Team Coaching: What Do You Look At When You’re Team Coaching?
My name is Sari van Poelje. I’m the Director of Intact Academy and of Team Agility, or as I call it Agile Business Innovation. In both, I’m focused on change and how to facilitate change. In Intact Academy, I teach coaches and consultants to do that for other people. Those programs go from beginner coach, to executive coach, to team coach, to supervisor. It’s one of the passions in my life to teach people to support and challenge others in systems.
Within Agile Business Innovation, I help businesses innovate more quickly than their products, so that they can get to market on time. Usually, I find organizations that have great ideas but lousy adaptation of their organization to modern times. I help them renew their leadership, renew their cooperation, find a new relationship with clients, so that they can accelerate their time to market.
One of the integral parts of both businesses is actually team coaching. In the Intact Academy, I teach team coaching. For the business agility, I do team coaching because a lot of the work is focused on the leadership team becoming a real team and working together.
We’ve talked about what team coaching is, and that you need a triple or quadruple focus for that. Now, I want to talk a little bit about; What do you look at when you’re team coaching?
When I’m looking at teams and team coaching, I look at the team as a whole. I listen to people, not only as people, but also as what’s going on in the group or the team. I listen at three different levels. The first level I listen at is; What are they telling me about the way they’re structured? Are the roles clear? Is the hierarchy clear? Are the decision making processes clear? Sometimes I have organizations that don’t understand who’s in and who’s out of the leadership. I had a client once who said, “We want team coaching for the management team.”. I looked at the list, and I said, “Your secretary is on the list.”. He replied, “Yes, my secretary replaces me when I’m on vacation, so she should be in the leadership team coaching!”. So, sometimes my first conversation is about, is there clarity about who’s in the role of leadership and who’s in the role of membership?
A second level that I look at when I’m team coaching is the relationships. At the individual level in transactional analysis, we talk about games or symbiosis. At the team level, we’re talking about dynamics. Is there intrigue? Do people gossip about each other? Are there fights in between people in the team? Is there a lot of agitation? Agitation is when people accept or don’t accept a leader, so they try to create informal leadership, or push the leader out, or the leader is agitating and doesn’t take the role. I look at how much pressure there is on the team. Actually, the more agitation, intrigue and pressure, the more you should focus on how to create a cooperative, cohesive team
If a team thinks, “we’ll stay together no matter what, if we have COVID, if people are fighting, the important thing for us is that the team stays together”, then the prognosis for team coaching is quite good. Often though, I have to work at the relational level to increase the cohesion.
The third level I look at in a team is the unconscious patterns in the team. There I explore the imago, or how people see the team. People have an ideal team in their heads or their hearts that comes from the past, or from experience, or from their hopes and dreams. Then there’s the real team. Sometimes the difference between the real team and the dream team is such that it creates a lot of friction. I had a leader once who told me that he wanted a dream team. I said; “How do you picture that?”. He replied, “I want the family that I never had.”. Obviously, it’s a very honorable thing for him to want and to explore in individual coaching, but the members aren’t there to be a family, the members are there to work. They’ve not bought into that. This friction between the imago and the reality, and that often gives tension in teams.
What I look at is, the structure of a team, is it healthy? I look at the dynamics, is there enough cohesion to deal with the dynamics? I also look at what’s going on in that unconscious level where imago and reality collide.
If you look at your own team; What is going on in the structure? What do you see in those roles? Is there clarity? What’s going on in the dynamics? Do you feel cohesive? Do you want that team to survive? Does everyone feel that way? What’s happening at the psychodynamic level? If you would compare your dream team with the reality of the team, is there friction? What does that mean for the way you act in that team?
I leave you with those questions, and I’ll come back later.
My name is Sari van Poelje. I’m the Director of Intact Academy, where I train coaches and consultants in 12 different countries in eight different programs. I’ve been doing that for 35 years. It’s one of the passions in my life, to help coaches and consultants develop so that they can help other people.
One of the things I do in Intact Academy is to train team coaches. Team coaches are a little bit of a different animal than life coaches or executive coaches. In individual coaching, like executive coaching, you coach in a one on one relationship. Where one is the helper and the other person receives help. In team coaching, what we’re looking for is to create sustainable results and ongoing development in a whole team. Nowadays, team coaching is focused on creating teams that can innovate well and for that, I refer you to http://www.teamagility.com where I talk about my consultancy work.
