You’ve been invited to coach the team of six senior people responsible for admissions into a university summer school programme. From interviewing each of them before the two-hour group session you’ve been allocated, you’ve learned:
- Their targets are too challenging
- Some of them don’t respect Jean, their boss, who will be part of the session
- More than one of them has said, ‘The team dynamics are poor’
- They have very different ideas about how to improve the system
- They have very different ideas about how to attract more students into the programme
- While skeptical of any beneficial outcome, they broadly welcome having a team coaching session
It’s beginning to feel like one of those workshops with ‘Potential Disaster’ written all over it.
What design do you go in with, and – crucially – how do you start the event?
Design is more art than science. There are many ways of preparing for this sort of session, and none guarantee success. Here’s how I approached it, starting with a characteristically solutions-focused move of bringing a possible better future into the room.
With a seemingly troubled present, it’s tempting to acknowledge the difficulties of the situation. While that is potentially valuable for defusing trouble, it’s not really a great place to direct everyone’s attention in the first few minutes. Instead, I checked what each of them wanted from the team coaching, asking, ‘Supposing this session goes surprisingly well, what would be different as a result?’
With a group, it’s useful to find who wants what. You can expect enough common ground for a purposeful starting point. Once we’ve checked whether they consider this task is a worthwhile issue for them, we can work with their shared commitment to make improvements. At this stage it’s fine for them to have different ideas (or none as yet) about what that might be.
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