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The Business Case for Team Development & Team Coaching


March 6th, 2017

- Updated on

March 8, 2017 - 8:08am

“Without knowing what the key drivers or essential and enabling elements for team successes are, or how and when to apply them, business leaders will continue to make costly mistakes in terms of time, money, effort and the achievement of organizational goals and outcomes.”  WABC Whitepaper Nov 2016

High–achieving teams reduce costs more quickly, go to market more effectively and launch products more smoothly. In the case of small to mid-size organizations, who are even more dependent on the quality of their teams, having the right, strong performing team in place is the real key to business growth. It comes as no surprise that 42% of organizations surveyed with fewer than 1000 FTEs indicated they currently use team coaching (intact teams) today (Conference Board’s 2016 Global Executive Coaching Survey).
High performing team benefits
Bill Accordino, A.J. O’Connor’s VP, Executive Coaching & Leadership Development, and AJO's Team Coach, Leanne Leonard, recently shared their insights into AJO’s Team Development philosophy and approach.  

What is Team Coaching?

Bill: Team Coaching is an outcome of assessing the team and its environment. It is focusing on an intact team and supporting that team's strategic execution in a very hands-on way. It’s not just an off-site meeting - it’s about the team’s purpose, its size and structure, the capabilities of the individual members and the team as a whole and it’s HUGELY about the team’s leader and his/her team’s behavior. Is the team working productively together? In our work with teams, our goal is to build trust as people recognize their interdependencies.
Team development, of which team coaching is a typical intervention, is most effective when the gap is largest between what the team needs to do flawlessly to execute its strategy and the level of current output. This is where team development and coaching can have the largest benefit.
Leanne: Let’s start with the differences between a group and a team. A group is a collection of individuals who coordinate their individual efforts. Having been a college adjunct professor, I think about how we give students group projects and the way they often divvy up the assignment and each do their own thing and then someone puts it together. That’s a group. They come together for a task, do their own individual thing and then typically dissipate.
A team is generally linked more tightly through interdependencies - a collective group of people working together with a common purpose and goal. There is much more mutual commitment which drives joint accountability, creating stronger bonds and motivation to perform. Team Coaching guides intact teams to higher and sustained levels of performance.

AJO 4Ps Model - Partner, Plan, Perform & ProgressDo you have a specific defined process that you use to develop teams?  

Bill: Yes, at AJO we use a 4-phase team-coaching process: Partner, Plan, and Perform to Progress.
In the Partner stage, we start by working with team leaders to determine that Team Development and Team Coaching is the right approach. We ask things like: “What are your biggest business challenges? What keeps you up at night? Tell me about your team. Do you have a good fit in all your positions?” 
Once the answers to these types of questions are on the table, the Team Development goals, outcomes and intervention can be assessed. It’s powerful when we pose the question to the leader, “What would happen to your own success if you did not resolve those issues?” We work with the client to select and assign the best-fit team coach to address that particular industry and the team’s specific challenges.

What role do assessments play and how do they help the team?

The second phase of our process, Plan, involves assessing where teams are working best together. It may include a team session to review assessment results and identify challenges, an evaluation of the current and future state coupled with development of strategic action items, and designing a compelling team scorecard with leading and lagging indicators to show progress toward goals.
Leanne: We engage the team in the process. We may use one-on-one interviews with team members to understand what is going well and what could be even better. We share this information with the team and facilitate the plan to address the feedback and keep it on track to reach its goals. Assessments are extremely helpful in this process. We have used the DiSC and Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to help team members understand themselves and their personal styles which they share with the broader team. The Thomas Kilmann Conflict Mode Indicator (TKI) is a very useful assessment that measures conflict management styles.
Exposing personal preferences and styles of behavior is helpful to understanding commonalities and differences on the team. When you take the time to learn about others and what motivates them, it’s easier to work together.
Bill: We also use The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ based on Patrick Lencioni’s work and the DiSC personality styles assessment. This becomes the foundation of the assessment review session where we identify challenges to team cohesiveness and issues of trust that may exist so we can devise strategies to overcome them. We use this information to increase interdependencies and to break down defense mechanisms that get in the way of performance.
An intact team working on team development

Do you use different models for supporting a team’s development?

