Leadership Team Coaching: From Tyranny to Harmony
A Success Story.
We were recently invited to do some leadership team coaching at one of the largest technology companies in the world. We started with this team last month, shortly after a senior executive was replaced. It was clearly apparent that this initial “leader” created a culture of fear and cynicism.
He even threatened people with their jobs.
We could see that this team had a lot of healing to do since the tyrannical leader left.
We could see it in their bodies.
When tyrannical leaders leave, they leave behind their well-designed legacy, “a fear-based culture.” The next leader’s “gift” is to pick up the pieces and try to make the team whole again. Tyrannical leaders plague every industry, position, and profession. The inheriting leader finds individuals that are broken and practice unconscious “fear-based” behaviors.
In order for the new team to heal and begin to function again, the team must get honest – they must use transparency, vulnerability and courage to declare everything that is not working. They must EXPOSE the “legacy” that the tyrannical leader gifted them.
Leadership Team Coaching: Change the Conversation & Change the Results
In situations like this we know we must do one main thing: We must change the conversation. It is only through changing the conversation that we can change the results. The conversations we have during our facilitations are probably nothing like you would expect. We aren’t saying “do this, don’t do that” boring them with long PowerPoint presentations full of stats and figures showing them what “great teams” do.
No. We flip the presenter.
Our first conversation begins with – tell me who YOU are.
At our first session, we dedicate the entire morning to learning each other’s stories. Each team member presents a PowerPoint with 5 slides. Slides without words. Only pictures. The assignment is entitled, “Who are you?”
Participants share “what do you care about?”
They share why it’s easy, and maybe not so easy, to work with them.
They share the story of who they are and what happened along the path that got them to be who they are today. Most importantly, they share their story about how they got to where they are today. The more your team knows about where you came from, who you are, and how and why you think the things you do, the more trust you build on your team.
Finally, came the most vulnerable sharing. They share what they need from the team to be personally successful. Yes. And we haven’t even gotten to lunch!
During this time, the team learned some amazing things about each other, and began to have a larger understanding of working with each other. We could tell right away that this began to rebuild some trust and raise the level of compassion on this team.
Our leadership team coaching involves 10 conversations that we use that help teams reach high performance. It is these 10 conversations that guarantee success. The 10 conversations break through the fear, break through the tyranny, and break through the brokenness. The 10 conversations work because they expose each persons’ cares, vulnerabilities, obstacles, and desires. The conversations themselves create TEAM.
Leadership Team Coaching: Session 1
“My team doesn’t have my back”
After our morning story session, we facilitated a FreshBiz training. What is so nice about the FreshBiz game is that it eloquently displays team dynamics without pointing fingers, or identifying things as “wrong”. After the FreshBiz game was over, and we broke out into the debrief, I sat there and asked, “what just happened?”.
What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. You see most people at work are reserved. They hide, they grin and bear it and they don’t fully express their feelings, which can lead to serious trouble.
After the FreshBiz game, the team began to open up and share some lingering feelings of things that happened in the past. Through utilizing the game as a metaphor for what was really going on, the members of the team expressed that they don’t fully believe that their team has their back. They also began to notice that they tend to not assume positive intent. This led to a huge breakthrough on this team and a huge desire to transform how they work and trust each other.
As we ended this session, we left them with two assignments to practice:
- Begin making formal requests to get things that you need from this team, especially from team members who you believe DON’T have your back.
- Through conversations over the next month, get to a place where each believes deep in their heart that their teammates have their back, act in positive intent, and feel supported by each other.
Leadership Team Coaching: Session 2
The introduction to our follow up session began with a conversation around how things had been since the last session. To be honest, we were afraid that during the time that we were gone that there was going to be no progress, and that we would be just stepping off where we left. Or worse–that they might continue the tyranny without their tyrannical leader. We experience over and over again, that most individuals adapt to ineffective behaviors even when the ineffective leader takes off.
Fortunately, we were surprised, and impressed with the progress this team had made over the month. This team continued the conversation that we had started. They named what wasn’t working to each other, and they took responsibility for what had occurred. They continued to be curious about how they each came to their conclusions about each other. Most importantly, they had shifted the conversation from complaint about the past to commitment to the future.
Learning from asking why?
As we reviewed their progress on the homework, we noticed the biggest piece that helped many of them was assuming positive intent. The homework was making requests of each other and was not completed by the entire team.
Instead of focusing on what they did NOT do, we focused on what was occurring such that they did not complete the homework. We focused on what was missing. We are all human beings and we are all developing together. It is through conversations around the why we do or do not do what we promise, that we learn and develop.
Like many teams this team lacked the competency to make requests. Requests had been beaten out of them. This simple move is the difference between high performance teams and tyranny.
Taking back the Culture
The fear-based tyrannical legacy had to be broken, and during this session, that’s exactly what we did through leadership team coaching. So, we empowered this team to do things that had never been done before. We empowered them to share their aspirations, and to ask each other for help to achieve them. We empowered this team to create the connections required to promise future results that they had never delivered before.
Each team member practiced active listening and noted down what they could do to help each team member achieve their aspirations. This led into a conversation of the team defining the values that they really want to begin to live by, the behaviors they want to repeat, and the emotions that they want to feel.
The Harmonic Future
The one thing this team could all agree on is that a high performance team is dedicated to the personal and professional development of their team, and through this they could now commit to promises that they might not know how to keep. They committed to be a model for the rest of the company in what it means to be a high performance team. This team also had a new way to see and act in the world.
They now had a new set of values, behaviors and emotions to overthrow the tyrannical leadership style that had damaged this team. Now they have a way forward, thanks to leadership team coaching. They are now creating a legacy they can be proud for their company!
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