This is the first in our Series of 12 Podcast on Coaching where Cathy Alford (Founder of Life Works Coaching in Columbus, GA) and I talk about “What is Coaching?” You can dowload the audio recording here. Attached is the PowerPoint slides for this podcast.
A leader who is intentional about setting the culture, hiring people who fit the culture, and developing those people, now has the ingredients for an amazing team! In physics, cohesion is the force by which molecules in a substance are held together. In this article we’ll look at the factors by which team members come together to form a cohesive team. The book we’re drawing from this month is “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” by Patrick Lencioni – in this book, Lencioni outlines 5 keys to creating a healthy high-performing team. Each principle builds on the former, so let’s begin with the end in mind. The ultimate purpose of a team is to get “Results”. A sports team wants to win the game, a military unit wants to achieve the tactical objective, a corporate team wants to see profits, a married couple wants to raise children who become healthy adults, and a Teen Challenge staff team wants to see lives transformed. I love how Lencioni recounts of hearing people say, “well we have a losing record this season, but we have a great team!” He’ll say “no, you don’t have a great team; you have a group of people who enjoy being together and are satisfied with mediocre results.” You might say that Teen Challenge is God’s business and we can’t measure everything – the results are up to Him. That’s partly true, but from well executed fundraising events to well-maintained buildings to changed lives…there are plenty of results we want to see in Teen Challenge.
Next, a team gets results because they are willing to embrace “Accountability”. Greg Hammond talks about this principle in creating a “peer culture” in the student body. He uses the example of a time when he constantly found old gum on the sidewalks of the campus. He could have added yet another rule to the policy manual and said, “No gum.” Instead he went to the student body and said, “You decide – if you want to keep chewing gum, keep it off the sidewalks.” The students took care of it themselves by holding one another accountable. And this is what makes accountability effective, when it operates with “Commitment” to agreed upon decisions, objectives or courses of action. With this kind of commitment the team member says, “I’m all in and I will do my best to support this decision and see it succeed.”
While the gum chewing example is a simple one, other decisions and courses of action are not so straightforward – should this student be dismissed? How can we improve our admissions process? Can we disciple our students more effectively? This is where cohesive teams learn to be comfortable with “Healthy Conflict”. This is nothing more than the pursuit of truth – what’s the very best decision? Is there a better idea? What will be the most effective solution? When team members are free to weigh in on the discussion, and are willing to do so, it’s more likely that the best decision will be made because everyone has brought their brains, experience and giftings to the table. Healthy conflict doesn’t necessarily lead to consensus – the leader will often have to make the call – but people can usually commit to decisions they’ve been allowed to give input on even if they disagree. This kind of honest discussion can only happen in a healthy culture, where there is the presence of “Trust” on a team. Lencioni calls this “vulnerability-based trust”, where people can speak up or admit they don’t have all the answers without fear of being judged or shot down. This kind of trust takes time and intentionality to cultivate on a team but everything else depends on this foundation.
Next month we’ll take a closer look at the role of the leader in these 5 areas. In the meantime, how are things on your team? Is it healthy and functional? Or is there sometimes an inattention to results, avoidance of accountability, lack of commitment, fear of conflict, or absence of trust?
I find it interesting that the last time I posted on my blog was in August. But I don’t find it coincidental. I won’t even blame it on the busyness. It has to do with the fact that God has been doing a major revamping in my life and in my heart. Most of you know that in August, I started life coach training. Part of that training was meeting with one of our instructors for personal coaching. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the concept of Christian life coaching, it’s helping someone discover what God is doing in their lives and helping them to cooperate with Him. What I realized personally, was coaching provided the optimal environment for change. I don’t think we ever really even talked about the big thing that I wanted/needed to change in my life more than once. But over the course of six sessions in 4 months, God changed my heart and my attitude about the thing that was giving me the most trouble. Having an open door to deep, meaningful, intentional conversation and relationship, without the fear of being judged, with the freedom to make mistakes, and with the accountability to take action on what God is telling me to do made a HUGE impact on my life.
You know how scientists tell us that the earth is exactly the right distance from the Sun, and it’s at the exact right tilt so that there can be be life on earth? The conditions are perfect, even though right now some of you would beg to differ because your weather is a little inclement. But ultimately we thrive because of our environment. Coaching is like that perfect environment for thriving. Even now God is giving me a reminder of the sweet babies in Romania that were left all alone in their cribs and failed to thrive. It’s because they lacked relationships. It’s because they didn’t have the love and support they needed to grow. Now, I know that meaningful relationships are not limited to the field of coaching, but I also know that in our chaotic, busy lives, we rarely take the time, energy, and effort to get real and to let others get real.
People, God is at work; He is speaking to us. But if we don’t wake up and do something about it, we are going to miss out. We are not intended to walk through this life alone. And we definitely do not grow best on our own. We are meant to share life together. We are meant to challenge one another. We are meant to confess our faults to one another and to say “This is where I’m really struggling. Please pray for me; I want to change.” We are meant to take what God is saying to us and do something about it. There’s nothing magical about coaching. But it forced me to ask the questions:
What is God doing in my life?
What is God saying to me?
And what am I going to do about it?
And then, I did it! No, God did it! God did something in my life. And He wants to do something in yours also.
Written by Angela Hastings (ELP REP Hosanna House TC, Jacksonville, FL)