The success or failure of a team boils down to the people involved. Teams that function well have solid communication structures in place, react to feedback and encourage it, and are clear about the goal they’ve set about to achieve. In contrast, teams that struggle frequently suffer from inadequate communication, finger-pointing, and may be rowing in different directions.
Combining Coaching and Technology
These human-centric issues might seem like they can only be remedied by more facetime and hands-on coaching, but sometimes the answer lies in a digital tool. The key lies in finding the right balance between coaching and leveraging new ways of working.
Benchmark the Current State
When a team is struggling, coaching typically needs to be the first step. Laying the groundwork for positive team dynamics and a respectful working environment should be step one, before you try to raise expectations on the team. Have discussions, both with individuals and as a group, to get to the root of the issues they’re experiencing:
- Is there a lack of confidence in the team leadership?
- Has the team established clear and consistent communication?
- Are people stretched too thin or facing impossible deadlines?
- Are there problems with working conditions or safety hazards?
Keep in mind that the underlying cause of a problem might be outside the team’s ability to address themselves, in which case you may need to escalate it. But understanding the interpersonal dynamics and the challenges the team is facing will help determine the optimal solution.
Lay the Foundation for Success
Once you’ve begun to pinpoint where the team is struggling, you can devise a coaching strategy. This should be tailored to the situation; if communication has been a challenge, take extra care to ensure that everyone is clear on the goals of the coaching and what problem you’re trying to solve — and why it benefits them. If there’s an individual whose behavior has been derailing the rest of the team, make sure that individual is not perceived to be leading the effort to turn things around.
Again, success at this stage requires that you’ve uncovered the true source (or sources) of the problem. You can’t coach away a hidden variable.
Reinforce Improvement with Digital Tools
Once coaching is showing positive effects and the team is clear on the goals they’d like to achieve, now is the time to use technology to help reinforce the changes they’ve made. If communication has been a challenge, try to facilitate information sharing and updates through a digital platform. If the team has fallen into a pattern of placing blame due to schedule slippage, tracking project KPIs in a transparent and objective way can help pinpoint where the problems are occurring and clear the air.
As the team acclimates to using new tools, be sure to maintain the balance between hands-on coaching and check-ins and enablement through technology. The best digitalization efforts are those that combine the best of both worlds; strengthening relationships within the team through coaching, mentoring, and feedback, while leaning on tech to automate administrative tasks and uncover project insights through data analysis.