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Situation

Global virtual team, members on four continents, all passionate about the team’s purpose. Most members have never met in the flesh. Team meets monthly by phone or Skype audio, in the evening for Europe and Africa – straddling the date line, members in East are already on the next day, while those in the Americas are still in their morning.

Problem

Everybody on the team is passionate but the progress is strangely slow. Members find each meeting inspiring, yet come back a month later with little action to report.

The Coach

Lori Shook, expert on Organisation and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) “parachuting in” – never met the team, had about ten minutes briefing from the team leader (Mish). Team likewise simply invited to “try working with a relationship systems coach, she is an expert and you can see what it is like.”

What happened

The team met at its usual time, confirmed their willingness for session to be recorded, and the coach had 40 minutes to work with them. I invite you to listen to the podcast of what happened, and form your own conclusions.

Some things to look out for:

  • How the coach gets into meaningful conversation with a team she had never met prior to the beginning of this call.
  • The impact of the voice-only medium on the atmosphere of the team and the session.
  • How the coach uses methods like
    • Asking for each member’s high dreams and low dreams for the team
    • Sharing members’ assessments of how the team is doing
    • Exploring the team learning edges around change
    • Getting team members to explore their roles on the team, what works and what doesn’t work
    • Encouraging shared design of how members want the team to be.

Feedback from the team

Two weeks later, at its regular monthly meeting, the team had this to say about the experience:

  • We got different perspectives on our performance – saw some of our successes
  • Recognised that amongst us there are different skill sets and visions – mostly complementary
  • Felt a new level of care for each other – spending a session on us and not just work outcomes made a big difference
  • We want to celebrate more – what we have done with the online information sharing wiki and these calls
  • We see our own risk aversion, an unintended consequence of our passion for accountability.
  • Feedback from the coach

    For the coach, the key was to listen for the learning edge of the group while engaging them in meaningful conversation about their goals and their relationship. For her, the learning edge was reached – and energetically felt - at the point where the team were asked to rate themselves. Digging deeper about an edgy tone she heard around the ratings, led to uncovering a deep organisational truth: “We don’t want to take on big risky commitments and this holds us back.” The coach then facilitated the group tracking the source of this back to their positive commitment to accountability “we are scared to take things on because we know we will be held accountable if we fail.”

    Conclusion

    An interesting case of the unintended consequences of a positive commitment to accountability – and one for the team and their organisation to take to heart in follow up sessions.

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