Team coaching is different from coaching in a group. In coaching in a group, you coach the individuals who have come to a group based on a shared interest. They contract for learning and development one on one with the group coach.
However, in team coaching, the client is the team as an entity, with all the multiple individuals that are in it. That gives a different perspective on how to coach because ultimately in team coaching the team or the system is more important than the individuals. This has a whole lot of consequences for the way you look, the way you diagnose and for the way you intervene.
My preoccupation when I do team coaching is how can I make the team function better as an entity. That means my contract is multi-layered. Usually, there is a contract between myself and the leader and the members of the team, and usually also a bigger power because I coach teams within organizations.
My interventions are focused on getting the team to perform better as a whole. That means that I need to have a triple focus. The first focus is intra-psychic. Like in individual coaching, you need to have a good sense of yourself as a coach. You are your own compass. If you’re the instrument of change, and your compass isn’t completely pointing North, then it’s hard to coach because you might take things personally, or you might interpret things in a way that suits your life story, but aren’t focused on the reality of the client.
So, “can I get my own household in order so that I’m not hooked every time when I coach?”.
The second focus in team coaching is interpersonal. Are you able to actively listen, ask powerful questions, support, challenge enough, hold that individual in their development? Learning about how to make trusted, safe and challenging relationships is the second domain of coaching, which is very similar to individual coaching.
The third domain, the systemic domain, is particular to team coaching. There you have to be able to see the individuals but also the team as a whole. You have to hear what people say and honor that. But also, hear it as a symptom of what’s going on in the team. That kind of listening, both internally to the person and to the system, is what I call the triple focus that’s needed in team coaching.
You could also speak about a fourth focus, but that’s when you are working with an organization, a team of teams. Then the focus is, what is the interrelationship between the teams in the system? Are they each contributing to the strategy and purpose? Do they realize they’re interdependent – the output of one is the input for the other? Are those handover points managed well?
So for me, if you want to be a team coach, you need some personal development. You need to develop your skills in individual coaching. You need to develop your skills in looking at the system and intervening for the system as an entity.
The question is, could you be a good team coach or not?
Hi, my name is Sari van Poelje. I’m the Director of Intact Academy, where we teach coaches from beginners, to executive coach, to team coach, to business coach. It’s all accredited. If you’re interested, you can go to http://www.intactacademy.com, we’d be happy to welcome you there. The other business I run is Agile Business Innovation, where I help businesses innovate more quickly than their products. The goal is to accelerate time to market. People can get stuck in traditional management, bad cooperation, no co-creation with their clients, etc, etc. We help businesses turn into an agile and innovative business in 38 weeks. You’re very welcome to find out more by going to http://www.agilebusinessinnovation.com.
At the moment, I’m really interested in conflict, it’s because of COVID, but also because of some of the ethical issues I’m faced with at the moment in my profession. I’m a professional coach, I’m a professional consultant and I’m realizing that people are kind of sliding down the scale in these extreme times. I also see it internationally, it’s almost like there’s a split between people who are going for individual well being and people who are going for communal well being. If we continue making that split worse, our conflicts will get worse as well. This is difficult to deal with if we don’t realize we’re all dependent on each other.
I mean, we can talk about dealing with COVID, and then people think “a life is a life and we’ll create a vaccine”. What are we doing for climate change? You know, COVID almost becomes irrelevant if we didn’t do anything about climate change. I’m wondering about that. How can we mobilize billions of euros for COVID vaccines when we can’t deal with climate change in the past 20 years? I’ve been thinking about that and thinking about conflict. What is it? Is it that we don’t recognize enough that we’re dependent on each other for that, and how can we teach people to deal with conflict with differences so that they actually stay in dialogue? That’s my preoccupation at the moment.
So we’ve talked about what conflict is, we’ve talked about types of conflict and levels of conflict. I want to talk a little bit about conflict management styles. I’m rereading the classics at the moment. One of my favorites is Nietzsche, I think he’s great, existentially, it really helps me to read him. One of the things Nietzsche says, and maybe it’s true in terms of conflict is, “when you look into the abyss, the abyss looks back into you”. If we don’t realize that any conflict that’s outside is also inside, it’s going to be really difficult to resolve because people don’t feel responsible.
