Team Coach Life: Tina Dullaghan

Fabulous clients, engaged leaders and the super-supportive community that is Team Green perfectly describes life as a Leading Edge Team Coach. Add in running a workshop in a never-before-visited country, supporting a brand new leader with their first global meeting, and one missing suitcase, and you’ve got my recent trip to Saudi Arabia.

Last month, I was in Riyadh to facilitate a 3-day meeting of the global Commercial Leadership Team for a multinational food and drink business. With a new global leader appointed just 5 weeks before the workshop, the planned agenda required significant change to drive focus on a new strategy and enable him to make his mark – and to show off his market in Saudi Arabia. The country is going through enormous transformation in terms of openly welcoming a global community, so much so that conference space in Riyadh is in high demand and short supply right now.

Running up to the event, I was in regular contact with the new leader to shift the agenda from the Highly Effective Teams approach planned to one that still incorporated a strong focus on teams but with more scope for them to explore how they would operationalise their projects. Because this client doesn’t typically bring in external facilitators, our regular discussions during the design phase were critical for establishing a partnership. The outcome of this being that my role for the 3 workshop days became more consultative – advising, coaching and observing.

Bringing team purpose to life, Lego style

One activity I designed and ran for the group used Lego. I’m a Lego Serious Play Accredited Player and love how Lego is such an energising and exciting tool for exploring stories in 3D and helping bring team purpose to life. After the initial (not uncommon) “Ugh – Lego!” murmurings from around the room, I was delighted to see the group truly engage with the activity and respond brilliantly.

[Slightly disappointingly, my own much-used Lego set didn’t feature in this energising activity… but more on that to come.]

A room full of energy

There were times when the agenda was obviously sliding, typically moments when the team had found richness in a topic and wanted to rinse as much out of the discussion as possible. As I know my fellow Leading Edge Team Coaches would also have done, I kept in mind what I was there to do and asked myself: is this in service of the outcome they’re looking for? It often was. So I went with the energy in the room, taking every opportunity to bring in the Leading Edge point of view and Highly Effective Teams elements while encouraging and supporting the team’s clear momentum towards better understanding their leadership focus and starting to use language as one team.

My goal going to Riyadh was to really help these leaders start to think about why they exist as a leadership team, and their new global leader was delighted with what he described as a very successful outcome. By being flexible in the moment – facilitating and guiding while calling out hot points rather than sticking rigidly to an agenda – I am thrilled with how I helped enable the group to use their energy to drive towards operationalising a complex strategy.

Support in times of setback

Back to that missing suitcase – and Lego! Very annoyingly, my suitcase didn’t show up until the day before I flew home, so I was without my carefully planned outfits (chosen mindfully to suit the location), toiletries and, indeed, Lego. I was thankful that I had time to get to the shops because, for this long-haul trip, I’d decided to fly out a whole day early. I met incredibly friendly people at every turn, including kind and understanding taxi drivers who waived payment for a couple of short trips when I didn’t have any cash and they would have preferred that over a card payment.

I consider myself to be pretty resilient and confidently travel to many European and Western countries for work. But this trip to Saudi Arabia had given me extra things to think about, and I don’t mind saying that I felt a bit wobbly on the Sunday night without any of my own ‘stuff’. I took a bit of time to centre myself and speak to some important people to remind myself that these things happen – and for them to remind me that I could do this!

Leading Edge were absolutely brilliant, asking what I needed and making sure I knew I’d be OK. As a Team Coach travelling the world, often alone, it’s incredibly important to know that I’m supported in that way.

The nearby Lego shop saved my planned activity. So while my own poor Lego was stuck in a suitcase at the airport, a fresh new set was out of its packaging and helping to energise a global leadership team to find their purpose and start to reach a platform from which to drive their strategy for success.

In essence, it doesn’t really matter what the tools are – it’s how you approach the situation. I could have been left with nothing and still would have had a plan and been trusted by the client to be successful. The relationship I’d built with the global leader in the weeks before had generated that trust in me and made me his strong partner for those important 3 days.



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Tina Dullaghan

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