Team Coaching: What Do You Look At When You’re Team Coaching?
My name is Sari van Poelje. I’m the Director of Intact Academy and of Team Agility, or as I call it Agile Business Innovation. In both, I’m focused on change and how to facilitate change. In Intact Academy, I teach coaches and consultants to do that for other people. Those programs go from beginner coach, to executive coach, to team coach, to supervisor. It’s one of the passions in my life to teach people to support and challenge others in systems.
Within Agile Business Innovation, I help businesses innovate more quickly than their products, so that they can get to market on time. Usually, I find organizations that have great ideas but lousy adaptation of their organization to modern times. I help them renew their leadership, renew their cooperation, find a new relationship with clients, so that they can accelerate their time to market.
One of the integral parts of both businesses is actually team coaching. In the Intact Academy, I teach team coaching. For the business agility, I do team coaching because a lot of the work is focused on the leadership team becoming a real team and working together.
We’ve talked about what team coaching is, and that you need a triple or quadruple focus for that. Now, I want to talk a little bit about; What do you look at when you’re team coaching?
When I’m looking at teams and team coaching, I look at the team as a whole. I listen to people, not only as people, but also as what’s going on in the group or the team. I listen at three different levels. The first level I listen at is; What are they telling me about the way they’re structured? Are the roles clear? Is the hierarchy clear? Are the decision making processes clear? Sometimes I have organizations that don’t understand who’s in and who’s out of the leadership. I had a client once who said, “We want team coaching for the management team.”. I looked at the list, and I said, “Your secretary is on the list.”. He replied, “Yes, my secretary replaces me when I’m on vacation, so she should be in the leadership team coaching!”. So, sometimes my first conversation is about, is there clarity about who’s in the role of leadership and who’s in the role of membership?
A second level that I look at when I’m team coaching is the relationships. At the individual level in transactional analysis, we talk about games or symbiosis. At the team level, we’re talking about dynamics. Is there intrigue? Do people gossip about each other? Are there fights in between people in the team? Is there a lot of agitation? Agitation is when people accept or don’t accept a leader, so they try to create informal leadership, or push the leader out, or the leader is agitating and doesn’t take the role. I look at how much pressure there is on the team. Actually, the more agitation, intrigue and pressure, the more you should focus on how to create a cooperative, cohesive team
If a team thinks, “we’ll stay together no matter what, if we have COVID, if people are fighting, the important thing for us is that the team stays together”, then the prognosis for team coaching is quite good. Often though, I have to work at the relational level to increase the cohesion.
The third level I look at in a team is the unconscious patterns in the team. There I explore the imago, or how people see the team. People have an ideal team in their heads or their hearts that comes from the past, or from experience, or from their hopes and dreams. Then there’s the real team. Sometimes the difference between the real team and the dream team is such that it creates a lot of friction. I had a leader once who told me that he wanted a dream team. I said; “How do you picture that?”. He replied, “I want the family that I never had.”. Obviously, it’s a very honorable thing for him to want and to explore in individual coaching, but the members aren’t there to be a family, the members are there to work. They’ve not bought into that. This friction between the imago and the reality, and that often gives tension in teams.
What I look at is, the structure of a team, is it healthy? I look at the dynamics, is there enough cohesion to deal with the dynamics? I also look at what’s going on in that unconscious level where imago and reality collide.
If you look at your own team; What is going on in the structure? What do you see in those roles? Is there clarity? What’s going on in the dynamics? Do you feel cohesive? Do you want that team to survive? Does everyone feel that way? What’s happening at the psychodynamic level? If you would compare your dream team with the reality of the team, is there friction? What does that mean for the way you act in that team?
I leave you with those questions, and I’ll come back later.