13 Crackers for Systemic Team Coaches
Professor Peter Hawkins offers us a guest article to share with you. He will be in Sydney in March 2019.
Several of the systemic team coaches I supervise and work with in America, said that one of the most powerful parts of the training they had done with me was the memorable one-liners that I ‘peppered’ throughout the training. They suggested I brought these together in a collection. Another member of the supervision group suggested I asked my supervisees to all send in ‘the one-liners they found most helpful’. From this I have developed the following. I hope you enjoy them and find them helpful. Imagine each as a message in a Christmas cracker, which for those of you not familiar with this tradition, is something that you pull open at the dinner table and inside is a small present, paper hat and a joke or motto.
1. The team does not create the purpose, the purpose creates the team.
The best research on effective teams, shows that the most important element is having a joint team purpose that everyone recognises and can only be achieved through the team collaborating effectively together. I used to work hard helping teams create their purpose, now I realise I have to help them discover their purpose – as the purpose is already out there in their business eco-system and in the future needs of their stakeholders, waiting for the team to respond.
2. Explore ‘future back’ and ‘outside in’
To discover the evolving team purpose, we need to explore with the team both what the future is going to require them to step up to and what their key stakeholders are requiring now and in the future.
3. Life sets the agenda
Traditionally coaching emphasises being on the client’s agenda. Systemic coaching proposes that we should be neither on the client’s or the coach’s agenda but focusing on what life is requiring both parties to work on together.
4. Never know better, never know first
Traditional coaching also talks about leaving our experience outside the door, but I argue the clients need all of us to be engaging with their issues, but we should never know better and never know first, but once we have enabled their creative thinking, we should bring our own thinking alongside, dialogically creating new thinking, neither they or we had previously thought.
5. Don’t tell, don’t ask: Frame the challenge, orchestrate the response
Both Leaders and coaches, often switch between a directive ‘telling’ style and an eliciting ‘asking’ style. Team Coaches whether they be leaders coaching their own team, or external team coaches, help frame the collective challenge and then orchestrate and enable the team to respond creatively and collaboratively.
6. Destination precedes design
Before you can design the orchestrating and enabling process, you need to know where you and the team need to arrive by the end of the journey. Without knowing the possible destination(s) you cannot chose what vehicles you will need to get there.
7. Start every session with purpose and outcome of this session.
Every coaching session needs to start with some contracting to discover the joint purpose of the meeting and to explore what we need to collectively achieve together by the end.
8. Quickly get the team on the stage with you as the animator in the wings, neither you or them in the audience
Team coaches can fall into the trap of creating a new hub and spoke configuration, with themselves on stage. A good Systemic Team Coach quickly gets the team actively engaged doing the work, but then stays alongside them supporting, challenging, nudging, enabling the best work possible. As part of this the coach needs to get the team to talk to each other directly and not via the coach.
9. Coach the connections (internally and externally) not the individuals in front of the team
Avoid coaching or commenting on individuals in front of the team, rather focus on the connection between team members and between the whole team and their stakeholders.
10. Locate the conflict or problem in a connection/relationship not in a person or part of the system
The first rule of conflict is to locate the issue in a connection not in a person or part of the system
11. No such thing as an impossible boss, difficult team member, un-coachable team, just a mode of engagement we have not yet found.
I often say this may not be true, but it is a great way to start every day, for it interrupts the ‘blame game’ where we and teams locate the problem in someone else or another part of the system. It encourages everyone to bring it back to what it is I and we can do?
12. Design and prepare for every session but when you start be unattached to your plans.
They say you can judge a good film by how much is left behind on the cutting room floor. Good team coaching is similar. The preparation is important for the coach to be able to hold in mind all the many levels of the system and possible ways of approaching the team’s challenges, but when the session starts one needs to be open to what emerges in the team and between you and the team.
13. Have fun, be creative and partner with ruthless compassion
Team coaching is at its best when the team and the coach are enjoying it, but also when both know they are stepping up to the challenges life is presenting, and they are creating value for others as well as themselves.
Peter Hawkins December 2018
Happy Christmas, Hanukah, Solstice, Dōngzhì Festival,Yuletide, Saturnalia, or December holidays.