Learn coaching tips and how to strengthen teams.

To kick off a recent workshop at Rice University’s business school on building trust, I invited Melinda English, Rice’s Director of Organizational Development and Talent Strategy to share her story.  This is what she said:

I have seen the impact of increasing trust work its magic over the years. You cannot put a price on trust and psychological safety when it comes to team cohesion and effectiveness.   Recently one of my new team members led us through an exercise called What’s Working/What’s Not Working and the number one thing revealed as what IS working is the level of trust on our team. This was so wonderful to hear because I know it is foundational to team resilience and working together to achieve some very big goals.  Since half of my team is new, I have been very intentional about taking the time to do team building and development despite the temptation to skip over it because there is so much to get done.

Specific Strategies

Here are some specific ways we are building trust on our team:

  • For my one-on-ones it is not just about what is going on at work. I feel it is really important to know how they are as a person and I want them to know I care about them as a person first.
  • Every team member completed an All About Me form. Each time we meet I take a category and everyone gets to guess who goes with each one.
  • We all took a values survey and then shared our top five. From there we identified our Team Commitments.
  • One of our new team members is leading us through a Teams That Work discussion, which allows us to learn what is impactful to each team member. You have to show trust in them to lead and lead differently in order be trustworthy.
  • We recently completely individual “User Manuals” and will be sharing the highlights of those.
  • We rotate meeting facilitation and start each meeting with a quote – some funny and some inspirational.
  • For projects I try to select those members where I can leverage their strengths or ask the team who might be interested and they are wonderful about taking turns.
  • Last but not least, we actually have A LOT of fun. I never sacrifice this and it has always been well-received.

As you can see I believe it is not just any one thing and that it has to be consistent and intentional because it develops over time.

Results

It’s indicative of Melinda’s trust with her team that she invited them to email me their confidential input about their team and her leadership.  Some of the common themes were:

  • Respect
  • Honesty
  • Authenticity
  • Caring and support
  • Psychological safety
  • Valuing each other’s experiences, thoughts and opinions
  • Celebrating successes and learning from mistakes
  • Follow-through
  • Responsiveness
  • Communication
  • Focus on development
  • Leading by example

As a result of Melinda’s leadership, her team has been able to persevere during an incredibly challenging time with motives and spirit intact.

These are the 7 Elements of Trust we discussed in our workshop.  I invite you to consider which one is most challenging for you.  How could improving in that area impact trust on your team?

At the end of our engagement my client said, “When I was told I was going to get a professional coach, I had a very negative attitude and was highly resistant to the idea. After all, I had gotten this far on my own and I was very busy. Coaching helped me understand how much I really had to learn about navigating very difficult political waters as part of a challenging role change.”

You’re not broken

It’s not unusual for clients to resist coaching to “fix a problem”  because in many organizations coaching has been used as a remedial tool.  The good news is the trend has shifted toward coaching as an investment in high-potentials and top performers.

Focus on the positives

One of the first steps in coaching is a 360 degree feedback process.  Although I always encourage my clients to first highlight the positives in the feedback summary, very few people do so.  Since paying attention to negative information enabled our ancestors to survive, it makes sense that we want that input first.  My client applied his increased self-awareness from the 360 feedback, leveraged his strength in building relationships to improve his influencing skills and got the promotion he wanted.

Step by step

Here’s how you can get the results you want:

  1. Get honest, objective feedback through a formal 360 feedback process or informal discussions with your colleagues
  2. First identify the common themes for strengths and then for growth areas
  3. Create an action plan for one area in which you could be more effective and at least one strength you can leverage
  4. Share your plan with your feedback partners
  5. Implement your plan
  6. Ask for ongoing, real time feedback and track the common themes
  7. Repeat what works and change what doesn’t
  8. Give yourself at least six months to see consistent improvement and 12 months for sustainable change
  9. Reevaluate your plan at regular intervals and modify as needed
  10. Celebrate your successes!

Contact cheryl@csbryan.com for an action plan template or how I can support you in getting the results you want.

“Wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then,” Bob Seger sang in “Against the Wind.”  Reflecting on lessons learned can be painful.  It can also be productive.

You Can’t Go Back

When my clients get tough feedback it’s my job to help them process their new awareness of what isn’t working.  They can’t go back to not knowing that their overly direct communication style is perceived as uncaring or their lack of timely follow-up is considered disrespectful.

You Do Have a Choice

Accepting feedback without defensiveness is the first step.  That isn’t always easy but it’s critical to moving forward.  The next step is choosing to change behavior as a powerful way to turn awareness into action.  Specific elements of a different approach might include tone, word choice, body language or time management tools.

I invite you to make time for reflection and the awareness that comes with it.

One of the many terms highlighted by the pandemic has been “asynchronous” – referring to learning and/or working at different times and places.  We haven’t had much choice while working from home but my clients are realizing that there can be real challenges to this approach.

Paint the Big Picture

Think about a jigsaw puzzle of an elephant.  If you haven’t seen the picture on the box you wouldn’t know that your piece is the knee.   It is too easy for each person to focus on his or her part of a project and overlook how the pieces fit together.  When the leader paints the big picture of success and everyone’s role in achieving it, the team can work in synch with clear priorities and refresh the picture as the project evolves.

Make the Connection

To nurture connection between team members in an asynchronous environment, I recommend inviting each person to talk about how others are contributing.  Regular live interaction and gratitude are essential to reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Staying connected to the big picture and to each other are two ways to make the best of our asynchronous world.  If you are feeling disconnected, I encourage you to reach out to someone.  They are likely feeling the same way.

On a recent episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Jerry Seinfeld and Eddie Murphy are driving around in a Porsche Carrera talking about anything and everything.  Seinfeld says, “You know when you see two people talking, one of them is giving the other one advice…saying something like, ‘What I’ve learned…’ or ‘In my experience…’”

What Do You Think?

It’s funny because we know it’s true — we’ve all been on the sending and receiving end of unsolicited advice.  As this Psychology Today article confirms, however, being told what we should do actually makes us feel defensive.  When a coaching client asks for advice, I remind them that my job is to help them find their own answers.  If they insist, I might say, “What I’ve seen others do in a similar situation is…” and then ask, “How do you feel about that?”

Own It

Research tells us that giving advice appeals mostly to the rational parts of the brain.  I also want to engage the feeling part of the brain so my client can make the best possible decision – and own it.

As I’m writing, I realize that I need to practice this approach more in my personal life.  Is there anything you might need to change in how you respond when someone asks for advice? Here is a Harvard Business Review article that might be helpful.  Notice I didn’t say that you should read it!

What is most important to you as you are heading into an operating room?  Is it the skill of the surgeon or how well the entire surgical team works together?  Surgeon and Harvard Medical School professor Atul Gawande’s research says teamwork is most important.

Getting Things Right

In his book The Checklist Manifesto: Getting Things Right, Gawande describes the most common obstacle to effective teamwork in an operating room:  “silent disengagement, the consequence of specialized technicians sticking narrowly to their domains.”   In my work with leaders and teams in complex organizations, I often hear complaints about siloes and finger-pointing.  It can be hard work creating a culture that relies on everyone believing their job is to help the team get the best possible result.

Not My Problem

How can you overcome “that’s not my problem” syndrome?  Research shows that something as basic as asking people for input can increase their willingness to offer solutions.  If you know the story behind the movie “Sully”, input from every member of Captain Sullenberger’s team made it possible for all 155 passengers on board the plane that landed on the Hudson River on a freezing January day to make it home.

What difference could active engagement and teamwork make in your world?