CARVER Coaching & Performance Newsletter

Hi Paul here,

I hope this finds you well. This week’s theme is…

Team Dynamics

Being a part of a group or team is an important part of human nature. We have an innate desire to be a part of a collective. After all-In Unity There is Strength! Some groups add up to more than the sum of their parts, while others add up to less. The most effective teams self-categorise and see themselves as a collective. They have mutual benefits for members, social structure and clear processes1.

It is important to acknowledge that the formation of a performing team does not happen overnight; it is a process. The Tuckman Model2 describes the four stages of team formation in a simple and logical manner. The first stage involves little agreement or clarity (Forming), which evolves, often through conflict and a struggle for power (Storming) to establish agreement and consensus with clear roles and responsibilities (Norming). It is only after a clear vision and purpose has been established, that a team can focus on achieving its goals (Performing). All too often in teams, we try to rush to ‘Performing’ where we would be better served spending time in the ‘Storming’ and ‘Norming’ phases. Indeed, some teams can often cycle between the ‘Storming’ and ‘Norming’ phases before finally arriving at the ‘Performing’ stage. While many teams never truly reach the ‘Performing’ stage; they never add up to more than the sum of their parts.

Before delving deep into the technical and tactical detail around performance, it is important for both the coach and athlete to establish a connection with team members. A team, at its formative stage, is merely a group of individuals with differing views, experiences and mindsets. By establishing a common meaning, direction, or goal, the team can then focus on defining expected behaviours and principles. A series of Connections exist within a team – coach to player, player to player, coach to coach, team to club and so on. Each connection is vitally important. The establishment of common ground within this network of connections paves the way for the creation of shared values and purpose. Within such environments people care about their work, and can be depended upon to do it to the best of their ability.

Each team member brings a unique set of skills and experiences. They all arrive at the same location, but have taken different roads to get there. It is the skilful facilitation and harnessing of these unique skills and experiences that makes for a performing team. In order to fully integrate, team members must collaborate with, and challenge each other. As an individual, it is important to define what skills and experience that you bring to the table. Ask yourself where you can add value, and where you can support others.

A shared set of Values can help provide clarity and purpose for the team. It can create a connection and allow team members to work toward a common team goal that supersedes individualism. This clarity and purpose creates efficiencies, allowing coaches to hone in on the common goal, rather than tailoring to each individual’s needs. Although it is still vitally important for the coach to understand each individual’s personal goals and values, more often than not the team objectives should take precedent over individual desires. In truth, an eagerness to sacrifice personal interests for the greater good of the collective is the foundation of a performing team.

It is also valuable to be aware of the ways in which a team can become dysfunctional. An absence of trust often holds the team back from reaching its potential. The creation of vulnerability within a team is difficult to achieve, but it is crucial in establishing trust. Mutual sharing and personal disclosure binds people together; as does shared experiences. Accountability and commitment to the cause are also critical factors that strengthen team dynamics. Ambiguity is a killer. The individual ego can often emerge and damage team dynamics, whereby individuals pursue their own agenda to the detriment of the team.

Challenge: Think of the teams that you are currently involved with – in sport, at work or elsewhere. What stage of team formation do you think the team is at? How can you utilise your skills and experience to help create stronger team dynamics?

[1] Spink, Wilson, and Priebe (2010

[2] Tuckman (1985)

CARVER Insight

I keep a medal in my wallet that simply states: ‘Your influence is never neutral’. I was given it at a coaching conference I attended in the US a number of years back. I’d lie if I said I notice it every day, but I keep it there as an anchor of sorts. When dealing with people our influence in never neutral: we are either making the situation better, or worse, by varying degrees.

I worked as a primary school teacher for fifteen years. Someday I may return to it, but for now my ambition is to maximise the potential for good of this thing of mine. I enjoyed my time teaching; together with the children, we had great days… great fun. Much of what I know about coaching, I learned from the classroom. In truth, coaching and teaching are one and the same. For sure, my greatest learning was, that environment is the silent hand of behaviour. I will talk to the power of environment in our next newsletter.

Fifteen years of teaching is a lot of children, and a lot of opportunities to influence in a positive manner provided one have the appropriate skills and levels of self-awareness. Awareness is the ‘A’ of the CARVER Framework. This element covers many concepts, one of which is most certainly, being aware of the influence you are having on those in your care.

About 3 years ago I received a call from the father of a girl I had taught in third class, many years previously. He has just left his daughter to college for her first day as a Medical Student and rang to share with me that on the way to the college he had asked his daughter why she had chosen Medicine as a career path. She replied that it was something I had said to her, while she was with me in third class, that had lit the flame. Recently while in town with my wife, we met that father and his daughter. It was great to meet them, and she is now thriving as a Third Year Medical Student.

I write this piece to both personally reflect on, and share with you, the power of influence. Eckhart Tolle’s quote, “Awareness is the greatest agent for change” always resonates with me. All too often we simple don’t know, what we don’t know, and therefore we can’t change our behaviour. I want both you and I, to be aware of our influence as coaches, leaders, teammates and so on.

Our challenge, and indeed our responsibility, is to help people see the best in themselves; to help them see the possibilities this world has to offer them and indeed they have to offer it. No one is perfect, and highlighting imperfections…. well let’s just say, I’m sure there is enough people out there doing that.

Build on people’s strengths as opposed to highlight their weaknesses. Notice and Endorse the positive. A kind and considered word of encouragement can go a long way, and can have many unintended positive consequences. To paraphrase the American Historian Henry Adams,

‘A coach affects eternity; they can never tell where their influence stops.’

Your Influence is Never Neutral,

Paul

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