Brilliant Leaders excel at integrative thinking

Stating

The feedback session highlighted that my greatest weakness is my inability effectively orally communicate ideas or complex information to my business team. My oral communication strategy has been highlighted as ineffective, confusing and can overwhelm, disengage and demotivate my team mates on occasion. Within our team, where we are newly forming and exploring ideas, whilst being in different locations, ensuring effective communication is a top priority. In line with my personal learning contract and the feedback, I consider this to be a really significant area that needs to be addressed for the benefit of the business team, to enhance our ability to learn as a team.

Deconstruction

My ability to effectively communicate to my team effectively is crucial not only to our business but to our team based learning and engagement. My past experience and love of learning is a potential asset to our team but is ineffective if I can’t communicate back into the team. Moreover, when I come to communicate within the team I often feel like there is a preconception, and not a misconception, that I am going to launch into a long ramble, which is often true. Whilst I have tried to research different strategies and approach oral communication differently, I find in the moment, I make the exact same mistake.

This has led me to question my approach and thinking process, before the point of communicating orally. The problem seems to stem from the pragmatic issue, that I always have far too much I want to say, in far too much detail and once I start talking, I’m unable to effectively organise my thoughts, so they can come out disjointed and fragmented. In stark contrast, my written communication, as I am able to spend time considering it, is very organised.  As an introvert, I have a constant internal dialogue with myself, which in terms of academia and business, means I have the potential to over think, which can steer my thoughts out loud or mean I’ve have too many things I want to say.

When I come to write down my thoughts or prepare for oral communication, I go through an organisational process, where I brain dump all my thoughts and research, unrestrained  and refine them down into coherent, well-structured ideas. By preference, I like to research and explore unconstrained and make sense of the information I find in my own way and thought processes. Whilst I am aware, this method takes longer, it is one that I personally enjoy learning within its structure and has always enabled me to produce high quality work and research. Clearly, this process, heavily contributes to the fact that whilst I like an information overload, that when I start speaking on a topic or idea, it can be perceived like an information avalanche. As such, my way of working has always been to put all the information on the table and let people make sense of it and judgements however feedback has been so far that this is overwhelming and for some disengages and they are unable to follow. As such, I don’t actively seek out engagement; I wait for my audience to engage on their own terms.

Consequently, Hills (2001:105) defines effective team based learning, as being dependent on the whole team being able to contribute to created ideas and solutions. Pragmatically, my ineffective communication style stops this occurring.  As such communication within the group needs to be at a bare minimum understandable and straightforward before members can engage. During this early stage of idea incubation and business formation, it is crucial that as a team we build effective communication channels and utilise the knowledge each person is bringing into the team.

Moreover, within our coaching sessions, whilst I’ve taken huge amounts of time to prepare for knowledge sharing sessions, on reflection, my learning preferences dominant how I communicate the information back and I haven’t considered the learning preferences of my team.  As such, when I read journals, I like to really understand, to challenge and to question; I like to make sense of it in my own way. This deep level learning preference isn’t mirrored across my team mates and they become disengaged when I go into detail. Moreover, my coaches’ feedback has been that my interlinking of themes means that I attempt too much and whilst I understand, I lose my team.  Consequently I need to develop communication strategies that harness the way I like to learn and perceive things, but communicate the information back in a more accessible, coherent format; once which considers the audience.

Theorising

Ludlow (1992:2) defines effective communication as an active process involving the transfer of information which has the outcome of shared understanding. Ludlow’s definition is interesting as it highlights in its simplicity, the three areas in which my oral communication fails, as illustrated by my deconstruction. Firstly, the communication must be an active process on both sides, involving the engagement of both parties. This is a strategic issue and doesn’t just consider the imparting of information but how to ensure it is absorbed and engaged with, provoking an element of response. Secondly, the transfer of information is suggestive that the communication should have a clear, coherent message and shouldn’t consist of a myriad of concepts and ideas. As such the receiver should be able to pick out the main strand of information being communicated with ease. Thirdly, my misconception that communication finishes once the person speaking has finished, completely negating the fact that the end goal of effective communication must be that the information has been successfully imparted and understood (Ludlow 1992). As my oral communication is a distinctly one way process, involving the expression of a whirlwind of information in which I wait for the receiver to engage if they wish to, it is no wonder that it is ineffective.

