Work together on the decisions most important to the business
To be truly high performing, team members need to work together successfully to coordinate highly interdependent work and focus on the small number of decisions most consequential to the business. Often teams end up being a collection of individuals with individual accountability who meet with a leader to discuss and agree upon the extent to which their contributions are delivering on the organization’s goals. Such teams are not really teams at all and are certainly not high-performing ones.
High-performing teams don’t happen by accident
Getting to high performance requires identifying how the team needs to work in practice so it can put into place the right processes, governance, structures, behaviors, education, and communication to ensure successful goal setting and delivery. MIT’s Peter Senge comments powerfully on this: “It is amazing how often you come across teams with an average intelligence of over 120, but the team functions at a collective intelligence of about 60.”
Team coaching needs to focus on the “real work” of the team
The real work of the team includes its outputs, deliverables, outcomes, and contribution to the wider organization it belongs to. Effort spent on individual development, interpersonal connections, and the team dynamic is all in the service of this real work. Success requires enhancing both the performance and the health of the team.
External team coaches are often critical for developing team performance
Mutual accountability and joint performance is difficult for a team on its own to achieve. Therefore, teams often benefit from working with someone outside the team to facilitate their development. There is always the potential for conflict between team and functional business goals, for example — not to mention to the personal agendas of team members. Over time, the coach transfers the role of team coach to its leader.
There are no quick fixes
Only a programmatic approach delivered through a range of thoughtful interventions helps to achieve a real shift in team performance. Moreover, team coaching needs to avoid being “event driven,” for instance lurching from one offsite event to another. Instead it must be an ongoing journey with a mixture of interventions designed to maximize the performance of the team over a sustained period — typically six to nine months.