Coaching for Team Collaboration – Part 4

Coaching for Team Collaboration – Part 4

This is the fourth in a series of five posts to describe how managers can coach people to practice genuine collaboration in the workplace.  These posts represent excerpts from the Association for Talent Development’s new book, Focus On Them, scheduled for publication in December 2018 by ATD Press. Winsor Jenkins is a contributing author of the book.

In my first post, we established a roadmap described as a Team Mini-Charter for Developing a Culture of Collaboration.  In the second and third posts, Collaboration’s Operating Principles, and Collaboration’s Competencies were introduced, respectively.  Combined with Theory Y Assumptions, they represent Collaboration’s Operating Platform for leading with mindset to produce outstanding team results.

In this post, we explore why coaching is beneficial to help develop team norms.  Because norms are established by teams and are used as ground rules for creating habits, your coaching should be centered on ensuring that your team’s norms serve to improve team effectiveness.





Meaningful team norms typically address how the team makes decisions, how team goals are managed, and how the team promotes shared responsibility and accountability.  Team decision making deals with building consensus and managing conflict.  Goal setting addresses the need to manage shared agendas.  Gaining commitments across the team deals with modeling what you expect from others.  These applications call for you to demonstrate inclusion in your actions as team coach.  Without inclusiveness, there is not an opportunity to tap into the talent on your team.

Since decision-making is such a critical team norm, let’s review a few key thoughts.  First, you know that the team’s decision-making process will evoke a few emotions at times, prompting the need to manage conflict in a productive way.  That’s not always bad news so long as the team’s norm for managing conflict has been establish, and conflict is treated as healthy where people on the team feel free to actively engage differences of opinion, for example.  Second, most new managers are not well equipped to manage conflict.  I treat it as a specialize skill that calls for your commitment to develop conflict management skills as quickly as possible, so jump in and get some training!

Talking about team conflict is a perfect segue to remind you that psychological safety is the key team norm to develop and manage to maintain a culture of collaboration.   This means, for example, that your coaching must be proactive, and people will need to see your coaching presence to ensure safety and high performance.

It’s also important to recognize that collaboration’s Operating Platform has three essential conditions embedded into this framework to support psychological safety leading to high performance, as described by Jacqueline Peters and Catherine Carr in their research: clear boundaries, a sense of meaning, urgency and impact – and team competence.  The first two conditions are addressed in collaboration’s Operating Principles and third condition is covered in collaboration’s Competencies.

They also describe three enabling conditions for supporting high performance in their research.  First, does the team have a team charter, used to describe roles and responsibilities?  Second, does the team work in an organization with a supportive infrastructure to provide adequate resources? And third, is team coaching establish as part of the organization’s platform to support the team’s efforts – including using competent team coaches?

Based on research provided by Google and others it’s clear that how trumps who when it comes to team performance.  That is, how people on the team work together is more important than who is on the team.   Again, psychological safety is created for people when they can feel free to express themselves and take risks without feeling insecure or embarrassed.

Finally, Google’s study also confirmed the importance of providing a common operating platform (and operating language) to help expedite and optimize team performance.

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Winsor Jenkins is a contributing author to the ATD book called Focus on Them.

This book explores ATD’s new management framework – the ACCEL model. Based on their research, ATD has identified five skills in the ACCEL model that all front-line managers need to master: Accountability, Communication, Collaboration, Engagement, and Listening (and Assessing). Each skill is addressed in a chapter written by a leader in management and talent development.