As mentioned above, my communication strategies are dominated by my learning preferences and where I lie on the Kolb learning cycle (Kolb 1984). I prefer to reflect and think my responses are considered and researched. I hate being placed into situations where I have to respond to something I’m unprepared for; hence my reflective nature leans towards over preparation. This can lead to an overwhelming amount of information being imparted verbally, which to my predominantly activist team mates, is a completely ineffective approach. As such communication should not be about conveying a message in isolation, it should focus on the audience, their learning preferences and understanding their modes of perception and judgement (Ludlow 1992).

Moreover communication with a team with a learning culture has collaboration at its heart, as such communication should involve sending, then receiving, then understanding and then accepting; four distinct, active stages with prompts for engagement (Ludlow 1992). All parties involved including the sender, need to actively listen, to seek out signs of misunderstanding and disengagement. The aim here, isn’t just to deliver a one way message, Ludlow’s model seeks to involve, requires participation and facilitates the receivers to make sense of information with the sender.

Taking this to another level, Ludlow suggests a meeting structure in order to facilitate participation from large group teams, ensuring a common purpose and that multiple ideas are progressed through (Ludlow 1992). As such each point delivered could follow the same process:

  • Introduction and objectives of point – The outcome needed is presented to the team, whether it is a brain storm or a concrete end decision.
  • Introduction of broad themes and purpose – Point explained following communication model of sending, receiving, understanding and accepting as above- information and facts are clearly presented to the group.
  • Team engagement with themes – Opened up for discussion and exploration, to test understanding and to encourage collaboration of ideas. Group divergent thinking.
  • Integration of thoughts – Team movement to clear acceptance and convergent thinking.
  • Conclusion and action plan – Reaching the end objectives and moving forward.

This model within meetings and coaching sessions stops communication of information being a one directional process without engagement and stops tangents and potential incoherence, as the end point is identified at the beginning and at the end. This method further enhances our team’s aim of building a learning culture with high levels of psychological safety, as is invites collaboration of ideas, collectively breaking down ideas and rebuilding them as a team. Moreover, and most importantly, it effectively manages nine people’s contributions within a structure and enables the separation of facts, feelings and opinions into the relevant sections of the interaction, avoiding disengagement occurring as facts miscommunicated as feelings or vice versa. Such confusion is a pivotal cause of disengagement and misunderstanding within teams (Ludlow 1992).

Now with an effective model in place to ensure engagement and effective communication for the team, the next issue is to explore how to make sure my messages are clear and coherent. Lake (1997) points to the indisputable truth, that if 90% of what you say is perceived as unnecessary and overly complicated, then the 10% that is crucial to their understanding will be completely missed. As such, my personal challenge is to become more disciplined, more concise and to consider my audience.

My pitching has been an area commented on as strength due to its clarity and persuasive nature. Within pitching I adopt a completely different method of communication, developing key messages and objectives that I constantly refer back to using them to structure my pitch. As such Lake (1997) suggests a similar approach to all oral communication. This involves the same process I go through for a pitch, researching and organising my thoughts in any way I wish, but before I write the pitch, I pull out at three key messages for the audience ensuring I remain concise. The pitch therefore communicates effectively what I’m trying to say, as it hammers clear points home.

Furthermore, Lake (1997) suggests that preparation for any big or small presentation shouldn’t start with “what do you want to tell them?” as for someone that loves researching and exploring ideas, I can often want to tell my audience everything I know because I’m passionate about it. Instead, I need to start with the questions “what do they need to know?” and the realistic “what do they want to know?”  This is especially true within my activist team, as they don’t want to know the theory and details that I crave. As such whilst my learning preference is still exploited, the communication of the learning is about what the audience receptively wants to hear.

Lake (1997) proposes a model to approach oral communication preparation, that involves prioritising what the speaker says, a discipline I currently lack. Lake (1997) suggests breaking down the information into four parts…..

  1. What is necessary to say?
  2. What would be useful to say?
  3. What you’d like to say?
  4. What is superfluous?

Adopting this model, into practical use within my preparations, I consider whilst the first two should be included, point four should be dropped if the audience don’t need to know it or wouldn’t be interested in it. In terms of what you’d like to say, it should be approached with the view that it must have a significant supporting relationship to the core message and needs to be justifiable, over and above, than me just wanting to say it. Thus, I approach communication like I approach a pitch, with the mantra that everything I say must have an impact.