How can we make people more aware of conflict management styles. One model goes like this: on the vertical axis, we’ve got the importance of the relationship to you and on the horizontal axis is the importance of the result to you. The idea is that if you think the relationship and the result is really important, you’ll probably move into collaboration for resolution.
Talking about climate change is really interesting, because for people, the results are existentially really important, but people don’t feel it every day. So this maximization of importance of results is something we have to get across to people. The other thing that’s missing in this debate about climate change, is that people think they’re not dependent on each other, their interdependence. The felt importance of a relationship is lower than it actually is. However, when you have a really high score on the importance of relationship and the importance of the result, you go into a state where you go, “okay, we have to stay in dialogue, you have to give a little, I have to give a little, the stakes are high”. So that’s one, conflict management style.
If you think the relationship is not important at all, and the result is really important to you, you kind of see what we call charming manipulator conflict styles. These are people who are out for their own results, and don’t really care about the results of others. You will see them make alliances, but not relationships, so alliances to make sure they get their own results. Usually, when people enter a conflict, where they don’t rate the importance of the relationship, but they rate the importance of the result for themselves, then you see all forms of aggression and passive aggression that we talked about before. You can do that, the moment that you think that the result is more important than the relationship. Yesterday, I was listening to the news that Biden had stopped the pipeline from Canada to America. One of the commentaries was, “how could he do that? The friendship between Canada and America is so important”. The fact of the matter is that Biden has climate change very high on his agenda, so the result is more important to him than the relationship at the moment. The really tough thing to say is that we don’t have time in the turn around of climate change. We just don’t have time, the predictions are now speeding up within 20 years. It means that we have to put the result before the relationship. Is that aggression? In the end is taking care of the climate, not a form of taking care of the relationship as well? That’s the question we have to ask ourselves. I certainly am.
So, if you think the relationship is much more important than the result, what you see people do is accommodation or submission. People adapt to whatever the other person wants. I used to work for a helpline for women when I was a student of psychology. Under threat of violence a lot of women accomodated even on that helpline. I thought it’s interesting because they think that the relationship is more important than the result. How can I deal with that? How can I help them understand that their relationship with themselves is just as important as whatever relationship they think they have with the other person? Anyway, accommodation is good if you think the threat is higher than the results you might get by resisting or negotiating. I understand it as a short term strategy. As a long term strategy for conflict management it’s not very good, because it means you stop telling the other person what you need and what you want. You also stop the other person from realizing that they’re actually dependent on you as well.
The other extreme is you don’t think the relationship is important even though the result is important. In that case, you can just walk away, the problem might still be important, but at that moment, the relationship is not important. Sometimes I come into teams where they have an enormous list of priorities, and the managers are going, “oh, we never finish our list of priorities”. The reason is because nobody checks if these priorities are actually important for these people? One thing really to check if you see that there are avoidance strategies, is, is this goal important for these people? And is the result important for these people? If it’s not, forget it, you will never get your priorities met. If you’re somewhere in the middle, you’ll probably compromise and that might be good. Again, for a while, if the other person does compromise as well, the problem is, if you’re the only one to compromise, and the other person doesn’t, it quickly escalates to aggression. You have to be a bit careful with that.
So in summary, there are five conflict management styles, and we can rate them along the lines of importance of relationship or importance of results. The question to you is, the next time you fight or have conflict, do you have different goals but are you still dependent. Think about how important this relationship is to you. How important is the result to you? And try to choose a conflict management style consciously. If it’s that the relationship is that important and the result is that important – go for the collaboration, stay in dialogue, find the third solution that respects your relationship and the result. If for you the relationship isn’t important and the result isn’t important – just walk away. Don’t sweat the small stuff, in this case? I leave you with those questions.
Hi, my name is Sari van Poelje. I’m the Director of Intact Academy and the Director of Agile Business Innovation. In the Academy I train people from beginner coach, to team coach, to organizational coach, to supervisor. I have seven programs that people can follow to become accredited coaches internationally. At the moment, I’m giving those training programs in 10 different countries, and you’re very welcome to join us at www.intactacademy.com.
