Janet M. Harvey, CEO inviteCHANGE

ICF Master Certified Coach

Accredited Coaching Supervisor, Coaching Supervision Academy

Certified Mentor Coach, inviteCHANGE & ICF

Team coaching is potent process through which teams remember, restore and sustain their collective wisdom and strengths to deliver on the shared team purpose. Teams and the organisations they contribute to are all too often seduced by the task of things and our well-worn habits to react to daily requests and forget to focus on the day to day experience of teaming. Teaming allows everyone to share the burden, seek and gain understanding for the work they are authored to produce and enthusiastically accept responsibility for and of being together. Teaming agreements are an essential component of a team’s success. By missing this vital consideration teams often fall into politics and drama and get stuck.

The burden of stretch goals and accelerated timelines causes team members to lose sight of the brilliance of their team colleagues. We must see our team members as more than the moment we are in. When we ask instead, how is the climate that has been created contributing to the inability for a team member to show up, we are attending to both the emotional and belonging needs for the individual. This is an important leader role and, in the case of an autonomous team, is a role for each team member to embody. Sadly, this is rarely explored let alone adopted in most workplace teams. Creating the climate for people to shine is every leader’s job. Since every person is at least a leader of self, then it is every team member’s job to nourish the soil of the team to produce healthy, vibrant results.

When engaged as a team coach, one of the most important elements to discover is what is in the “collective field” of a team, perhaps keeping its team members from full authorship for the process and the outcomes produced. Team members are rarely asked or get to declare how they wish to contribute and what their value is to the team’s endeavour. Being voluntold is so common, members often arrive to a new initiative with a certain sceptic perspective and emotional insecurity. It is palpable when you enter a team or group of people. Anxiety is high. It is very important for us as team coaches not to solidify this protection and amp anxiety by the creation of “ground rules” but rather we need to work to create teaming agreements.

Given that attention given to the relationships and ways of interacting to create emotional health and sense of belonging are often short-changed, it is important to find a comfortable way to begin. We use a process at InviteChange when working with teams called Team Sovereignty. The framework is a set of four seemingly simple questions:

1. What brought you here?

2. What is the team expected to deliver?

3. What agreements are necessary for you to accept responsibility?

4. How would you like to approach delivering the expectation while honouring the agreements made between us?

Notice that the agreements for teaming is the third and not the first question. It is important that each team member experience being seen and heard for their role and wanted contribution. That this is a shared dialogue in the team setting accelerates building credibility with each other and sets up a discussion about shared purpose and how each person most matters in the fulfilment of the purpose. These two questions provide the fertilizer for the soil to bind well with the seeds of that will become the crop to harvest at the end.

The soil itself is then the teaming agreements, the specific behaviors that each team member chooses to adopt, encourage in each other, notice when absent and invite in and, adapt with additional behaviors when flow in the team is disrupted. Keep in mind that this is a skill and a mindset change for most people because focusing on the way of relating has had a backseat view to the front seat view of task and information. Patience is important and allowing time for full exploration will be the reason a team is able to accelerate quickly as circumstances change and course correction is needed. Team agreements are the basis for meaning and that is what strengthens resilience, the ability to cope with circumstances outside of the team’s control. One final note here; teaming agreements are dynamic and in the collective field inside and outside of live meeting time together. The behaviors are the social norms that define the climate for the team, nourish the bond and sustain trust.

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