Another method of oral communication I’ve began to engage with is “story-telling” (Hills 2001:114) in order to convey more complex information. Relating a journal article or theory to a practical example, seems to restrain my train of thought, keeping it relevant and brings it to life, making it more tangible for the audience. This approach, whilst I’m testing it, certainly engages my team mates more than another other form of communication I’ve tried.

Conversely, whilst I am struggling and exploring this communication area, as a personal development area for the benefit of the team’s learning, Hill’s feedback loop could add some value to the process, which is a tool I’ve used within teaching and workshops I run before, but never within my business teams (2001). As a collective we make the assumption that we understand and that because we have spoken, the communication has been effective, however we constantly stumble across instances where there is complete miscommunication within the group, which is suggestive that ineffective communication is an issue across the whole team. Whilst, the models outlined above, provide a structure and potential solution, the feedback loop invites the team to repeat back information and assumptions, ensuring clarification and correct interpretation (Hills 2001). Such a method also promotes team engagement ensuring the correct communication models are in place and can be reflected upon, whilst providing a means to gain feedback in regards to my personal development in this area.

Construction

Successful communication relies on the communicator beginning with the response they want to achieve, which for my oral communication is to be understood, to be clear and to encourage the team to engage with I am saying. Consequently, I need to focus on the clarity of my message and the learning preferences of my audience. Pre-planning and preparation should focus on ensuring I’m effectively understood and engaging, not knowing every detail of the presented subject (Lake 1997). I need to embody Hill’s (2001:114) mantra, “seek to understand and then to be understood”. I need to understand my audience before I expect that they understand the information.

My learning style whilst effective personally, is ineffective within the team learning environment, consequently I need to step outside myself and ask the questions “what am I trying to communicate back to the team?” and “How can I effectively communicate this to them?” this process involves discipline. As such, I will utilise Ludlow’s (1992) interaction model and meeting module to shape my oral communication and I will utilise Lake’s (1997) approach to prepare for oral presentations.

Hills, H. 2001. Team-Based Learning, Hampshire: Gower Publishing.

Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Lake, C. (1997) Open Learning – Communication. Oxford: Pergamon Open Learning

Ludlow, R and Panton, F. (1992) The Essence of Effective Communication. London: Prentice Hall

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Feeding feedback

Stating

Feedback is a controversial process and one that was completely rejected within a recent session in our team.  The issue is how to imbed feedback into our team as a learning tool and create an environment where we feel comfortable to give and receive feedback within the team. This was a process, that as a team, we did not want to engage in and during the specific feedback session, it was a highly emotionally charged atmosphere. Whilst members felt their feedback was honest and considered, there was a real block in terms of utilising it as a tool due to negative preconceptions, feeling constrained by the model suggested to us and a sense of fear surrounding member’s reactions. Moreover, there was a stark contrast between my engagement with the task and the rest of my team mates; a few refused to participate at all.

Feedback I received:

Elliot

Stop

  • Rambling too long in discussions.
  • Doing so much work in comparison to the rest in terms of article reading.

Start

  • Being more precise with your ideas and concepts – deliver the headlines.
  • Listen to other people’s opinions about your ideas more.

Continue

  • Being organised and efficient
  • Being a planner and getting the team organised
  • Helping the team out with assignments, seminars and things they don’t know.

Alice

Stop

  • You know too much and it can be overwhelming to those who don’t know anything; this can worry people or demotivate.
  • Bombarding with information, it is too much to take in.

Start

  • Working on your communication skills, improving your ability to be concise and clear when presenting information – you’re already doing this!

Continue

  • You are very approachable and will help anyone, I feel very comfortable approaching you when I don’t understand things outside class. You explain things very well.
  • You organise and direct the team – reminding everyone of deadlines and setting agendas.

Dean

Stop

  • Using so much detail – sometimes less is more.
  • Doubting yourself – your experience is useful.

Start

  • You are a strong leader; time to start leading.

Continue

  • You put 110% into everything- it is inspiring.
  • Organising the team and forcing us to plan before-hand.
  • Using your experience.

Katie

Stop

  • She can sometimes go into too much detail, so the team loses the key points to holding on to.

Start

  • Being more concise.

Continue

  • Producing high standards of work individually and within the team; you always meet the deadlines.
  • Being really enthusiastic and motivating.
  • Being a very reliable team member.
  • Organising and structuring our meetings.

