As ETD practitioners you might have to coach a team of learners. As a team leader, you know that leadership encompasses more than sitting at the head of the group’s table.
You serve as its coach, and as such you are responsible for:
- Ensuring that the group has the right team players.
Creating operating ground rules or guidelines.
Developing a shared sense of purpose in the form of a mission statement.
Translating that mission into goals and objectives.
Enhancing problem storming and brainstorming.
Establishing communication channels within the team and outside the team with other groups and operating areas.
Determining the resources needed and providing these or communicating the need for them to the team’s mentor or sponsor.
These tasks draw on five critical coaching skills of team leaders:
Setting direction. The team has to have a clear sense of purpose, and seeing that the group has this depends on the ability of the team leader to clarify the scope, or business purpose, of the team effort. From the first day the group meets through its ongoing progress, the team leader, in his or her coaching role, has to see that the team has a clear sense of course and that it makes course corrections when these are called for. Likewise, the team coach must see that team members are oriented to the roles they will play within the team structure.
Summarizing. The leader should summarize others’ remarks, not only orally during meetings but in meeting minutes as well. Perhaps even more important, the team leader has to be able to summarize team progress at each milestone and bring together group thinking about the next steps toward achievement of the group’s goal.
Facilitating. The leader must have the ability to maintain an exchange of different viewpoints without allowing dissension to destroy the team spirit that is so important to achieving the final mission.
For an effective team, the leader as coach also will be bringing together individuals with different experiences and backgrounds, and thus will need the ability to manage the diversity well without using his leadership position to control the group.
Organizing. The team leader is the team’s administrator, which means that he/she is accountable for members receiving handouts and agendas ahead of the meetings, receiving minutes within a few days of a meeting, and monitoring completion of work assignments, not to mention assembling a group of individuals who bring the skills the team will need to accomplish its purpose.
Developing. Finally, you have to teach others the skills they will need to work together as a team.
The importance of these skills becomes more evident as you look at the four coaching roles that you will play during the life of the team: as team visionary, administrator, facilitator, and instructor.
You will perform the first two of these roles even before the first meeting of the team and all four throughout the life of a team.
Setting Ground Rules
Teams need self-discipline, and setting operating ground rules can achieve that. Although the need for ground rules might seem to fall more appropriately under a team leader/coach’s administrative responsibilities, they actually belong under his visionary role because the ground rules will affect not only the team process or group interaction but the work to be done.
For instance, if the team will need to work with other groups to accomplish its mission, then the need for that kind of collaboration should be indicated in the ground rules with, if possible, the means to achieve it.
The following list of sample ground rules should prove helpful.
Sample Team Ground Rules
Members will arrive on time and stay for the entire meeting.
Meeting will be held every Thursday, from 9:30 to 11:00 A.M.
The team will keep to the meeting agenda.
A day before the meeting, members will receive a copy of the agenda and handouts to read so that they will come prepared for the discussion.
The focus of the team will be on its mission; the group will not be distracted by side issues.
The team will allow each member the chance to talk and will hear out other members without interruption.
Assignments will be made by the group as a whole.
Discussions will be kept to the point and professional; the focus will be on issues, not personalities.
The team will meet with leaders of others groups once monthly to review their conclusions.
All decisions will be reached by consensus. Disagreements will be resolved by multivoting.
To help your team formulate its own ground rules, ask team members to consider what behaviors will detract from the team’s mission and what behaviors will contribute to its achievement based on their experience on other teams.
This list of questions will also stimulate thinking:
- Where and when will meetings be held?
How will emergency meetings be handled?
How long will meetings last?
How will decisions be reached?
How will the team network with others within the organisation?
How will the team report to its sponsor or mentor?
How will the team handle conflicts and disagreements among its members?
Will the team evaluate each session after the fact to help improve subsequent sessions?
Ideally, the final rules should be copied for all team members and then hung in the meeting room as a reminder to those in attendance of their commitment to the group.