Facing into the Storm Together – Team Coaching in Partnership

Is your leadership team running on empty? Are you facing into increasing waves of change? Do you need to reset, reconnect, and reenergise your leadership team to tackle the next wave? How can team coaching help?

Whether keeping-up with new opportunities or struggling to survive, leaders have been working flat-out in the last year. Many are feeling both energised by, and weary from accelerating business change. In teams, it has been hard to give each other time and space. Tensions that were glossed over in the virtual world, are now beginning to fray and chafe.

The demands on leadership teams are escalating, with bigger waves of change and uncertainty. Companies face increasing pressure to take a lead in society and in adapting to a sustainable economic system.

In a recent @APECS webinar, I worked with a wonderful group of experienced team coaches to consider how we might better partner with leadership teams. 3 themes emerged, which I build on here:

1 Leaders Caring for Themselves.

Leaders need to look to their own well-being and development. Resilience is different from endurance. It is about finding the times and places for self-recovery amongst the stretches of activity and includes:

physical well-being: finding your own exercise, moving your body between meetings, talking to people on the phone while walking, rather than doing everything via your desktop. Allowing for rest breaks in the day and weeks.

mental and emotional well being: create separation from work, for family, friends, and self. It is vital to focus on things outside of work that are engaging, fun and absorbing, which may be time with loved ones or maybe learning something new.

self-relating: being reflective and reflexive to deepen self-awareness and perspective, is vital. Noticing what is happening for you, what is energising, draining, and aggravating. Exploring why this may be. What are the assumptions you hold about yourself, others and the world that are serving you or not?

What might you need to let go of, to respond better to the changing world?

Coaches will help leaders with each of these, but the greatest scope to add value is the reflective/reflexive space. The inclination for most leaders is to drive themselves harder, do more, work longer hours. That is partly why so many now feel they are running on empty. It is not sustainable, and what is needed is to do things differently rather than do more. This means a change of gear or an upgrade in your personal operating system, so that you have a greater impact with what you do. To do this requires a deeper insight on yourself and your context, together with the courage to experiment, reflect and learn.

2 Leadership Teams Caring for Each Other and Those They Serve

Compassion was a key leadership contribution in the last year. This meant connecting with people’s humanity, understanding how their lives have been disrupted and sometimes, recognising their loss and grief. Not just in the business but across the ecosystem. For peers in a leadership team, taking time to build openness and trust, even when working virtually, is vital for resilience and performance. Going through tough times together can often strengthen a team but it can also cause friction. Either way the shared experience needs to be processed and learning recognised, which requires generating a safe environment.

Team coaching can accelerate and deepen the capacity for a team to connect, building openness and honesty, appreciating each other’s strengths, and learning together. It can work through the points of tension and damaged relationships that undermine performance. If the team is together and supportive it will be better placed to face the next wave. Team growth can be facilitated virtually but addressing tensions is more difficult. In many countries there is growing scope to get people together again, even if the daily commute to an office may be a thing of the past. This offers more opportunity to surface underlying tensions and rejuvenate a team to face the future.

3 Expanding the Capacity for Processing Complexity

Many leaders and teams have been successful based on their expertise and their drive to set and achieve goals. Generally, this involves working within defined parameters and making assumptions about the future. The world can now seem overwhelmingly complex and fast-paced, requiring a systemic perspective. Leaders need to be much more comfortable and honest about not knowing and to recognise they must explore their way forward together. This means being willing to share their vulnerabilities and engaging in honest conversations with peers and stakeholders, drawing on their collective intelligence in framing opportunities/challenges and developing ways forward.

I am currently reading President Obama’s book, “A Promised Land,” and note how he tackled intractable issues by having a good process in place to explore it with diverse groups, holding opposing perspectives. Embracing diversity in all its richness will help teams make progress in a complex and dynamic world. Leadership team agility means recognising their limitations, listening widely, taking action and remaining open to learning quickly.

The role of team coaching is to help create a safe space, to encourage vulnerability and real conversations. Holding the mirror-up to confront posturing or evasion and encourage honesty. A mindset coach will help in finding good processes for interacting, framing issues, and ensuring different perspectives are heard and considered. Also, for developing the capacities to notice, reflect and learn, even in mid-action, so that teams create experiments and plans which hold their purpose in mind and are agile in implementation.

In short, many leadership teams have been stretched to a point of exhaustion in the last year, handling both opportunities and challenges. We remain in stormy times, facing into societal shifts and the escalating challenge of climate change. Now is a time for renewal, better to take on the next wave of change. To step into this, leaders need to look deeply into themselves, shifting gear to renew their energies and openness to change. Leadership teams need to deepen connection and trust, while growing their capacities for sense-making and leading through complexity. As teams come together, whether face to face, or virtually, team coaches can partner them, to better to face into the waves of change.

Chris Smith

About the author: CHRISTOPHER SMITH
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