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How Does Team Coaching Deliver Business Results?


February 15th, 2017

- Updated on

March 21, 2018 - 4:23pm
Let’s say that you are a leader of your firm’s new strategic initiative. You have worked hard to obtain buy-in from stakeholders for the new direction; you’ve put your tactical plans in place; and you’ve held an offsite with the project team to inform them of their roles in the new way forward. Three months later, do you see the operational changes that you anticipated? Are the business results what you expected? Are those new team roles working out? If not, why not, and what now?
team coaching for business results

“Fostering team development and productivity”

One third of the attendees at the Conference Board’s 12th Annual Executive Coaching Conference ranked team coaching as a top application of coaching in their organizations. This trend grew in 2016. Interactive charts included in the report from the 13th Annual Executive Coaching Conference in 2016 indicate that 25% of small firms (> 1000 FTEs) and 25% of mid to large firms (1000 – 10,000 FTEs) were planning to use team coaching to increase resilience and agility in their organizations within 24 months. And it’s no wonder.
Research has shown that high performing teams exhibit more energy, more creativity, and deliver better outcomes than their poorer performing counterparts. These characteristics are critical in organizations facing challenging global pressures and increased competition. Yet, few teams perform to their full potential. The good news is that management science and newly developed team coaching techniques can help firms achieve their business results. 

“…team-bonding and team-building exercises do not deliver sustainable and lasting improvement to team performance, but a sustained team coaching approach, whether delivered from within the team by the team leader or by an external coach, can create sustained performance improvement.”
Hawkins, P. (2014).

Research Provides a Roadmap to Success Factors in Building High-Performing Teams

  • Alex “Sandy” Pentland, director of MIT’s Human Dynamics Laboratory and colleagues have documented observable, quantifiable and measurable factors of teamwork that provide keys to creating and fostering high performing teams from decades of work with more than 20 companies.  
  • The foundational research by Richard Hackman, Harvard-based organizational development research, who developed the Five Factor Model for Team Success that defines conditions critical to team structure and design.  
  • Internal Google studies on team success published by Google People Operations in November, 2015. See this post where we previously highlighted: Team Success: Is There a Tech-Driven Algorithm to Minimize Team Conflict?
  • The Conference Board’s Team Coaching keynote at the 12th Annual Executive Coaching Conference.
Factors critical to team successIn each case, research has shown that critical to team success is how team members:
  • Communicate with each other
  • Engage others both inside and outside the team
  • Understand the purpose and structure of the team
At the heart of this research - the concept of Psychological Safety, a measurable interpersonal factor akin to the essential but difficult to measure factor, Team Trust.
The following infographic shows the parallels between each of the cited research on factors critical to high-performing team success. Use this chart as a starting point in diagnosing what factors are present in your team(s) and where there is a need for development.
 5 Factor Model for Team Success – Hackman Dynamics of High Performing Teams – MIT Human Dynamics Laboratory Google People Operations – Key Dynamics of Successful Teams 12th Annual Executive Coaching Conference KeyNotes – Conference Board
Teams must be real – Shared task, stable membership Communication patterns are egalitarian – Everyone on the team talks and listens in equal measure, keeping communications short Team members need psychological safety – Can take risks without feeling insecure – trust each other Teams consist of a small, stable number of people with complementary skills – They are committed to a common purpose
Teams must have a compelling direction – clear goals, expected outcomes Members show energy – They face one another and conversations and gestures are energetic Team members are dependable  They can count on each other to produce high quality work on time Team members are interdependent – They rely on each other
Teams need enabling structures – appropriately designed tasks, agreed upon norms Members show engagement and connect directly – Communication is not filtered through the leader Teams have structure and clarity – Teams have structural clarity, and clear goals, roles and plans Team members hold themselves mutually accountable – They work together to get things done
Teams need a supportive organizational context – access to appropriate information, team member development and rewards Members are open – They carry on back channel and side conversations within the team Teams understand the work and its importance – The team is accomplishing something that is personally resonant Teams require attention to interpersonal dynamics, trust, confidentiality and inclusion of individual and collective voice – all elements of psychological safety
Teams need expert coaching – especially on group/team process, at formation, midpoint, and end of team projects Members explore outside the team – They seek resources and information wherever they are Teams believe the work has impact – Members believe that the work fundamentally matters Team coaches can enhance team performance – They should look at the team from 4 lenses, Tasks and Functions, Dynamics and Processes, Stages of Development, and Systems and the “ecosystem”
In our next post - The Business Case for Team Development & Team Coaching, we share experiences and insights from two of AJO's experts in Team Development and Coaching. 

References and Resources

Kathy Flora is a Career and Executive Coach and AJO Blogger who is actively pursuing her life’s passion, helping others find and fulfill theirs. Known as a positive change agent, mentor and guide, she has assisted hundreds of leaders and their teams understand their strengths, collaborate effectively, and drive organizational success. She has a special affinity for working with virtual teams, using webinars, virtual meet-ups, and online collaborative communities to optimize communication and productivity. Her experience spans over 25 years in executive management and leadership, career development, facilitation, and consulting in private firms, state government, and in federal agencies.