Are you a Team Coach, or a Personal Trainer?

Ram is a manager with great people skills. He is a good listener, and interrupts to ask the right questions at the right time. He is able to respond in a supportive way, and while he is compassionate it is clear he also holds you accountable for giving all you can to reach your goals. You feel that you are seen for your contribution. You notice a change, though, when you meet Ram as the leader of the team meetings. In a group, his interactions are less personal. He is less relaxed and you feel that these larger meetings are ineffective. He becomes too stiff and rigidly sticks to the agenda, and his listening skills seem to disappear. business-team-coaching

Rory is different. She is great at running team meetings. She creates an agenda that everyone wants to follow, and she manages the shifting dynamics in the room. She seems to facilitate the conversation and knows when to intervene and when to stay out.  While those who report to her like being part of her team, they often wish that Rory would have more one-on-one’s with them. She seems to avoid personal conversations. They wonder if she really knows them and if their unique contributions are fully noticed.

Generally, where are you most comfortable as a leader? Are you a strong Team Coach like Rory, or a stronger “Personal Trainer” like Ram?  Personal trainers tend to make decisions that will increase the performance of individuals. Unknowingly, they can create resource conflicts and be accused of favoritism.  A Team Coach, by contrast, sees each member’s contribution only in relation to what the larger team needs. They make decisions for the whole team, expecting that sometimes individuals will suffer in the moment. Team members may feel stifled and unable to challenge the group norms.

Taking a Full-Span™ approach to leadership means that you manage at both an individual level and a group level, without dropping your attention to either. Based on Integral Theory, this roadmap helps you pay attention to both the individual and collective arena at the same time. Here is a simple framework; when you do all of these actions, you are paying attention to both levels of leadership.


Individual  Level Help each member of the team connect personally to the organization’s aspirations. Encourage them to draw links between their values and that of the group. Lower defensiveness in the group meetings by creating a trusting one-on-one relationship. Be equally respectful of different perspectives in the group settings. Don’t compare group members to each other. Clarify roles and responsibilities, especially during change and restructures. Hold people accountable for their results, making yourself available to discuss barriers with them in private. Encourage each member to ask for help, and offer help to others while still keeping ownership. Discuss performance issues with people privately, and never facilitate “tattling” between group members.
Team Level Notice how the group fits together and what the group identity is as it emerges. Encourage safety and professional behaviours in interactions; help the group to create trust amongst themselves. Promote team spirit through celebrations. Look for unique work products and deliverables that the whole team can be proud of. Use team meetings to practice being a “learning organization.” Facilitate dialogue and interesting exchanges instead of status reports. Remind the group of the larger context and how what they do impacts the customer and other teams. Ensure that you haven’t created conflict or tension by setting group members against each other in competition for resources or favour.


Next month I’ll focus on a few guiding principles which are useful as you move back and forth between effective one-on-ones and group meetings.

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