Deconstruction

Starting with the difference between my view of the feedback task and the team’s; feedback used to be a process I’d avoid. I perceived it as wholly negative making evaluative judgements of others or inviting negative judgements of myself. Moreover, I considered that I wasn’t within a position of any authority to give feedback and I viewed the process as unconstructively criticising. Consequently, I’d take feedback personally and I’d typically give a defensive response, deflecting it and justifying the behaviour without listening. If I gave feedback, I’d likely apologise for it and worry about upsetting the other person, reflecting my own views of feedback.

As I’ve progressed through my education and career, I’ve repeatedly encountered feedback as an unavoidable process and one that delivers the opportunity to improve and enhance self-awareness. I’ve developed a sense of self-acceptance and ownership of the consequences of my behaviour. Feedback has rationally become a personal development and communication tool and one that I see positively with the sole purpose of enhancing performance, an inarguably positive thing.  After all, you cannot change or continue doing what as an individual or team, you are unaware of.

Feedback, alongside reflection, has become a tool in which teams I have been involved with have rebuilt and enhanced their performance; learning at one unit as well as individually. One of the reasons many of my teams initially struggled was because they did not know why they were failing, regular feedback and reflection, gave the opportunity to assess and identify issues and deviations from plans (Bee 1998).  As such feedback became a non-threatening tool in which we could explore successes and communicate areas of development, all united under the goal of enhancing performance. Furthermore, I personally utilised this process as a way of improving and reflecting on my own performance and it was this feedback process within these teams that developed the leadership skills I have today. I always invite feedback on a regular basis, with the aim of imbedding it into any team’s culture.

Feedback became an essential tool in the identification of my lack of team playing during competitive tasks.  I used to simply focus on outcomes and team performance, above team learning. I received the feedback that if tasks weren’t being done to my specification, I took over the task ensuring the performance, instead of supporting the team to reach required standards. This led to team dependence on me and the lack of communication surrounding why I was taking over, was demotivating. However, I perceived I was only doing my best for the team.  Receiving the feedback that I was behaving in this way and the effect, enabled my own learning that I needed to give more initial guidance, but then more autonomy and to give feedback regularly instead of simply taking over a struggling task without communication. Engaging in the process was initially difficult, but this two way dialogue built a better team, one that made mistakes and learnt from them and made me a more effective leader.

Consequently, I viewed the team task to give one another feedback as a learning opportunity and I found it the least difficult within the group. Unlike the others I didn’t have an emotional response and viewed it as simply learning. The feedback regarding my struggle to present information in a concise manner has been brought to my attention before within the team. I know that it can cause disengagement or confusion and I experience personal frustration with myself for not effectively communicating. However, Ali’s feedback that I can “worry” people and bombard with information, was an effect I was unaware of and is clearly demotivating for some members. As such, I see this as a real area of opportunity in which I can improve on within the team.

Conversely it was positive to see that my strengths are being recognised; organisation, planning, motivating and hard work; that I’m adding value and a unique layer to our team dynamics. In terms of the feedback, I gave to the other members, I spent time making it justifiable with examples and I didn’t feel nervous to share it. I saw it as an opportunity to recognise certain members, who seem completely unaware that they are such a valuable contribution to the group. People like Ali, who underestimate and show a distinct lack of confidence in their own abilities, but yet get out there and always give things ago, try new things and add real value to our team projects, alongside the opportunity to be honest.

I can only deconstruct my own feedback experience fully and I can only make assumptions about why I believe the team rejected the feedback task. As a collective, our team rejected the process, with many members refusing to take part or exhibiting very defensive responses. Moreover, whilst the feedback was justified with examples, there was a distinct amount of back tracking and disowning the feedback via blaming the lecturer for forcing them do it. The process pre and post feedback was incredibly emotional, with members very worried that others were going to be upset or they may get upset. After the process, there was a sense of heightened emotion, dismissiveness towards the structure and that something unwarranted had been imposed. The dismissal seemed to stem not from the content of the feedback, as every member communicated within a following team meeting that they stood by what they had written, but the structured process it was being forced into was unrealistic.