Bill: The Perform phase of our process includes implementing targeted interventions to achieve the team’s development. For example, the coach shadowing and facilitating team meetings and work sessions, simulations, or observations and feedback. At first, the coach may be more involved and do more consulting or directing, but as time goes by, the team leader takes more of that role, and the coach gets more involved in observation and pointing out ways to more effectively change behavior in real time for better results. I often use the 4DX Four Disciplines of Execution Model. Most teams struggle with execution, so we guide the team through these steps and hold them accountable for executing on their goals.
Leanne: The key here is to understand what the goals/objectives are for the team. The GRPI model is a great tool that focuses on goals, role and responsibilities, process and interpersonal relationships. GRPI is very clear and most teams need support in those key areas. During this phase, we may be facilitating ‘best-practice’ sessions on leadership, building accountability, re-evaluating goals, roles, norms; helping the team develop more camaraderie; driving culture change; enhancing meeting dynamics, designing processes, or improving trust so they work better together. During meetings, I am an active coach, using a technique of stop and redirect to encourage behavior change in real time. I ensure that I offer regular reporting to role model accountability, holding the team accountable for declared goals and tasks. I offer feedback and role model how to give and accept feedback, essential skills in any team.

What about outcomes? Can you share any examples of successful team development results?

Bill: The 4th Phase, Progress, is about measuring the impact on team performance and the shift in the “softer” factors so critical to team success. It often includes a closing meeting with team and leaders to share assessed outcomes and review next steps.  
Leanne: The timeframe for an engagement varies. It can be a single workshop to a full year. It depends on the size of the team and its objectives, whether it’s creating awareness; improving how the team is functioning; to hitting key strategic goals. I often work with a team ½ day per month, focusing on the key business drivers that they want to achieve. Below is an example of pre and post metrics for a recent AJO leadership team engagement, where ratings scales of 1 to 5 captured the team's assessment of its performance before, during and after team development. Also, see the results of the "Transformation of a Leadership Team."
The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team™ Pre Team Coaching Post Team Coaching
(7 Months)
Post Team Coaching
(15 Months)
Results 2.99 3.58 3.68 +.69
Accountability 2.60 3.23 3.24 +.63
Commitment 3.40 3.61 3.95 +.55
Conflict 3.19 3.67 3.78 +.59
Trust 2.83 3.56 3.69 +.86

What would you recommend to a team leader who is considering team coaching?

Leanne: The key is to start with a discussion with the leader. What are they trying to accomplish and why are they considering a team intervention? It may be because they are a new team/new leader or want to improve the group dynamics, foster a more collaborative work/team environment or put more structure, process and accountability on the team. Contracting with the leader is key. He/she must be fully committed to engagement, open to feedback and willing to work closely with the coach to be successful. That means the leader must be willing to commit to the time it takes to do this.
An effective coach is assertive, but tactful. He/she must be astute relative to group dynamics and able to engender the team’s trust relatively quickly. The coach also must work closely with HR partners who have a vested interest in the process. The coach’s job is to help influence the process, and to help the leader and the other business partners achieve the outcomes they desire. To this end, the team coach is a force-multiplier.
Bill: Many organizations don’t ask for a team intervention because they’re not aware this type of development exists. It can be humbling, even threatening, to ask for a team coach. “If I’m a good leader, why is my team not working?” The bottom line is that a team coach can help a leader drive the change that is needed to create a high performing team.
Want Great Team Results? Ask us for more information on AJO’s Team Development for a proven approach to achieving sustained performance improvement ......... and how small to mid-size businesses in particular can benefit from team coaching.

Recommended Reading

Bill Accordino, AJO's VP, Team & Leadership Development
Leanne Leonard, Senior Consultant & Executive Coach at AJOBill Accordino, AJO’s VP, Team & Leadership Development and Leanne Leonard, Senior Consultant & Executive Coach at AJO