In the agile business, I help businesses innovate more quickly than their products. My chief goal or motivation for that is to accelerate their time to market, especially now in COVID times, we realize that anything that’s under pressure becomes fluid. I help businesses keep that up, even when there’s not so much pressure around. We have to change the way we lead, we cooperate, we partner to survive in this world. That’s what I do for you. If you want to know more about that, go to http://www.agilebusinessinnovation.com.
Now, we’re talking about conflict at the moment because it’s really preoccupying me. As I said, there’s riots in Holland against the COVID measures. There’s riots in the United States on the White House steps. But what is going on? Is it that we’re getting so rigid under stress? Is it that people are losing all sense of perspective at the moment, because they’re isolated in their own homes? So I thought, it’s really time to talk about conflict again, and how to create healthy conflict. We’ve talked about what conflict is, and we’ve talked about the types of conflict at the moment. Now I want to talk about phases of conflict and conflict management styles.
How do you know it’s a conflict? Well, a conflict is, as I said, when you’ve got different goals, but you’re dependent on each other for a resolution. That’s a really good reason to keep on talking to each other. But you don’t always realize it’s a conflict. Sometimes conflict starts really softly, and then it grows and grows and grows. And suddenly, it’s completely escalated. So that’s not really a good way to go about it. What’s important for you is to recognize when conflict starts. Often conflicts start in a very latent way, we call it a latent conflict, so you’re unaware of it consciously. What you can notice is the unconscious registration of conflict. It is likely you’ve got a tell, you know, in poker, everyone has a tell when you’re bluffing. You also have a tell, a non verbal behavior. In conflict. There’s some form of non verbal, physical somatic reaction you have to conflict. For some people, it’s migraine. For other people, it’s a stomach ache. Other people notice that they’re tensing their muscles, they’re raising their shoulders, or there is some nagging feeling they have or even anxiety when they wake up. You know, when you have those signals, it’s really good to check in your environment, close your eyes and ask yourself, “is there a hearth of conflict anywhere in my life that I need to resolve anything at the level of, physical, mental, emotional or spiritual? Is there anything that’s conflictuous at the moment in my life?”. There’s a reason for your tension. Your body doesn’t lie.
The other thing is acknowledged conflict where people are aware of their differences. If you’re lucky, they’re also aware that they’re dependent on each other to resolve it. Here, in my household, I have a continuous aware and acknowledged conflict about tasks in the household. Certainly in COVID times, you need to invest a bit more time in that. Someone has to do the shopping, the cleaning, and both of us work at home. So we have an acknowledged conflict. Now and then it goes “arrgh” because one of us has forgotten the milk or the other hasn’t cleaned up the stairs. You know, small things, but acknowledged.
So we have a talk about it, we live in the same house, we both have an interest in resolving this. If we don’t do this about the small stuff, what’s gonna happen with the big stuff? That’s something you should ask yourself, too. If I don’t deal with the small stuff, what’s gonna happen with the big stuff? The small stuff is great, because you can practice your conflict styles. You can practice. Gosh, if it’s about the “who puts out the trash stuff”, am I able to stay in contact, acknowledge my dependency, still say, “I love you and the trash has to be out the door by Tuesday”? Practice all the small stuff, is my advice, and then you’re ready for the big stuff. And I hope for you, it never comes around.
The third level really of the face of conflict is when it becomes emotional. That’s why I said practice small stuff, because in the emotional conflict, the danger is that you get into what we call “a life position” you really don’t want to be at. If everything’s going well in your relationships and there’s no stress, then you’re fluid in the way you deal with conflict. You can switch from being loving, to being strict, to being playful. That’s all fine, you know, “no stress, no spang”, as we used to say in Aruba where I was born. However, when things get heated up, and really, you don’t have a lot of time and you haven’t practiced on the small stuff, suddenly, there’s a big deal to deal with. You’re in the middle of an emotional conflict. In that case, we talk about four life positions.
The first life position is, “I’m okay, you’re okay. And they’re okay”, which means, “I may not like your behavior, but you’re still okay with me”. it sounds like 60s slang, and that’s probably where it came from. Eric Berne, the founder of Transactional Analysis, used to say, “you’re okay, I’m okay”. What he meant was “you’re worthy, I’m worthy, but your behavior, nuh uh, but I can still talk to you about the behavior and still love and respect you”. When you’re not under stress, that’s really easy to do.