However, as a collective, the exercise was useful to highlight key areas of behaviour that we identified with as part of our team identity and things we wanted to improve on (Harms and Roebuck 2010). Consequently, the feedback was tool for our team to explore the behaviours we’d like to see exploited and the behaviours we’d like to remove, as such the process further cemented the foundations of our team “culture” (Harms and Roebuck 2010:414). Subsequently, the team saw value in the feedback process as a learning tool, but the structure and negative preconceptions made it ineffective for our team.

Theorising

The team’s initial difficulty the majority identified it as a negative process, instead of as an opportunity to capitalize on strengths and develop weaknesses (Gratton 2008). Many individuals consider feedback “irritating” and negative (Harms and Roebuck 2009); consequently we are conditioned to see it as a critical tool highlighting negative behaviour. However Harms and Roebuck, consider that feedback must be used constantly to explore team culture, giving praise and highlighting ineffective behaviours, with the aim of improving performance (2009:416). Feedback within the team should only be the starting point of a dialogue and in order to add value it needs to be combined with self-reflection, providing information and support to an individual (Harms and Roebuck 2010). Our team feedback lacked the two way dialogue as individuals didn’t respond to feedback honestly as felt constrained by a structure, consequently dismissing the process before reflection occurred and mutual agree was only reached superficially because the model of feedback imposed agreement.

Moreover, as a team we proved Cleveland et al’s (2007) hypothesis that giving performance feedback is more difficult than receiving. There was a distinct anxiety about giving feedback, as it was viewed as unproductive and critical but conversely each member was willing to receive it. The struggle featured not only in the compiling of the feedback but also the delivery, in which members back tracked on comments. However, the team was willing to hand over the full feedback sheets afterwards, demonstrating the team was not comfortable making evaluative comments in a face to face forum (Fredrick T. 2008). This suggests our team has a lack of psychological safety and feared retribution disabling the feedback process (Hills 2001); consequently as a team we need to concentrate on building trust into our team culture so we can own it.

Our team unwillingness to engage, negates feedback as a crucial element of effective team learning, as such we need to accept it; ensuring that it is frequent, timely and imbedded into the review of performance within a team is not only the cornerstone to learning but the cornerstone to improved team performance (Harms and Roebuck 2010). As a collective, if we tackle the lack of trust within the team, which should develop over time as we concentrate developing our team culture and normalise the process, the team will be more willing to engage.

The next issue to address was the imposed structure and the difficulties surround it. The structure that was suggested to us within our feedback session:

feedback

The above visual depiction combines elements of Arnold et al (2010) and Hills (2001) writings on feedback. As a model in theory, it clearly structures the feedback, gives the process a clear purpose and ensures a two way dialogue. However, the model constrained our team and disengaged the majority of members from the process. The unnatural aspect of it and the rigid structure, stopped the fluidity of feedback in which, individuals are supposed to be able to reflect, respond and reject if they wish. The model turned an alien process to many, into a highly artificial process. Consequently, this model of feedback delivery, whilst it has merit, is not practical within our team.

Our team whilst wanting a structure for the feedback process wants flexibility and ability to make it into our own. Furthermore, we want a model that does not necessarily seek agreement at the end of the feedback process, but one that focuses on communication and reflection. Foster (2002: 112) feedback models embody all the elements of feedback as outlined by other academics, but they are simpler and less prescriptive. Foster (2002) depicts two feedback models, which concentrate on feedback as a positive learning tool; the two models are “BET – behaviour, effect and thank you, in which positive behaviours can be recognised. The second model is “BEAR-Behaviour, effect, alternative and result” in which negative behaviour can be presented to a participant, the effects communicated and the result is that the behaviour is reflected upon (Foster 2002). These models whilst directing the feedback, giving clear stages concentrating on the effects of the behaviour, allow participants to frame the interaction how they chose and it doesn’t force any conclusion or agreement; focusing on communication and reflection as their aims (Foster 2002).

Having the two models run side by side, engages with the idea that feedback should be predominantly about positive reinforcement, in which 75% of all feedback should be positive (Harms and Roebuck 2010). The “Bear” model has two different stages, surrounding alternative and result (Foster 2002). As such alternative modes of action can be suggested and the results of not changing outlined, but the recipient in this model, is left with the final choice.  As such these feedback models don’t exist to forcibly change behaviour or to induce superficial agreement through a restrictive structure, but to communicate, increase self-awareness and improve team learning (Foster 2002). Regardless of whether, the receiver choses to act on the feedback, they are now aware of the effects of their behaviour within the team and they can make a more informed choice surrounding how to behave. Consequently, “blind spots are eliminated” (Harms and Roebuck 2010: 422). Moreover, this model encourages a natural and honest response from the receiver, which is enabled through freedom and flexibility (Lake 1997).

