Research has shown that highly performing teams are better at solving problems, they have an improved quality of decision making and they are more committed to tasks. Team members are more satisfied and motivated, they support creativity and innovation and they operate in an environment of trust. While these are a few benefits of highly performing teams, ineffective teams cannot achieve business goals and performance objectives.
Under that context, developing high performing teams should be a common goal for any organization. More specific for organizations that are moving to an “agile”environment, where emphasis is given on individuals, interactions and teamwork, teams at any level that high perform should be seen as an important pillar in getting the benefits of any agile transformation.
But how to coach a team to high performance? Why just only one in five teams is high performing? What is missing and many “agile” teams, despite the agile practices and methods being used are not able to high perform?
There is no doubt that high performing is the destination where teamwork is important and It is good to know your destination! But it is also important to know how to reach it, whether you are moving to the right direction and when you have reached your destination! Maybe this is common sense but in reality many of these steps are skipped or they stay unattended during a team’s cycle. As a consequence team coaching is not achieving the expected results or as research has shown is some cases it might do more harm than good!
High Performance Team Coaching (HPTC) system
In 2013 Dr. Jacqueline Peters and Dr. Catherine Carr published an excellent book on High Performance team coaching, where a comprehensive, modularized and an evidenced-based system, tested for more that 10 years is presented and could serve any coach to support and enable teams to high perform.
In HPTC system, a high performance team is one that meets or exceeds the goals set by the organization and/or those it has set for itself
Experimenting with that system, i thought it would be useful to share first a few more details around the way this system is organised, based on Dr. Peters and Dr. Carr article in ICF Coaching World magazine and their book, prior sharing my own insights and reflections!
In the core of this system is psychological safety! An environment where people feel safe enough to challenge, fail, learn and succeed together is really important since without this sense of “safety” it is difficult for any group of people to become a real and effective team. As a coach demonstrating, openness, transparency, certainty, asking for permission, making clarification e.t.c are behaviours that could create the basis of a “safety first” environment and could trigger team members to behave accordingly. Trust could be seen as the outcome of “safety first” environment as defined by Dr. Peters
“Trust develops over time and is an outcome of having ongoing experiences of feeling safe with others. Safety is easier to control than trust. Safety can be breached or bridged in the moment to moment interactions we have with others.”
In the peripheral of the HPTC system are the different phases of team’s cycle. While the most popular team stages are the forming, storming, norming, performing and adjourning as defined by the wok of Bruce Tuckman, in the HPTC system three main stages of team cycle are considered. These are team beginning, team midpoint and team ending as suggested by the work of Connie Gersick and have been found as the main stages in which a team could trigger significance changes.
team beginning – define & initiate
In “define and initiate” phase (new team, new team’s business cycle, new team’s project e.t.c) the main steps of team coaching includes, team assessment, coaching for team design and team launch. The HPTCH system put a lot of focus on this phase since based on the work of Richard Hackman, 60% of team effectiveness derives form the beginning of a new team cycle, 30% of team effectiveness is affected by the quality of team launch and only 10% of team effectiveness is impacted from ongoing coaching! The assessment phase (through a team effectiveness survey and even personal interviews) will collect data needed to determine if the team meets the six conditions that are important for team and coaching success, as suggested by the the work of Ruth Wageman.
a real team with clear membership and boundaries
a compelling purpose, direction that guides the team’s work
the right people that add value to the team and have the skills and knowledge to achieve team’s purpose
a solid team structure with clear roles, responsibilities, norms and agreements
a supportive organizational context that provides the needed information, time and resources to do their work
competent team coaching to help the team grow individually and as a unit (internal or external to the team)
The data collected will be used by the coach and the team to identify team’s strengths, weakness and gaps between their current and their wanted position. In the step of team design and structure is important to ensure that the six conditions are understood by the team and based on their data analysis, they are able to set their purpose and goals. It is also important to be clear that the team has the right people and as a team they have taken the right actions to achieve their purpose and goals! The last step, team launch, the team need to set their working agreements, their guiding values and review their purpose and goals towards their high performance direction! This is an important step since based on the research of R. Hackman it can affect 30% of team effectiveness!
team midpoint – review & realign
In this phase, during the midpoint of a current team’s project or business cycle, the main steps in HPTC system are individual and ongoing team coaching. It is the time where follow-up coaching session are taking place with the team aiming to reflect on progress and team’s agreements, gather feedback from stakeholders and plan the necessary actions needed to achieve team’s purpose and goals. Individual coaching will help also to challenge team members to contribute as effectively as possible towards their own direction.
team ending – reassess & integrate
This is the last phase of HPTC system and is really important since it the time for the team to reflect on their individual and team successes, failures and learnings. The review of their initial assessment will help the team towards that direction. This is a really important step since it gives the opportunity to the team to review their performance related to the three key main areas of team effectiveness as defined in HPTC system:
team capabilities and relationships
This closure phase is also important to help the team integrate their learnings and apply them in their new journey!
Researchers and practitioners argue that teamworking is really important for any organization and most important in cases where there is need to respond and adapt quickly to changing circumstances (agile environment?). Under that context, coaching teams for high performance that will be able to meet and exceed the goals set by the organisation and their own is really challenging! The High Performance Team Coaching is a comprehensive and modularized system that could help any coach to serve teams to high perform and as a result any organisation to get the benefits of high performance teams!