The problem with the emotional level of conflict is you’re under stress, you’ve probably not practiced the small stuff, you haven’t been aware of the conflict and suddenly it’s there. The danger is you move into a not okay life position. Some people move into, “I’m not okay, you’re okay”. Suddenly, they take the blame, shame or guilt for their part of the conflict. If you’re in that, it’s really, really difficult to stay in contact and to resolve it together, because then one person is more okay than the other. Then it becomes a power conflict. Anyway, if “I’m not okay, you’re okay”, during the conflict, I will walk away and think “nobody ever loves me. See, nobody ever does anything for me”, and you go away thinking “I always have to do everything around here”. It’s going to come back because you haven’t resolved it at the emotional level.
The second life position is, “I’m okay and you’re not okay”. Which is a little bit the way we were talking about America and Trump. I always think America is us as well. We can talk about Trump easily, he’s very easy to talk about, but really, I’m a little bit more okay than they are because they voted for him. It is not such a good way to resolve our differences. The same is true in a relationship, if I think potentially, I’m better and more dominant than you are, it’s difficult to get out of a conflict. You can do it at a behavioral level, but underneath, you don’t resolve it. This is because emotionally, you’re saying “I’m worth more than you are”, or “my time is worth more than yours is”. That makes it very difficult to end up in an
equal position of, “hey, we’re both dependent on each other, so we’ve both got to give”.
The last stage of conflict resolution after the latent and acknowledged emotional is the manifest type of conflict. This is where you see people escalate. We say people escalate in passive aggressive behaviors. What you see people doing in manifest conflict where they don’t resolve it in a good way, don’t stay in dialogue, don’t say, “I’m willing to change to be able to stay in contact with you”. You see people going into withdrawal, negative withdrawal, doing nothing. Then maybe hoping it will pass but at the worst doing nothing, because they think, “it’s not my problem”. So in a sense, cutting the relationship by saying, “we’re not dependent, find out for yourself”. Really, if you do that a lot, this negative withdrawal, you’re gonna start fraying the strings of whatever binds you. In The Lord of the Rings, they say the one ring that binds you all. However, it’s more than all the attachments you form over time, your historical attachments, your emotional, your spiritual attachments.. If you go into that withdrawal in the manifest stage, the passive aggressive withdrawal, then you’re actually saying, “I’m not dependent on you”, and you’re starting to cut these little strings and rings that bind you.
The other passive behavior is agitation. Sometimes during conflict, you see people flicking their pens, or they start walking up and down. I remember one guy who told me he always got into a conflict with his wife before vacations. I asked him, “so what do you do?”, and he said, “I walk up and down the hallway”. I then asked, “Does that help you resolve your conflict?”, “No, I just get more angry,” he replied. It’s true. If you agitate, you’re starting to make yourself more angry, physically, you’re escalating. That makes it really difficult to go back down into “we’re going to have a dialogue”.
The other form of passive behavior is harming yourself. Harming yourself can be in very many different ways. People can do it physically, but harming yourself also means pretending that you don’t need anybody. It’s really important that you realize you’re a human being like the rest of us. We’re social animals. You might forget it during Corona time but this social contact is so important for us. Not only for our health of heart, but also for our brain function. We get stimulated by touch. Therefore, if you’re in this space where you think “I don’t need anybody”, you’re actually damaging your own development and it’s not a really good place to be.
Of course, the last, passive behavior in manifest conflicts that’s unhealthy is violence. Violence can be verbal, it can be physical, but any type of violence, of course, is a sign of powerlessness to enter into a dialogue. Sometimes I see my little nephews go around and they go, “I hate you”, when I tell them to go to bed. Sometimes I think it’s also a test to see if “I’m still standing”. You know, it’s their powerlessness, but they’re still reaching out in that violence. In grownups, it’s not so good. I guess, if you’re very Buddhist and forgiving, you would say violence is a way of reaching out. However, it’s not a good way to resolve a conflict.
