TEAM COACHING : Case-study 2

A virtual project team reporting to the Board of a FTSE 100 multinational company.

The newly-appointed leader of this team had sought individual coaching to accelerate her transition into this challenging new role. One of her first tasks was to recruit and assemble the other members of the team which resulted in the recruitment of five experienced executives, spread over four countries.

The team leader asked her coach to work alongside her in building this group as rapidly as possible into a high-performing team. The team was charged with testing the global market for a new product-line which was under development and the corporate CEO had made it clear that a great deal was riding on the result. The team was therefore aware that it was under scrutiny from the top and had a strong sense of 'having to deliver'.

A 2-day off-site meeting gave the coach the opportunity to get to know the team and to share some of her observations about how it was functioning. It became clear that there were some major differences in working style between members, magnified by cross-cultural differences. The coach therefore ran a session using the MBTI® personality type tool to help team members get to know each other quickly and to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and preferred ways of working.

Some important insights ensued, for instance the realisation that some team members - including the team leader - had clear preferences for Extraversion which meant that they tended to think aloud and use up a good deal of the airtime in meetings. The two members with Introversion preferences liked to take more time to marshall their thoughts before sharing them (at which point their contributions would often prove particularly valuable). The coach worked with the team to put in place practical steps to ensure that everyone's views and ideas would be fully heard.

As most of the team's meetings would be conducted via telephone or video conferencing, the coach also helped the team to think through the implications of this, in particular the need to 'over-communicate' and the importance of proactively building the working relationships which would provide the essential 'glue' between the team members. For example, it was agreed that time would be set aside at each virtual meeting for members to describe their surroundings and to share something about their experiences at work that week that was not directly related to the task in hand.

Finally, the coach made an important contribution to the effectiveness with which the team influenced key stake-holders throughout the business whose cooperation they had to secure in order to deliver their task. Using a simple but powerful 'Influencing Styles' model, she delivered a tailored development session which helped the team to improve a key aspect of its leadership skill. The same was done in relation to feedback skills to enable the team to give and receive constructive feedback among themselves.

These sessions also provided a further opportunity for strengthening team relationships and collective functioning. Over time, the team became increasingly cohesive and displayed a real capacity both to support and challenge each other's views. As a result, the team felt sufficiently confident to take some critical high-risk decisions which proved essential to the successful delivery of the project.