Coaching Others and Leading/Supporting Teams

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Coaching individuals and teams is challenging and rewarding; as is deciding when to coach and when to manage. Hopefully your position requires you to coach more often than not. Here are five points I rely on to coach and support teams.

1. Transparency

It is important to inform individuals/teams where a decision or observation is coming from. Being open and honest, more so when something is unpopular, can result in increased level of trust and more honest conversations about challenges and successes. Too much transparency can be overwhelming for some, but having the information available to them is important. When working on a project, it is also important that members know what is nonnegotiable to prevent time being wasted on things that will not change.

2. Clear Objective & Well-defined Direction

Does the team know why they are doing what they are doing? Do they understand the objective and what the outcome should be? Is their work part of the organization’s mission and/or strategic plan? These are questions one should answer before assigning projects to an individual or team. Having these conversations with ahead of time will prevent discontent during times of stress and make the project process more effective.

3. Understanding Team Dynamics

Every team has something that glues them together. Find out what that is and use it to motivate and/or reward your team. Do they enjoy a specific type of snack? Bring it to a meeting. Surprise the group and send them home 30 minutes early on Friday. Invite the team to a happy hour and buy the appetizers. Find out which of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace your team responds to most and use it. Saying Thank You or emailing the whole team highlighting certain accomplishments can be more meaningful than a gift card.

4. Leadership Opportunities

Offering leadership opportunities through delegation is a great morale booster for individuals. This can only be effective if the individual is skilled and feels prepared for the task at hand. One way to ensure this happens is by administering strength assessments. Have them Test Their Skills or do a SWOT analysis but with emphasis on strengths and opportunities rather than weaknesses. By being aware of skills your team has, leadership opportunities are more effectively assigned.

5. Observation Sessions

At our organization, we use observation rather than feedback. Through observation, we gain insights and information that is used for conversations with an individual/team. During the conversation, it is best to talk about a specific observation, and almost never about people. Using “I” statements go a long way during these conversations: “In my observation, I felt… when…” or “When I observed… I felt….” or “I observed…, what are your thoughts?”  Asking clarifying questions at the start of an observation session allows the recipient to have some control, which in turn can lower his/her guard and make the conversation more productive.

About the Author


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Francisco Ramirez is the Chicago Program Director at buildOn, an organization whose mission is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy and low expectations through service and education. He has worked in the educational field for over 10 years dedicating his work to underserved students and communities. He serves on the board of the Northwest Side Housing Center and when not engaging students in conversations about their futures, he enjoys traveling and exploring new restaurants.