Team Coach Life: Mark Hopkins

an artistic image of people sat on the floor surrounded by postit notes and laptops


Being a Team Coach means working with an individual or team in a way that supports them on the journey they need to go on. And even though your preparation and delivery style will most likely follow a certain pattern over time, what you actually do for each client and how you work with them will always be tailored; you definitely need to be prepared to go where the energy takes you.

Never has this been more true than in my recent work with a Senior Leadership Team (SLT) – a group of leaders and the two co-founding CEOs – whose tech company had been bought out by a bigger tech company.

I was supporting this group as a Team Coach, working alongside Dan and Tania from the Performance Edge specialism of Leading Edge Performance. Through decompression work with the team, the Performance Edge team had gathered a strong sense of the emotionally tough and challenging journey these individuals had been on during the buyout – and the significant impact it had had on their lives, both professionally and personally. Dan and Tania said this had been the most emotive decompression ever.

Refocusing on strengths

Leading Edge Performance had been asked to design and facilitate a two-day session to provide an opportunity for the SLT to refocus as a team aligned with the Leading Edge Performance framework for highly effective teams. From the output of the decompression interviews and my discovery calls, it was clear this would be a challenging session. We pre-empted this with the client stakeholders in an honest conversation about the need to build trust and how the session would unlikely go in a nice straight line from A to B to C.

This group needed help to reconnect as a high-performing team. They’d been there in the past, but the buyout period had undermined that. These two days – away from the workplace – were an opportunity to begin to work as a team again and collectively solve problems, and through this, to remind themselves of their team strengths.

When helping individuals and teams to overcome obstacles and seize opportunities, I focus on asking the right question, to the right person, at the right time. And as the facilitator for this group, it was up to me to keep them focused on the questions or problems, and not let them move on until these were answered and solved.

Why is this important? Because by holding the group to account, I could guide them to a place where they could celebrate success and have an opportunity to smile and laugh.

Shifting mindset

People who’ve been so negatively affected by a situation they’ve been put in need help to rebuild – one step at a time. They need help to find one or two strengths in themselves and each other to start to shift their mindset. And they need an opportunity to express their thanks. This group took that opportunity, thanking each other, highlighting what they appreciate in each other and starting to connect again.

We ran a life map exercise to get them to share what’s important to them as human beings, and in doing so find and acknowledge common ground. And our tennis ball exercise included a ‘curved ball’ moment that meant they simply had to work as a team to make sure everyone in the group could contribute and celebrate success.

Problem-solving puts on the pressure. And, again, my facilitation style of not moving on until the problem is solved encouraged them to work together well and receive another important reminder of their strengths as a team.

While holding firm for questions to be answered and problems to be solved, we made sure space was created for people to say what they needed to say in that moment – and to make sure they were heard. No ‘Churchill nodding dog’ situation in this room.


Staying on the journey

Any preconceived ideas of how the day would go were out of the window. As their Team Coach, I had to be confident with the toolkit in my brain and trust in my authentic style, knowing I would pull the right question out, for the right person, at the right time, to keep the journey aligned with the framework and heading in the right direction.

From our pre-work, we knew that catching the small things would make a big difference to this team. We were observant human beings in all our interactions, looking out for how people reacted, not just what they said. This is where I believe Leading Edge Performance add real value to clients.

This group moved a good way forward in the two days, even establishing the purpose and vision for their new team. It was challenging for everyone, but also motivating. People will know they were asked some tough questions and made to feel uncomfortable at times, but by embracing this, they left with something they can have a good think about and build on. I hope they feel in a much stronger position.

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