So the question to you is, are you watching out enough for the latent stages of conflict? Do you watch your somatic reactions? And take them seriously to check, is there an area of conflict in my life that I need to resolve? If there’s an acknowledged conflict, can you go up to that person and say, “hey, we’ve got different goals, but I really am dependent on you for resolution”, be it in your family or in business? How are we going to find the best third option? You know, at the emotional level? Are you checking enough if you’re staying in this, “okay, okay place – listen, even if we have a difference of opinion, you’re still someone of worth as much worth as I am”. And the fourth question I ask of you is, can you stay out of these passive behaviors? withdrawal, agitation, violence? When you’re in conflict, are you able to stay in contact? And if you find that hard, what is it that would help you stay in contact, it’s really important to resolve conflict.
Hi, my name is Sari van Poelje. I am the Director of Intact Academy and the Director of Agile Business Innovation. You can find me anywhere if you Google me. If you look up http://www.intactacademy.com or http://www.agilebusinessinnovation.com, you can find out what I do. Usually it’s to do with change. Change at the individual level, group, team, or organizational level, in the hope that that way will create a better society for all of us.
It’s really important to remember, the conflict is in the relationship, but the conflict is also usually in you. One of the things that’s really important to understand is that you’re actually in some ways acting out whatever split you’ve got in yourself. It’s good to check. Is this really a fight I’m having with this other person? Or is it a fight I’m having with me? Then the other person is just handy to have around. The path to resolution is really sometimes just making contact, it’s just talking about “where are you at? Where am I at? Do we actually need each other to resolve this or not?”.
There are different types of conflict. These are in types of importance, I would say, because you can say there are conflicts about priorities, rules and procedures. I call those instrumental conflicts and there, if you keep your head about you, they’re pretty easy to resolve. I mean, you just go, “What do you want? What do I want? Can we meet in the middle? Is there a different way of doing this?”. The best way to resolve the conflict is if there’s actually a third way, which is even better than my way or your way.
I remember I used to sail with my family. And there used to be a little sign in the cabin, saying, “you can do it any way you like, as long as you do it my way. The Captain”. In business in traditional dominant leadership, people used to resolve conflict this way. I don’t think it’s of this time anymore because if we resolve conflicts that way, we’ll never innovate. There’s always someone who’s right and someone who’s wrong. That’s not really the path to innovation.
The second level of conflict is really social, emotional. It’s about values, trust, and relationships. In Holland, we have a saying that goes “trust comes on foot and goes by horseback”. What we mean by that is that usually for most people trust is slow to develop. But for some people, once you feel betrayed the doors close very quickly, and it’s really hard to recover.
Trust and relationships are precious commodities in this world, where relationships seem more fleeting. It’s really important to keep your relationships healthy. So social emotional conflict is important to pay attention to. If you don’t, what happens is you collect stamps. Do you remember those little booklets we had in supermarkets where you had these stamp books? If you had enough stamps, you could get a towel or something like that. We do the same in social emotional conflict. You know, if you don’t express it and don’t resolve it, people start to collect stamps. When their book is full, they actually hand in the relationship. This is why it’s really important to figure out what’s going on at the social emotional level.
One of my colleagues said, “without a virus, you wouldn’t have a vaccine”. In some ways you could say, any conflict or friction makes your relationship stronger, but only if you own your responsibility and what’s your part in it and are willing to change who you are or what you do.
The last level of conflict is conflict about power. It’s about position and influence. I have to deal with a lot of those types of conflicts. Almost 90% of my executive coaching clients are men in CEO positions, who are ambitious, of course, you have to be. You also have to be a little bit narcissistic, because you have to believe you’re right. Otherwise, it’s really hard to run a company. However, you have to be anchored as well. If you are really for positional power, again, it’s easy to run a production or a volume company. It’s very hard to run an innovation company where you have to actually empower other people and make sure that everybody has leadership in your company.
Types of conflict can be instrumental, social emotional or about power. Power is one of the things that we’re dealing with a lot in the world now. There’s a lot of “who’s right, who’s wrong?” going around nowadays, just look at how the Trump campaign went. Look at what is happening in Russia with Putin or Orban and Hungary. We really have a sense of people wanting to be right. Wanting to be right creates conflicts about power and I’m not sure if I’m ever right, are you? Ask yourself that question.