built.

As  the team manager, try asking your team one or more of these questions:

"My team likes that I am giving them opportunities to feel more connected to me and the team."

Building Trust in Teams

Leaders want high-performing teams and seek ways to build great teams through alignment, connection and driving results. How can coaching your team be a powerful tool for building trust and drive high performance?

Your current environment, changes, uncertainty and volatility often create tension in teams. Crisis conditions can tempt some leaders to adopt a more autocratic approach (“No time to explain. Just do as I say”) to solve issues directly and keep everything under control. However, after some training in coaching and applying coaching tools, leaders give me feedback that they soon find out how empowering people and encouraging them to seek solutions together, result in improved team well-being and performance

Coaching is a great method for building cohesion and trust in hybrid teams.  After the pandemic many employees chose not to return to the office and work remotely. Online communication does not work the same way as face-to-face communication.

One of the critical success factors for hybrid teams is team cohesion. When office and remote workers feel united in a single team and work on common goals, they can be just as successful as a team which meets everyday. If you are the team leader, you can use a coaching approach in online meetings to foster engagement. Do this by asking employees to contribute to building strategy, action planning, solving issues and generating new ideas. 

Marina Ivanenko is an international coach who works with senior and middle management teams across Europe. Her background in organizational development in global corporations, gives her a deep understanding of the impact of teamwork. 

Using a coaching approach during team meetings, will help you to build mindful and safe communication skills. You can help your team have high quality conversations about team performance, career aspirations, failures and motivation.  The structure of a coaching framework will help you create a team where both office and remote workers can safely discuss their concerns with you, especially in times of change and uncertainty.

A coaching approach also helps your team to manage high pressure and stress. The goal of my team coaching sessions lately has often been to foster psychological safety in teams and build trust. Team members embrace discomfort, learn to proactively communicate, improve their emotional intelligence and resolve conflicts in a constructive way, through having whole team coaching sessions. All of this is crucial to building trust in the team.

If you are managing and leading a team – any team but especially a hybrid or remote team, try this:

“Individuals are now able to clearly tell their manager what they need to do to improve, how changing their approach just a little, has an impact on the client. They are thinking carefully about the way they do their work and how to do it better every day.”

Team roles, Team rules

When you coach a team of people, the focus is not on the individual. It’s on the relationships within the team. If you want the team to improve as a team, then it is the relationships which need to addressed.

If a team wants to grow and become stronger and improve as a team, then they should work through a number of different steps. It will be different for each team. For example, they may need to find a better way to manage conflict in the team, or develop solutions. It can be an issue with improving team performance or a specific issue with a person which stops the team growing. When you coach them as a whole team there is a possibility of changing the behaviour of the entire group.

As a team coach, I can work in one of two ways. I can work with the team leader and help that person to develop as a team coach. This helps the team become more sustainable and gives the team manager a new approach and confidence to lead the team in a new way. Or I can go in as an external coach and work with the entire team to address their issues. The team needs to understand that I am there to help and support them; I am their friend, someone who will work with them so they can make changes.

Every team meeting or coaching session is full of power and group dynamics. The way people speak or listen to each other. The balance of age or gender, culture and nationality will all have an impact on this specific team. As a coach my job is to get everything out in the open and on the table so they can see for themselves, all the issues. The team manager and the team may be so close to it all they don’t see it. When  they can see what is happening in their team relationships, then they can understand the impact and look at solutions. You can tell a team they need to change but only the team can make the changes.

Gianluca Fioravanti  is a specialist in project management and change management, primarily in global manufacturing and engineering companies. The impact of team work in these environments is critical to business sucess.

“When someone’s eyes light up and things change for them – this is what I love about my work.”

Every team has a set of rules. The rules may not be discussed or written down, but they exist. The rules will include things like, do we arrive and start on time? Who is always late? Do people say whatever comes into their head whenever they want or is there a structure for speaking? How do the team make decisions? Is there follow up action? The rules can help a team or stop them performing. A coach’s job is to observe the rules of behaviour and get them out in the open. When people see what they are doing, they can make a decision about whether it is positive or negative for the team.

Every team also has roles. The team leader may not really be the team leader. Different people act in different ways and that may work well or it can limit the team’s performance. As an observer you are able to note who plays which role. The roles and rules are critical if you want team performance to excel. Even basic things like having someone to keep time, someone to take notes, someone to make sure everyone has opportunity to contribute can make a major difference to team performance.

Improving team performance is also about giving them appropriate tools so they can work on it themselves. When the team understands how they work, what stops them being better at the way they work, giving them tools will help them take responsibility for improving performance. Every team changes and grows. The focus for the coach is on helping everyone to understand the part they play and enabling them to play it fully. That’s how you get the excellent performance that every organization wants.

“I am now coaching my team be be actively involved and take ownership. My team is more engaged because I have encouraged their autonomy."

Tristan Sage

Tristan Sage

Would you like to take your managers’ team coaching skills from good to great? Do you have teams who can benefit from a refresh? Our team coaches and management trainers are here to help, wherever and whatever your challenges. Do get in touch. All solutions begin with a conversation. 



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