Teams: dealing with disruption, ambiguity and change

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football-smallWhy teams are turning to systemic team coaching to create new futures

Dealing with an increasingly volatile and interconnected world means we need to do things differently. And working together as a team is no exception. Systemic team coaching takes a holistic approach which can fundamentally change the way a team views its world, enabling it to leverage those things which make it a success and work with the challenges holding it back. It creates a confidence and energy rarely matched by other approaches. It has been successfully used by teams to enhance their performance in a range of contexts from leading complex change to building global communities.

Why are more and more teams becoming excited by systemic team coaching? What does it do? What makes it different?

The complexity of teams
We have all been on team development programmes which don’t enable teams to contribute to their fullest, leading to little sustainable difference. And whilst there has been some great research, models and writings which continue to be valid (Katzenbach & Smith, Tuckman to name a few), too many interventions have ignored the realities and complexity of team working today:
Working apart
Most teams do most of their work when team members are not together but are engaging within the wider environment with diverse stakeholders. The challenge for these teams is very different a football or other sports team.
More than one team
Few of us are members of just one team. If you are the member of a leadership team, you will also have a team which you lead and are an integral part. How do you deal with multiple allegiances? How do you resolve conflict and tensions between the two?
… Its parts
The more we understand about people (and advances in neuroscience and psychology have given us an ever more robust foundation), the more we need to be mindful of each other as individuals and how we interact with each other.
Too often the importance of stakeholders (whether partners, suppliers, customers or commissioners) is ignored. For most teams, its success and ability to deliver rests with its ability to work with and influence stakeholders, both within and outside the organisation.
A ‘headspinningly’ unpredictable world
Change is happening in all our worlds. Just take the change in teenage behaviour in my Wiltshire town with the launch of Pokémon Go. Bemused parents commenting that behaviours have changed overnight and the teenager who normally never leaves the bedroom has taken the dog out for more walks
in two days than the rest of his/her years put together. And in our organisations we face constant change: some small and some much larger, from disruptive technologies to new leaders which radically change our lives.

What is systemic team coaching?
Systemic team coaching is about helping a team to become more than the sum of its parts. It draws on both the internal and external dynamics which impact on the team, exploring the team through a series of lenses: Self, Team, Organisation and the wider environment or World:
Self: the individuals within it and how they interact and perform
Team: the team as a whole: vision, goals, team relationships, culture, systems & processes
Organisation: the team’s stakeholders (within the organisation and externally eg customers, suppliers, partners), how and where it fits within the organisation;
World: the wider environment: economic, political, social, technological, etc

By taking a holistic approach, a team coach works with the team to identify and address those areas which will make a significant difference. In the words of Peter Hawkins, a leading pioneer: “Systemic team coaching is a process by which a team coach works with a whole team to help them improve both their collective performance and how they work together. It also accelerates the development of their collective leadership to more effectively engage with all their key stakeholder groups. Coaching is undertaken both with the team as a whole and as individuals on a one to one basis.”*



Hawkins’ model of systemic team coaching is underpinned by five ‘disciplines’: Commissioning, Clarifying, Co-creating and Connecting, with a core of extended learning. This model provides a robust framework to underpin team coaching.

Systemic Team Coaching (STC) takes uses inquiry to enable a team to analyse itself through different perspectives, both internal and external. The richness of STC is that it gives clarity through a multi-layered approach encompassing task, people, process and the team’s goals and focus. Team coaching may start at any point in the model or take a step by step approach from Commissioning through each discipline. Interwoven into systemic team coaching are concepts such as future-back (starting with your vision and working back to how you would achieve it) and appreciative inquiry providing a depth and breadth to the process.

Can a team use STC without a coach?
Understanding the framework and its constituent parts and applying it to their team will undoubtedly help a team make sense of their world and its many parts. The role of the coach is to help the team navigate their way through the dynamics with its inherent contradictions and tensions. To provide challenge, insight and support. The coach is invaluable in those difficult periods, balancing the needs of the team as a whole, the individuals as well as its multiple stakeholders.

What difference does it make to a team?
Seeing old things in new ways using a systems approach creates an excitement and energy which is hard to match. It identifies and creates ways to build on the strengths and address those areas where the team is falling short. And builds the strength of trust needed to meet the challenge of change.

For further information on systemic team coaching contact:

Further reading
* Leadership Team Coaching Peter Hawkins Kogan Page

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