Teaming has many benefits to an organization. When an organization considers implementing or expanding their team strategy they are seeking to create a highly productive culture, attract new talent and/or improve efficiencies through structured processes.
Teaming as an effective strategy requires a vision and a plan of action and the ability to make adjustments along the way to the strategy when the landscape changes. However, most organizations have great intentions when setting goals. Most strategies do not fail for lack of planning or vision but due to a lack of proper execution. Knowing this in advance creates an opportunity to create the proper fertile environment to execute a successful teaming plan. The key player to the execution of the plan is the coach. The coach becomes the glue that keeps the team together and executes on implementing the strategy and keeping the plan and the players on course. In building teams we refer to the team members as players since the process of working together in a team environment has many correlations to teams in sports.
The role of the coach is to define the vision, develop the team roster, and provide guidance throughout the teaming process on the steps needed to create and properly execute the goals. In your organization, the coach could be your sales manager or your COO or it could be a professional coach that you bring on board to assist your company. What’s important here is that you designate one person to this critical role.
But what makes a great coach? Assigning this role should not be taken lightly. A coach has certain skills that are unique and can be developed or taught to someone wishing to work in this capacity. An important distinction is that the coach is a leader, a leader is not always a coach. The team coach needs to possess certain skills. The coach forms an important bond with the individuals on the team. In business, as in sports, a bond is built with the coach that helps each person elevate their game and execute on their individual potential. Coaches play on the strength of the individuals and their unique abilities and helps them strive for their full potential. The coach builds relationships with each teammate.
“In sports as in life, a coach plays a significant role in bringing out the best in his or her talented players. Without a great coach, the best players would not reach greatness. Michael Jordan would have certainly been considered among the greatest to play basketball based on his skills alone. But would he have been considered the greatest of all time, as he is today, without the support of his legendary coach, Phil Jackson? That might be up for debate, but we would venture to say no. Jackson knew how to extract the very best of Jordan, day in and day out, and especially in the most critical game situations.” — The Team Game
Some of the skills coaches need to develop are the ability to be a great listener, to hold people accountable, to empathize.
Effective communication is a skill that can and should be developed by all coaches that strive for greatness. Being an effective communicator is not as much about what you say but how you say it. Coaches need to be aware of their communication style and the style of those they are communicating with. There are many assessments available to help uncover communication styles but once the coach understands their style then it becomes how to effectively communicate with the different styles.
In addition, a coach needs to be empathetic in their delivery and ability to communicate. Part of communication is the importance of being an active listener. Being attentive and taking notes to better connect and build trust with the team. The coach that engages in thought provoking questions and goes deeper with each question is more effective at uncovering concerns within the teaming process and with the players. Uncovering issues and then working with the team to correct them helps the team through bottlenecks and owning the shift in strategy.
Proper feedback is critical
The coach can have a strong influence on productivity by actively working with the team to find efficiencies to improve overall processes and productivity. This occurs through the first two skills. In addition, the coach’s process for providing feedback is a critical part to the success of the team and its members. Proper feedback is an artform. It needs to be to the point, but constructive. As an example: “Mary, your presentation to the client followed all the right steps and you raised some great points but when it came to answering the client’s concerns you seemed uncomfortable, tell me more about that?”
In feedback coaching you want to point out your observations and not jump to a solution or your opinion right away. Giving an opportunity to the team player to respond helps the coach better understand what was truly happening at that moment, and going deeper will help uncover the best approach to improve performance. Such responses from the coach as “That’s interesting tell me more, or why do you think you reacted that way?; how can I help you overcome that fear?” will go deeper into uncovering a solution.
Developing the skill of accountability is also a critical part of being a great coach. We all need to be held accountable to some degree. It is with that accountability that pushes us to do things that we otherwise wouldn’t or consider being able to. A great coach holds their people accountable, but doesn’t impose their own accountability metrics, instead works with the team to reach the accountability metrics together. This process allows for a buy-in from the members as to what they are being measured on
Overall, the role of a coach is critical to the successful execution of any strategy, but in particular to teaming since there are many dynamics at play, including the execution of a vision and a plan that is reliant on different people working together and collaborating, the coach is the conduit to a successful plan.