Construction

The team rejection of feedback is a stumbling block within our team learning. But it is clear from the deconstruction above, why the team has rejected it, surrounding the two issues of viewing it as a distinctly negative process and one in which, a rigid, false structure was suggested to our team, one that didn’t suit us. Subsequently, using Foster’s BET and BEAR models, gives our team the opportunity to engage in feedback in the way we want to, focusing on communication and reflection, whilst utilising it as a mode of communicating predominantly positive behaviour.

In order to further imbed the process of feedback into our team learning culture, we need to embrace it as a regular and continuous process, featuring weekly in our team meetings as a reflective and reflexive tool, normalising the process (Hatton 2007). It is a tool that potentially enhances and steers team learning, communicating the difference between how we see ourselves and how others see us (Armstrong 2006). This can only be a positive process focusing on improving performance, as illustrated with the feedback I received about my poor verbal presentation of ideas, I knew this was an issue but was unaware of the effect of it on members of the team. As such we intend to embody Arnold et al’s (2010) view of feedback as something that is mutually supportive, informative, constructing a stronger group and recognising accomplishment.

Furthermore, we need to confidently own the interactions as a positive method of improving performance, instead of disowning it as something we are being forced to do within coaching sessions, lessening its impact (Hatton 2007). Such ownership will embody our aims to become a “learning team” (Hills 2001); one that embraces feedback. Consequently, we need to deepen our team trust and believe in Foster’s models as an effective way to improve team performance and one that recognises we are all individuals with different levels of feedback receptiveness (Armstrong 2006). Consequently, we should assess the capacity to digested feedback; Bee 1998 draws upon the idea that some members will only take thimbles of feedback on board at a time, whereas other members will happily accept bucket loads of it. Subsequently Foster’s models don’t force agreement, leaving the individual with a choice.

Finally, reflecting on my personal feedback, I think I need to consider why I find the process of presenting information back into the group difficult and to research communication strategies to counteract this, to avoid demotivating and disengaging the team. Furthermore, it is a hugely positive step that the team see me as someone who shares back their learning and helps when others don’t understand, as this is truly exemplifying team learning culture and ethos, our team is trying to establish.

Armstrong, M. (2006) Performance Management. (3rd ed) London:Kogan Page

Arnold, J., Randall, R. et al. (2010). Work Psychology. (5th ed.). Harlow:Pearson

Bee et al. (1998) Constructive Feedback. London: Institute of personal development

Cleveland, J. N. et al (2007) Feedback phobia? Why employers do not want to give or receive performance feedback. In J. Langan- Fox, C. L. Cooper & R. J. Klimoski (Eds.), Research companion to the dysfunctional workplace:management challenges and symptoms (pp. 168-186). Northampton, M A: Edward Elgar

Foster, P. (2002). Performance documentation. Business Communication Quarterly, 65, 108-114

Fredrick T. (2008). Facilitating better teamwork: Analyzing the challenges and strategies of classroom based collaboration. Business Communication Quarterly, 71, 439-455.

Gratton, L. (2008) Counterpoint. People and Strategy, 31 (3), 9.

Harms, P. L., & Roebuck, D. (2010). Teaching the Art and Craft of Giving and Receiving Feedback. Business Communication Quarterly, 73(4), 413-431

Hatton, A. The Definitive Business Pitch. Harlow: FT Prentice Hall

Hills, H. (2001) Team-Based Learning, Hampshire: Gower Publishing.

Lake, C. (1997) Open Learning – Communication. Oxford: Pergamon Open Learning

The Whole Solution

Team interaction and morale was at a low today. The same unspoken motivation issue remain unsaid and the same people put their individual needs and priorities before the team needs. The stark realisation was that within our team motivation is the crucial factor missing; motivation to do, motivation to change, motivation to reflect. There is very little motivation.

