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Six Things I’ve learnt ….. by coaching teams

I’ve been lucky. I’ve worked with many great leaders – mostly in education settings. I’ve also worked in some great teams (and some not-so-great ones too).

Since I have worked with leadership teams as a coach, I have noticed some particular characteristics that seem to separate good teams from great ones ……… and have used these as the basis for our coaching together.

Great teams seem to have:

A Unified purpose – not only are they clear on their ’why’, they are ‘unified’ in how important it is to them as individuals and collectively. 

In the teams you are part of, how strong is your collective sense of purpose?

Aligned approach – they have worked out and agreed ways of working that help them be effective. Often this presents itself as a determined focus to support others in the team to succeed (rather than a self-orientation to succeed yourself ….only). This is closely aligned to ‘Mutual Accountability’.

How consistent are practices within your team? How focused is each member on exploring synergies with their area of responsibility and those of others?

Quality conversations – each member of the team broadly has the same amount of ‘air-time’. There are high levels of trust, and conversations are open and authentic. ‘Difficult’ conversations are framed as solutions-focused and necessary to address problems and improve outcomes.

How openly do members of your teams communicate? Are conversations framed more on individual priorities or collective ones?

Constructive disagreement – teams recognise there is real value in diversity, and this includes perspectives. Disagreement is seen as healthy and an opportunity to ‘stress test’ ideas and possible assumptions.

How does disagreement manifest itself in your teams? Is it a prelude to conflict? Is it polarising? Or is it seen as a useful catalyst for debate and deeper exploration of ideas?

Trusting relationships – there are many things that support teams to be high performing. One of the most significant ones is the dynamic between its members. Trust is foundational to this - a magnifier.

What makes your colleagues trustworthy? What makes you trustworthy? How can these characteristics be intentionally modelled and present in collective interactions?

Mutual Accountability – It seems that when members of a team are focused on enabling the success of others – everyone succeeds. In many organisations accountability is framed at the level of the individual. Successful teams have a collective mindset. Reference language is often collective (eg ‘we’, ‘us’) rather than individual (‘I’, ‘me’, ‘you’).

How do you frame accountability? How focused are you on the success of others in your team, and enabling this?

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