Tim Hewitt, an Aziz Team Coach talks about his current project.
What’s the project background?
The client I am working with is a large global consultancy. It’s a huge leadership team and they operate a flat structure. Highly respected in their field and successful, the firm recognised their work was project led and responsive to client requests rather than being strategic. Team coaching was ideal because although they had lots of ideas, they weren’t good at spotting their limitations.
Many of these coachees had already undergone individual coaching, they are all experts in their fields but lacked an understanding of how to implement corporate strategy. Whenever they met as a leadership team, they would get waylaid on client projects rather than use the time to discuss strategic goals and this meant they were missing opportunities.
What was the initial trigger?
The organisation’s HRD realised they were too involved in day to day, tactical consulting and not paying enough attention to strategy execution and the ‘bigger picture’. Once highlighted, leadership also acknowledged this problem. Too many important things were being left unsaid as they were unable to critically challenge each other.
Using Lencioni’s work as a frame of reference I identified that although people said they trusted one another, issues were not being surfaced due to a deep mutual respect for each other. This is typical of professional organisations, where high mutual respect can be a barrier to having challenging conversations. People make assumptions that other people know better, or they are more experienced in certain areas, which is wrong.
My aim was to help the group challenge each other to move forward as a unit. This was difficult to start off with, but they recognised that having tougher conversations with each other meant they could deliver in a more exceptional way to clients.
Why did they decide upon team coaching?
They realised that team coaching would help them sustain the faster pace at which they wanted to grow, which became imperative after realising they were missing out on commercial opportunities. Rather than continue with one to one coaching for individuals, they invested in strengthening team performance too.
How are they measuring effectiveness?
Metrics were established right from the outset, with behavioural indicators that could be observed during meetings. For instance, seeing people challenging one another and thinking more strategically, or holding each other to account. This is the first phase in the measurement before hard measures can be observed.
During the first sessions, we focused on trust, having challenging conversations and building connections with the team. In the next phase, we will examine decision making, commitment and accountability.
In addition, each of the team members selected 2 or 3 themes to focus on and participated in half day workshops to explore these. Part of the programme focused on how they ran these sessions, which became a metaphor for the way teams needed to work in future. The outputs were then presented to partners, to be adopted as the firm’s 3-year strategy.
How does it differ to other coaching you have done?
This project involved an unusually large group, all of whom were very egalitarian in their approaches, being experts in their own fields. A large focus was not just on the ‘how’ but the ‘what’ – there needed to be tangible outcomes generated from the first session.
Interestingly, we were exploring the working styles of individuals based on Jungian preferences and Myers Briggs. This highlighted that whilst there was good diversity in the team, only one person showed strong ‘feeling’ and ‘customer engagement’ tendencies. This explained why they focused on completing tasks, rather than building long term client relationships.
One of my exercises required people to line up according to their preferences, which made this very apparent. The firm had exceptional delivery people, but lacked exceptional people that can engage, challenge, question and work on long term relationships rather than task based projects. Now they have a plan to change this imbalance, by developing people or recruiting new personalities.
How important was it to take a systemic approach for this project?
This was essential because previously these individuals were doing good work, but not leveraging capabilities systemically across the organisation. For instance, they did not understand how, if they were working in South America, it was possible to add value to someone based in North America or Asia.
How is the team coaching going to add value for the firm?
Now they can see the value they as individuals bring to a collective whole and how this can be used to create commercial opportunities.
They can now work more closely across geographies and understand how to offer the global service that they were unable to deliver before. They have also identified gaps in their skills portfolio which they are actively recruiting to address.
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