10 Areas to Focus on When You Start Coaching a Team! | By Jennifer Britton MES, CHRP, CPT, PCC

Team sitting round a table

In the last 3 decades of my work in group and team programming, I've seen a lot of common ground across different program types, different audiences - and also different industries. Across all these areas, while the context changes, the themes in our work as group and team coaches remain much the same.

Based on 15 years of direct experience with teams (whether leading them myself or as an internal resource tasked with team development), I thought it would be interesting to revisit my "Top 10" Tips, refreshing them as we step into the next decade.

Here are 10 Areas to Focus on When you Start Coaching a Team:

A key mantra for team coaching work is to keep things simple. This article distills down ten things to keep in mind as you set out with a team engagement. Each one of these tips is a valuable conversation point for teams of all kinds. Enjoy some new ideas on how to accelerate your team building initiatives:

1. Create a common vision

The complexity of teams has never been greater. For example, these days team members can work remotely, be part of a matrixed team environment or work part-time on many teams. According to special analysis undertaken by Flexjobs and Global Workforce Analytics, in the US, the number of people "telecommuting" (also known as "working remotely") increased 159% between 2005 and 2017. This makes it even more important for all teams to take time to create a common vision.

It's the shared vision that creates alignment across distance and function. And the shared vision also provides an anchor to return to when decisions are made and priorities set.

What is your team's common vision? Is it clear?

A second part of creating a common vision is making sure that it's visible. What are you going to do to keep the common vision in focus and in front of everyone?

2. Develop common goals

As matrix and remote work arrangements get more complex, and work becomes more interdependent, supporting team members to see the common goals across their team and within their wider context is key.

Do team members understand how goals are interconnected with each other? Intersect with other internal stakeholders? Connect to other external partners?

Within this context, SMART goals are one piece of the equation. How are the goals exciting and motivational to all?

3. Clarify roles and responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities are an important area for exploration in teams today. When roles and responsibilities are unclear, gaps may exist around performance (getting things done) and handover of tasks from one team member to another.

Areas to explore include: How do roles intersect? What is the experience of each team member with their roles and responsibilities? How are task handoffs accomplished within the team? What about with other departments?

Finally, where there is job sharing (where one role is shared between one or more people), what's important to note about ultimate accountability and authority? Who is doing what specifically?

4. Ensure management support

Leadership support is critical to any coaching process. It's the leader who usually provides the space, time and focus for our clients to anchor their learning through practical application in the workplace. What do you notice about management support for the work you're doing with your team?

5. Use Engaging Exercises

Today's work environment places even more emphasis on individualization than there was 10-12 years ago. Using engaging exercises means creating conversation spaces that are memorable and impactful, as well as active.

Consider incorporating a variety of types of activities - reflection, movement, dialogue, visuals and more.

What topics are relevant for your team? What are the things you can do to bring conversations and exercises that are different? How will you help the employee remember your work after attending their tenth meeting of the week?

6. Take it out of the office

Part of the coaching process is about taking people outside of their comfort zone and seeing things in new light.

A change of scenery can create the space for new insights and more open and honest conversations. Taking things out of the office also creates a dedicated focus time for the team to have the conversations they need without the distractions of email, meeting and other interruptions.

It's important to note that while the pace of work has increased, the speed at which we build trust and connection may not have sped up as quickly.

How can you create a change of scenery for your team? What type of environment would your team benefit from - a more formal "corporate" team building session or perhaps nature and the outdoors?

7. Create an action plan

When designing your team coaching program, be sure to create links to organizational everyday life so that participants can solidify their learning. You can do this by building formal action planning time into the team coaching process, and asking managers to follow up during regular staff meetings.

Clarity around next steps, and getting granular around "who is going to do what, by when" is at the heart of action planning - and smoothly running teams.

How can you support the team in their individual and team action planning processes? In addition to creating the plan, what will the team do to revisit the plan on a regular basis, adjust and take continued action around it?

8. Spend time learning what your members need

Pre-conversations are critical in both building trust - and ensuring the team-coaching experience is valued. All too often, team-building efforts don't match the actual needs of the team; so make sure you spend time before you start, finding out what team members really need and want.

From pre-calls and surveys, to having the team create the roadmap you follow, your conversations need to be shaped in partnership with the team.

What are the team's top priorities for team-building? What are you doing to co-design the team coaching engagement with your clients?

9. Keep it regular

A common phrase you will hear bandied around is "team development is a process". Trust is built over time and teams excel when they focus on their results and relationships on an ongoing basis.

What will you do to create ongoing space for teams to have the conversations and focus they need? How will you make - and keep - these conversations regular?

10. Have fun!

When we have fun we may be more likely to focus on and invest in what's important.  So finally, what's going to make the team coaching experience fun and memorable?

Wrap-up

These tips are intended to give you some new ideas on how to accelerate your team coaching initiatives. Consider how you can to integrate some of these ideas into your next team building initiative, whether it's a retreat, team coaching or a workshop.

Upcoming Training from Jennifer:

And, if you work with remote professionals, consider joining Jennifer for the 24 CCE PlanDoTrack Facilitator Training, which takes a deeper dive into the tools in this book so you can lead it with your own clients. Learn more and reserve your spot here.

Contributing author: Jennifer Britton is the author of five books including the Coaching Business Builder Workbook and Planner (2018), Effective Group Coaching and From One To Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching. Jennifer provides a wide range of supports for coaches, and other professionals who are working with teams and groups. From 1-1 coaching around signature programs, to the Conversation Sparker Deck, to the 40 Ways to Work with Visual Cards, she's committed to helping coaches create engaging and impactful work with the teams and groups they support, while creating a thriving business. One of the programs which incorporates the best of these tips is the PlanDoTrack Facilitator Training (24 CCEs). Visit her online at Group Coaching Essentials.

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Image of Team sat around a table by Flamingo Images via Shutterstock

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