How to Support Group and Team Coaching Clients in Enhancing Strengths | By Jennifer Britton

people-business-people-pfSupporting our clients in enhancing their strengths is key, whether working to support individual coaching, group coaching or team coaching clients.

Today, many coaching modalities and methodologies are grounded in a strengths-based approach. While not overlooking weaknesses or areas of development, strengths are often the initial focus or leverage point for the work we undertake with clients. This article explores several different ways team and group coaches can support their clients in exploring and enhancing strengths.

What's Different When Working with Teams and Groups?

In working with groups or teams around strengths, it's important to recognize that while there are many similarities to working with individual coaching clients, there are a couple of things to be aware of. In group or team coaching specifically:

  1. It's not just about knowing individual's strengths: Help members understand where their strengths overlap and complement others' strengths in the team or group.
  2. Explore the global view: Help group and team members understand the overall or global snapshot of the team strengths at a moment in time. When all team members' strengths are plotted together, it provides an opportunity to explore:
  • Where the team may be very strong
  • Where the team may be lacking
  • Where there may be gaps – large and small
  • Opportunities for development and inclusion in their partnering and/or work with others

2 Great Approaches to Identifying Strengths:

There are a variety of ways we can work with teams and groups to identify strengths including:

1) The VIA Strengths profile: The VIA survey provides participants with an opportunity to learn more about their own unique character strengths. In addition to individual strengths, there is an option to review strengths in a team (minimum 3 team members).

2) StrengthsFinder 2.0: Many coaches use the StrengthsFinder 2.0 series of resources. This includes the StrengthsFinder 2.0 book and the resources available at the Gallup Strengths Center. Similar to the VIA strengths profile, the StrengthsFinder 2.0 profile can provide group or team participants with insights around their unique strengths.

Working With Individual Strengths Within the Team or Group:

Providing group and team members with the opportunity to individually complete their own online survey prior to a coaching session or offsite retreat allows people to bring their results with them. Build in time for the team or group members to share their strengths in one of your coaching conversations, having them note things such as:

  • What strengths are common?
  • How are strengths being leveraged in their work?
  • Which strength/s might they be leveraging too much?
  • What needs attention?

Reserving time for discussion and dialogue in sharing and seeing collective strengths, gaps and leverage points can be important in the group and team coaching process. One or more conversation touchpoints may be geared to this.

Helping Teams And Groups Further Develop Strengths:

Step 1) Creating Awareness

Awareness is often the first step in any development process. Helping team members understand what their individual strengths are, and how they can be magnified in their current work is a valuable focus area.

It's also important to understand how strengths when overused, can become a liability. For example, someone with great task execution skills may get a lot done by themselves, but there may be issues when that person is put in a role which requires collaboration, relationship building and networking eg. driving too hard for results and upsetting the team balance, or failing to include others in the design or implementation.

Step 2) Action Planning

Taking action to build strengths is a key part of the coaching process and these discussions should focus on asking the team or group to identify their own strategies for growing and developing strengths. In a group or team context:

Individuals may grow their strengths through:

  • Further development opportunities on the job. There may be a number of on the job development opportunities including job shadowing and/or job rotation or mentoring

The Group or Team may strengthen through:

  • Creating an environment open to constructive and positive feedback. Feedback is lacking in many organizations today. Teams can benefit from developing a culture of both constructive and positive feedback. Without a feedback loop team members are often unaware of how their strengths are being seen and experienced by others. This means we want to:
    • Catch people "Doing things right" so they know how their contributions and strengths are valuable.
    • Provide feedback on how strengths, when overused, can have a negative impact (as in the task execution example).
  • Looking at what new team members could bring to the team. In many instances it can take longer and be more challenging to develop a set of skills on an existing team than to add new members who might bring those skills. So, rather than trying to develop skills in everyone, it may be better to bring new team members on board to complement and challenge others.
    • The benefit of adding team members, when feasible, is that it also supports the growth of new perspectives, approaches and ways of working.
    • It's an extremely important part of the team development process to provide new team members with the opportunity to get to know existing team members and how their skills interface, overlap and even conflict.

Wrap-up

In today's business context many teams do not have such long lifespans as they had in the past. The ongoing nature of changes to team formation can create opportunities for more intentional team pairing.

Finally in many teams, complimentary strengths is key. Great teams are often well rounded as a collective. When people on a team are too similar they may create their own collective biases. Team leaders play a key role in ensuring that the "right people are on the bus" (as Jim Collins would say) for the tasks at hand.

As you think about your upcoming group or team coaching work:

  • Where are there opportunities for you to explore individual and team strengths as part of your coaching work?
  • How can you incorporate some of these strengths-based approaches?

 

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Contributing author: Jennifer Britton, MES, PCC, CPCC is the author of From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching (Jossey-Bass, 2013) and Effective Group Coaching (Wiley, 2009). As a thought leader in the areas of group and team coaching, Jenn has impacted thousands of coaches through her writing and ICF approved coach training programs – The Group Coaching Essentials teleseminar and Advanced Group and Team Coaching Practicum. Join her throughout 2016 at the Learning Lab and Design Studio – for a month, a quarter, six or twelve months of group learning and individual support plus a rich online resource portal for all your group and team programming (workshops, retreats, webinars, video based programming, group and team coaching).

 

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