One of the advantages to having trained as an executive coach with the excellent School of Coaching is the ongoing access to professional development events.  Last week’s event, led by Professor Peter Hawkins, was particularly stimulating.  It was a masterclass in leadership team coaching, and challenged those of us participating on a number of levels.  Professor Hawkins opened by proposing that the speed of change is accelerating as never before, and that the world in which we operate is becoming ever more complex.  And this, he suggested, calls for a different approach to leadership and therefore to the task that we face as coaches and leaders.  For it is the team, and the quality of the relationships and communication that it generates, rather than heroic individuals, that will determine the future of the organisation.

The subject is complex and challenging, but Professor Hawkins encapsulated the key questions that we need to be asking, whether of ourselves as leaders, or of those we’re coaching, and I like questions that focus the mind.  “What can you uniquely do, that the world of tomorrow needs?” seems to be a pretty good way of starting a conversation at individual, team, and organisational levels.  Starting with this question will give away days and strategic planning sessions a clarity of direction that is refreshing.  I also liked Professor Hawkins’ emphasis on the need to focus on what our stakeholders – be they internal or external – expect of us, what they need us “to step up to”.

Of the challenges facing today’s leadership teams, this seminar touched upon managing increasingly diverse stakeholder expectations; keeping things going whilst simultaneously transforming the organisation; matrix working and being members of various teams; systemic conflict; increasingly operating in a virtual world, and working in a world that is becoming more complex and interconnected; and the challenges of communication in a world where social networking demands instant answers and leaves organisations and their people exposed.

I liked the definition of a high performing team as one that:

  • effectively meets and communicates in a way that raises morale and alignment
  • engages with all the team’s key stakeholder groups in a way that grows performance
  • provides constant learning and development for all its members and the collective team

and I liked the emphasis on accountability of the leadership team to all stakeholder groups.

So ask yourself, does your team, or one you’re supporting, perform at more than the sum of its parts?  It’s a question I’m asking myself, and I found the rest of the workshop stimulating and challenging.  Do have a look at Peter Hawkins’ work – I’m reading Leadership Team Coaching right now, and I know that how I think and work, both as a charity CEO and as an executive coach, will change as a result of this excellent day at the School of Coaching.

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