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Team Coaching to Engage  

 

Article published in Typeface, the journal of the British Association of Psychological Type, Vol. 24, No. 2, 2013

 

I’ve recently been employed as an Engagement Coach at a large utility company. The objective of my role was to support leaders in improving the engagement of their teams (as measured in the annual employee opinion survey), and my main activities were one-to-one leadership coaching and team effectiveness workshops. 

This article is about some of the workshops I designed and ran and in particular how to achieve significant team development, despite time and cost constraints, by using a combination of simple management models, some basic type input, and practical activities and action planning.

 

Workshop Design

Each workshop was tailored specifically for each team, following consulting to establish the key issues and challenges - and therefore the objectives of the workshop - with the focus very much on what managers would do differently when back at work, particularly related to engaging their teams.  Typically, each workshop included some time spent exploring a management issue using an appropriate model, and some time on type-related activities; type was incorporated in one of two ways: either through Insights Discovery (because the company already uses this) or through Interaction Styles (as developed by Linda Berens).  The final part of each workshop was personal and team action planning.

My role after the initial design, was to facilitate the workshop in such a way as to enable group members to co-create the outputs and enhance each others’ learning.

Below are outlines of three of the workshops.

 

 

Case 1

 

 

 This was a group of managers whose role was to manage customer agents in a contact centre.  They needed to clarify their role and responsibilities (because they spent too much time fire-fighting and not enough communicating with their people) and become aware of their personal and complementary strengths and skills (because they had historically had little time for reflection and development). The workshop followed a simple model, as illustrated below.

 

I like to use icebreakers that are relevant to the aims, and that create a climate of openness and honesty.  In this case I asked people to share their best and worst experiences as a team manager.  There was remarkable consistency: the good experiences all related to innovation and development (eg setting up a new team, seeing people develop, implementing new systems) and the bad experiences all related to handling emotional situations (eg redundancy, poor performance, bereavement, discipline).

This was followed by group work using John Adair’s action centred leadership model, in which they identified all their activities related to task, team and individual and how much time they spent on each. They discussed and agreed how much time they ideally should spend on each area – more time coaching individuals and team with less on task - and identified actions to enable them to move towards the ideal, which they briefed back to their senior manager (as always, the visible support of a senior person was a key success factor).

I used some input on Insights and their personal reports (which they had already read) as a basis for an exercise and then posed a simple set of questions for them to share with their colleagues: my top 3 strengths; what to do/not do when you communicate with me; what I bring to a team; what I need from a team.  Finally, they mapped their skills across the role activities to identity their personal strengths and development needs, as illustrated below.

I ran this workshop four times with different groups of people and their comments at the end of the day included: “I need to be more action centred and less reflective – change is ‘now’”, I feel empowered to be different”, and “I feel more assertive and confident in my own ability”.  They particularly valued having time with peers to share problems and issues and build a support network.

I am currently planning follow up workshops where we will review progress on their actions plans and do more type based work around communication and team working – always with the focus on practical application.

 

Case 2

This was a group of senior scientists and their line manager who needed to become better communicators and understand how to develop their styles to enhance employee engagement.  The icebreaker was to share a recent verbal communication that had gone well.  Several insights came out of this (eg one person realised that his desk is positioned such that he sits with his back to anyone who approaches him).

They then discussed their “core purpose” as a team and this led them to consider what were the most important priorities in their role – they concluded this was communication and they spent some time discussing and agreeing specific actions to improve this area.  We then used their Insights reports (on which they had previously had feedback) as a resource to discuss how to work from their own natural styles to communicate effectively with people of different preferences.  All six people had introversion preferences and all but one had sensing preferences, so this posed a challenge for me as facilitator to help them see how their communication style might be perceived by others, and how to develop the confidence to adopt a more outgoing, communicative style where appropriate.

We ended the day by relating what they had learned about their management style and skills from the type session, to their core purpose and roles – specifically where there was a good match, where they needed to develop, and how they could use their strengths to lead and engage their teams more effectively and finally how they could support each other and embed the learning when back at work. 

Case 3

This was a group of managers whose role was to manage customer agents responsible for debt collection.  They had come together a year previously but their manager was aware that they had not formed as a team with common goals and shared working practices, and there was scope for them to do more to support and learn from each other. She believed that improving their team work would also have a positive effect on the engagement of their agents. 

Because the aims of the workshop were to appreciate the different styles and contributions of each person and to apply the learning to how they interacted with their agents, I built the workshop around the interaction styles model – it is relatively simple to understand, people can see it in action in each other, and can quickly learn how to flex their style to build rapport with others.

It is also a helpful model for development because it enables people to become aware of their stressors and how to manage them – a key benefit for managers working in a fast-paced environment.

They quickly identified who in the group naturally adopted each style and discussed the strengths and challenges of each style for them as managers and how to deal with the stressors.  The session ended with them creating a set of ground rules for how they would operate in the future.

Conclusions

In terms of hard measures, the teams in cases 2 and 3 both had substantially improved employee engagement scores in the 2013 employee opinion survey (from 72% to 86% in case 2 and 68% to 73% in case 3).  Case 1 was less clear – although the managers themselves reported they had benefited from the workshops, as yet this does not appear to have impacted the engagement of their staff. 

These cases show that development does not have to cost a lot - valuable team and personal development, plus practical benefits for the organisation, can occur at minimal cost.  The inclusion of type enhanced the insights and learning of the participants as well as the quality of their action plans.

 

References

Interaction Essentials, (2011), Linda Berens

Understanding Yourself and Others (2008), Linda Berens

Contextual Coaching, (2011) Susan Nash

Action-centred Leadership (1973) John Adair

The Insights tool was developed by Andi Lothian.  See www.insights.com for more information