When I first started coaching back in 1993, it was natural for me to be pulled back into the broadcasting industry where I had been an executive leader. Former colleagues heard what I was doing and wanted to learn more, specifically what I could do to help their teams become more strategic, focused, and productive.
Those early engagements allowed me to experiment with coaching teams to help accelerate performance, and I designed a process now known as Team Advantage, which has been successfully used as a foundation for team coaching throughout the world.
The process includes several interwoven parts, which together provide an incredible platform to coach leaders and their teams. This platform combines the best of mranagement by objectives, sports coaching, behavioral observation, and the notion of winning to help coaches lay the groundwork fo agreements and communication.
We’ve found that one critical element of a strong foundation is creating a “team charter” – or what we commonly call the team’s “rules of engagement” – a code of conduct that codifies daily ways of working. This article provides some tips and observations about forming these rules of engagement for a team.
Capturing agreements for daily ways of working is critical for the coach, the team leader, and the members of the team. Every team shares similar yet different values, and no one single method for creating the rules works for all. However, gaining input from all members is critical.
The rules become a living document, and once codified, the coach and team refer to the rules as needed during coaching sessions. This simple process promotes trust and safety for how the team functions together and that is an essential component of the team coaching.
When things fall apart or need changing, these rules become a coach’s signal to challenge the team to recalibrate and get things back on track, let go of something that is not serving them, or innovate.
In the hands of masterful coaches or a leader coach, the team will outline elements of their communication and observable behaviors, skills, and ideas, which will focus and guide you as the coach.
For the team to develop their own rules, you need to prompt a meaningful discussion of their current team dynamics. The key is to create a conversation starter, and that means gathering some information from team members – information that may reveal how they view their existing relationships with each other.
The most effective way we have found to accomplish this is to conduct interviews or “listening sessions” with each member of the team. Compile a list of questions that you will ask each team member and elicit input from the team leader when you develop this list.
During these “listening sessions” ask questions with a mindset of listening for specifics, needs, values, and big challenges for the team. Some possible questions include:
- What are the top three current challenges right now?
- What are your biggest concerns about your performance?
- What brings you the most joy, sense of accomplishment, satisfaction, and happiness personally?
- If you had a magic wand to wave over the team today, what would change immediately?
- What do you need the team leader to stop doing, start doing, or continue doing?
Compile all of the information you gather from the interviews and be sure to honor confidentiality by summarizing themes without revealing individual responses. Get the team together and let them quietly review the report that you present to them. Then, begin to ask questions to prompt discussion.
Based on the information gathered from every member of the team, what rules of engagement do you need to codify for this team to tap into new levels of genius and excellence? What will truly energize them?
Expect a lively discussion. This is not a quick five-minute exercise about how “we will hold confidence, we will trust,” etc. As the coach continues to ask probing questions that drill below the surface of those types of comments.
You will inevitably hear complaints emerge from team members, and you can remind them that behind every complaint is a bold request that someone needs to make.
As you listen deeply to learn more, be ready to ask the question, “What is your request for how we move forward together?" This one question will help you find the right agreements. When someone says “trust,” what are they really asking for?
Keep following up until the behaviors you seek are tangible, observable actions. For example, instead of saying, “We trust each other,” write: “We communicate clearly all that we need to say and listen for positive intent.”
The best rules of engagement are living documents, to be revisited often during the team coaching engagement. As the coach, you can refer to these rules to get team members to consider their actions and evaluate how they are “being” for the team. Honoring these agreements sets the stage for building trust.
The rules they create allow them to work beyond a typical team charter that outlines the mission and purpose of the team. As you are wrapping up this exercise, ask the team: “What else will expand your level of contribution?”
Then ask each of them to sign off in some way – for example, a ‘Fist to Five’ exercise serves to have everyone check in.
An Outward Bound process, the Fist to Five scale is five fingers up equals “I am good to go,” while a fist means “I am not good at all with this.” Team members can hold up any number of fingers to help them articulate a question or challenge with language. Stay with it, until you have all fives. This exercise will also give you a point of entry for team coaching.
Creating a team charter will provide essential rules of engagement that will give you a strong foundation upon which to build stellar teams.
Published in choice, the magazine of professional coach. Used with permission.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
DARELYN “DJ” MITSCH, CMC, MCC, is an award-winning change agent, a thought leader in the business coaching field, a founding member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF), and one of the first 25 MCCs in the world. CEO of an award-winning coaching company and founder of Pyramid’s Leadership and Healthcare Coaching Institute, DJ’s core belief is that coaching has the power to change the global conversation, one leader, one team and one company at a time. DJ created the Team Advantage team coaching program in 1995, and has certified thousands of professional coaches throughout the world.
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