The lack of motivation seems to be interconnected to the motivation of the individuals within the group. When one member is despondent, the whole group walks away. There is an air of failure before the task even hits the half way mark when the same issues and mistake reappear. The focus of our coaching sessions and our meetings focus on the “what we aren’t doing” which is demotivating and the “what we should be doing”, which often seems to idealistic and a process that will not only be difficult and challenging but also a lot of effort. We rarely use our coaching sessions to explore why there is a lack of engagement and a lack of motivation or to consider what we will do as a team. Hence we remain stagnant and stuck, dwelling unproductively on negatives. Moreover, our promises within meetings, our strategies, interventions, stay within meetings; they don’t convert into practical action. This lack of movement within our teams is frustrating and demotivating.

Our reflections within our teams remain, as the rest of our team activities, a collection of self-focused individuals. Hence, my reflections have often reflected on my contributions and things that I have control over; things that are tangible to me. Clutterbuck (2013) considers that reflection and coaching shouldn’t just focus on the individual. Consequently, individual reflection needs to go alongside team reflection; developing a whole solution, instead of just identifying separate parts of an issue.

The whole solution view point is crucial to the success of the coaching process; the team as a unit has to buy into the process, utilise the process and see the value. Clutterbuck (2013:18) considers misunderstanding the process and the inevitable demands, “evokes resistance” to the coaching process. Our coaching sessions exemplify this; our coached solutions are superficial and half-hearted and feel forced. Coaching makes the challenging and uncomfortable unavoidable within the session, but it doesn’t enforce without. Once you remove the coaching, you can revert to normal semi-oblivious behaviours.

As a team we wait for outside intervention, considering that we need to be told what to do and someone else may know better than us. Consequently, we feel a lack of accountability within the team, instead waiting for a higher authority. When outside authority doesn’t manifest, the team disengages and falters forward, adding to its ineffectiveness. Our team needs to embrace the Clutterbuck’s (2013) ethos of coaching from within; the team coaches the team and takes accountability for its own behaviour. Not only would this be sustainable and potentially be more effective, it would also change the teams culture. We’d become a team that shares knowledge, supports each other and motivates each other. Consequently, the motivation has to come from within.

Clutterbuck (2007) defines team coaching as “a learning intervention designed to increase collective capability and performance of a group or team, through application of the coaching principles of assisted reflection, analysis and motivation and change”.  Such a definition is idealised and exemplifies what coaching should achieve in practice, but the reality with our team, can be starkly different. Clutterbuck (2013) explores what team coaching “should” do and doesn’t focus on the realities of what coaching actually achieves. Baring in mind, a team like ours has a different culture, different needs, different pace of thinking and different degree of psychologically safety. He advances that coaching should help team honesty, define the team, understanding the environment, understanding processes, identifying performance barriers, managing conflict positively, building a learning plan, build team trust and enable team coaching. (Clutterbuck 2013) This process, in theory should aid a team to blossom into efficiency, effectiveness and productivity as “one unit” (Clutterbuck 2013:19).

Clutterbuck (2013:19) highlights a problem within his own idealism “coaching can only be effective when all the team members have a stake”. What happens when the team members don’t have a stake? What happens if they should have a stake, but just don’t feel a connection or have a vested interest in the topics the coaching is guiding through? To put it frankly, what if some of the participants simply don’t care? If coaching can be compared to therapy, like it often is within the academic literature, then the age old theory about therapy effectiveness is proved true; people can only help themselves if they want to help themselves. Without this motivation, surely, this is a fatalistic stumbling block within our group coaching; we don’t want to help ourselves.

Team coaching for our team must focus on certain aspects of the coaching process, if to have any effectiveness at all. It must concentrate on establishing team honesty; question the hard question of why the team isn’t engaged and motivated to change? This is a crucial question our team needs to address and answer. Second to this, is identifying exactly what our barriers are to performance and working together as a team. Clutterbuck (2013) considers that some great individual performances and some poor performances, can add up to a collective poor performance. Furthermore, the lack of improvement and progress demotivates those who engage with the team and further proves the pointlessness of the team, to the ones who don’t participate. The poor performance also provides places to hide within the team for none performers. Consequently, recognition, reward and team punishment should be based on a combination of team performance and individual performance.

As a team, we need to exploit the idea of the whole solution, instead of concentrating on singular events, performance, issues and experiences. The whole solution, in this case focuses on motivating the team to engage in the process, to care about the value of coaching and to gather the motivation to change. This can only be done if the group addresses, why we aren’t motivated within the process honestly. Otherwise the ineffectiveness will only increase and days like today, will increase in frequency. The whole solution starts with answering the question, why don’t we care about the team?