Category: Coaching Teams

Coaching and Managing Teams With Appreciative Inquiry

Coaching and Managing Teams With Appreciative Inquiry

Managing a team can be a difficult task by itself, much less trying to coach them in the right direction. Sometimes our good intentions can come across as critical, negative, or just plain mean. But when we use Appreciative Inquiry along with other coaching or management strategies, we can help our team find solutions to their problems while also making them more positive and confident in themselves.

Related: Problem Solving Outcome Based Team Building Activities

Build Around What Works

When we examine how our business is run, we notice what functions and works for everyone, and what doesn’t. The key to a well-managed team is building around what works and encouraging growth with it. As managers or team leaders we can try to change things that derail our team from what they usually do. While this is normally done with good intentions, it can often lead to a kink in the company plan and actually have the opposite effect of what we were hoping for. Notice what is working for the team now and how well they function. If changes are needed (or attempted), try to incorporate the current structure while leading the team in the new direction.

Like the old saying goes: “If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.

Focus on Increases

As a team leader, we often look at our task list in a negative way. One of the first things we try to accomplish is to decrease certain areas, such as mistakes, tardiness, and complaints. But focusing on what we want to decrease normally includes negative attributes of the job. If we focus on these things for too long, we can drive ourselves to negativity very quickly.

Instead, focus on what aspects can be increased. By focusing on what can be increased, we are focusing on the positive attributes of the job, such as more sales, more goals, and more customer and employee satisfaction. If we approached a team member with the same problem, which route of improvement would they feel more confident taking – decreasing their typing mistakes or increasing their typing ability?

Encourage increases in different areas:

  • Sales
  • Moral
  • Productivity
  • Confidence

Recognize the Best in People

Another aspect of being positive is being able to see the best in people instead of being critical. Of course, no one is perfect and everyone has some kind of fault, but that does mean we have to define them by it. When we recognize the best in people, not only do we benefit from knowing what great attributes they can contribute, but it makes the team members feel more confident about themselves and their job skills.

When they feel better about themselves, they want to do better at their jobs and will work harder to make progress and get the job done. Don’t be afraid to compliment team members on their job skills and what they have accomplished. When you find yourself focusing on what they have done wrong, refer to your mental list of all of their good qualities and determine which list overpowers the other.

Limit or Remove Negative Comments

Using negative terms and phrases is one of the leading causes of poor performance and low team morale. These harsh words can damage any relationship and can often bring out a sense of defensiveness when approached. When you find yourself wanting to use negative phrases, either with yourself or a team member, stop and think of the words you’re using. Then rethink the sentence by removing negative comments and replacing them with a positive one. You’ll find that you can still get your point across without making the team feel as though they are being attacked.

Remove comments such as:

  • “It’s too hard.”
  • “I’ll/You’ll never finish this.”
  • “It’s too late to change now.”

How to Begin the Coaching Journey with Your Team

How to Begin the Coaching Journey with Your Team

In this blog, you will learn how to place that stake in the ground, marking the beginning of the coaching journey with your team.

Getting a Picture of Where You Are

Framing the reality of the situation for your team is an important step to accepting the coaching process. It is easier for you to outline your team’s performance problem, but this does not create the most receptive environment. In order to gain acceptance of the problem, it is best to let the team come to the realization themselves. Neglecting to do this could result in a non-responsive team. They may feel apprehensive or defensive and shut down. They may go along with your coaching, but their attitude is that of just getting the coaching session over with in the least amount of time. Involving your team is easy if you are willing to ask questions, listen, and guide your them to where they are in their performance. Here are four simple questions you can ask:

  • What is happening now?
  • How often is this happening?
  • When does it happen?
  • What is the effect?

These questions help you to guide your team to a place where they can see their performance affect the organization. When they realize the impact on their own more buy-in is created. In addition, more information may be obtained on why your team is not performing at the level they should be achieving.

The realization of the problem marks the starting point. It also serves as a marker on performance. For instance, a team member may discover that they are not reaching production goals because they are taking extra time doing something incorrectly. Knowing this, you are able to refer to this issue when improvements occur.

Identifying Obstacles

When coaching, obstacles will arise and you need to be prepared to handle them with efficiency. The last thing you want to happen is your team handing you an obstacle you cannot address because you are not prepared to handle the problem with a consistent response.

Using the IRA steps to obstacle identification and removal is vital to the coaching process. Here is the breakdown of the process.

  • Identify the obstacle: Have a frank discussion with your team and determine what is blocking their performance. Waiting for them to give you the information voluntarily will probably not happen.
  • Root out the cause: Many times underlying emotions or problems may be the cause of the obstacles. Ask probing questions and jot down the answers. You might realize they have a fear that must be addressed.
  • Antidote given: A remedy to the situation is needed in order to get past this obstacle. Brainstorm with your team on ways to remove the obstacles. In some cases, you may have to try several different antidotes. Be patient if the cause is genuine.

No matter what the perceived obstacles are, do not let it stifle you coaching objective. Rarely, you may encounter a team member that throws obstacles constantly your way in an effort to derail you. Identify this and address it with that team member, documenting every conversation.

Exploring the Past

Exploring your team’s past performance and development is a great way to develop the reality of today’s performance. Of course, you want to avoid belaboring a past mistake to the point where it makes the session ineffective. On the other hand, focusing on previous achievements helps to encourage your team.

Here are some things to focus from the past:

  • Goals that were met
  • Great behaviors
  • Great attitudes
  • Problems solved

Using the past helps to recap where your team is at today. It is like telling a story, but the end has not yet been determined. Use this time to speak positively to your team. Avoid being negative or emphasizing the consequences of failure. This will leave an impression on your team that could hinder their success.