The necessary skills in order to coach management teams

Often, a coach with experience in accompanying management teams will provide options and suggestions with specific reference to business issues and strategy, and he will work alongside with the team members. Coaches who arrive by chance (or by a seductive sales process) in this environment without the necessary internal expertise will be quickly rejected from the team. And this thing is, probably, the best result possible. Even worse, coaches who feel this rejection and don’t know what to do will try to influence the decisions of the management team. And this is a potential disaster. Simply said, clients don’t need coaches to lead their organizations. They need coaches who are coaching.

Further on, I will present some details regarding the necessary skills in order to coach management teams. These skills have a major importance both for coaching in Romania and its development and also for the ones that are considering working with a coach in order to optimize the organizational effort and to improve their business results.

• The ability to observe multiple levels of dynamic – both interpersonal and regarding the team as a whole – while this is happening. Each time, very interesting interactions appear between team members, between the team and the working environment, and even in every individual. An accurate and detached observation of these interactions and the changes it generates is based on a deep theoretical and practical knowledge of the group dynamics, team development processes and on principles of interactions between living systems. Of course, it also needs lots and lots of practical experience!

• In direct connection with the first skill is the ability to choose the interactions that are or may be productive for the functioning of the team. Most often, what appears on the surface in a team training can become highly productive if properly reflected by the coach. Of course, this skill is really useful only when the coach is able to decide on the spot (not to guess!) what is really important in the architecture of team development and what deserves indeed to be brought to the attention of all members as an observation that changes things for the better.

• The third skill is the self-awareness of power and influence and how these two types of energy move – free or controlled – within the team. To be an efficient ability, it needs to be accompanied by a qualified relative comfort of the coach to interfere and influence the ways in which the energy power is used for a group of managers. In this case, a suitable question for the coach is: Who owns what kind of power here and how/ when it’s used.

• The fourth skill is a linguistic one: to put in simple words what is observed, strictly delimited of any internally used jargon and to properly rephrase and reflect upon what is happening. The most intuitive picture here is the TV language: speak using words that can be easily understood by a 12-13-year-old child. This skill has to be accompanied by the power of raising any type of issue to the team – no matter how difficult it may look – at the right time.

• The fifth ability is the professional ethics: the coach needs a very strong ethics kit, in a confrontation with the risks that come alongside with working with a team of managers. In particular, the coach has to be aware of the consequences of identifying with only one team member – even if this person is the CEO or the CFO – or, in general, with any ‘part’ or ‘clan’ that manifests itself in an interaction. In this case, it is very necessary to own the capacity to respond quickly in a judicious, honest and appropriate way to any challenge from the team.

• The sixth and maybe most important ability is the one of practical knowledge regarding the business, especially of the way in which the company produces money. In a management team, the coach wins trust by being an expert in the systemic processes that exists inside the team, and moreover, by understanding the businesses lead by the managers. The coaches that are not familiar with the conditions of the systems the company is part of (such as the market, competitive advantages, general challenges, etc.), the organizational structure and the work conditions of the employees are even harder to be trusted by the team that manages a business.

The information presented above contains a few elements that a team of managers should take into consideration when deciding to work with a coach. My intentions are not to offer a success recipe, but just to place some useful benchmarks, both for the organization that wants to work with a coach, for the management team and also for coaches who aim to work at this level.

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