MasterClass: Coaching the Optimal Team

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MasterClass: Coaching the Optimal Team

Watch as Amy Edmondson discusses teaming:

Teaming: Coaching teams to Learn, Innovate, and Compete in the Knowledge Economy - A review of the work of Amy Edmondson, Novartis Professor of Leadership, Harvard Business School.

Leadership coaches are being asked to coach leaders and teams that are more fluid, diverse, and geographically dispersed than ever before. The days of improving team performance simply by perfecting the organization structure or elevating a charismatic team leader are long gone. According to research by Amy Edmondson and others, optimizing team performance in today’s unpredictable organizational landscape requires a dynamic, action-oriented approach she calls, “teaming” – that encompasses group learning, adaptability, inclusion, and innovation.

This MasterClass is ideally suited for any leadership or executive coach who wants to bring leading edge research on coaching teams into their real-world engagements, especially when coaching in knowledge-based, high-stakes, or highly competitive, culturally diverse, and geographically dispersed environments. In this MasterClass, you will learn about the work of thought leader Amy Edmondson as she takes a refreshing, up-to-date look at how leaders can turn ordinary groups into learning, adapting, and innovating high-performing teams. This MasterClass is a MUST for any leadership coach whose clients struggle with leading teams through difficult change processes or organizational upheaval.

Materials included are:

  1. From Science to Practice Part I: Practical translation for leadership and team coaches: a summary of learning points to focus on as you read, reflect, and watch the presentation material with Dr. Amy Edmondson
  2. Amy Edmondson Bio
  3. Recommended book by Edmondson on the latest research in optimizing team performance and leading teams in dynamic, environments
  4. Live footage from Amy’s presentation, “Teaming” at the Coaching in Leadership Conference 2013
  5. Video interview with Amy Edmondson on the art of leading a high performing team
  6. From Science to Practice Part II: Case-study with coaching notes. Research by Edmondson from the Journal of Management Studies, where she studied the high-stakes team dynamics of a hospital surgical-operating room environment to glean best practices on how leaders can coach team members to “speak up” and create safety, learning, innovation, and optimal performance under difficult and fast-changing scenarios. The accompanying notes offer a “bridge to practice” by applying a coaching perspective to key research points from the article
  7. Additional articles co-authored by Amy Edmondson:
    • “Why Employees are Afraid to Speak,” Edmondson with James R. Detert, Harvard Business Review, 2007
    • “Too Hot to Handle: How to Manage Relationship Conflict,” Edmondson with Diana Mclain Smith, California Management Review, 2006

In this Master Class, you will learn:

  • What coaches need to know about the latest research on team performance and group dynamics,
  • A new perspective on teams called, “teaming” that offers a dynamic, “stretch” rather than static, structural approach to managing groups; an approach ideally suited to learning through coaching,
  • How a "teaming” framework in leadership and team coaching can help create a culture and climate of safety, learning and innovation, and
  • How coaches support clients to transcend outmoded views of team dynamics—e.g. “failure is bad,” “role clarity is key,” “hierarchy is normal,” “authority creates accountability”—towards the more fluid, open, and permeable approach needed in today’s fast-changing, diverse environments.

Watch a brief interview with Amy Edmondson:

From Science to Practice:

Practical Translation for Leadership and Team Coaches

Below is a summary of learning points to focus on as you read, reflect, and watch the presentation material with Dr. Amy Edmondson:

1. Re-frame your understanding of the nature of teams—from static structure and roles (which retain the internal, if unconscious, dynamic of competition and individualism) towards “teaming”—fluid interactive live-action combinations of variable and diverse skills. Coaching in this context supports leaders to move beyond simplistic perspectives such as success/failure (towards learning from failure) beyond member/non-member (towards permeable boundaries) and beyond hierarchy=authority (towards encouraging and valuing every perspective from the bottom to the top).

2. Key to driving high performance: aspiration—leaders need to craft meaningful, emotionally rich “stretch” goals that foment participants’ “skin in the game.” Likewise coaches need to support teams/leaders in exploring WHY their work matters. The answer becomes the basis for the deep intrinsic motivation required to enable perseverance and risk-taking both of which are necessary for individual and group success.

3. Leaders need to “team up”—today’s team leaders need no longer be autocratic or hierarchical instead they must know when to let down their guard (be vulnerable and open), seek out diversity, listen and encourage diverse perspectives, make the environment safe for “speaking up”, and develop permeable group boundaries. Coaches can model this perspective and behavior with and for their clients helping them to break through outdated patterns by addressing conscious and unconscious fears of change exposure and mistakes.

4. Focus on psychological safety—coaches can support clients to “know what safety looks like” and why it matters. They can then support leaders to create a climate of inclusion where diverse, even controversial, opinions are not shunned but welcomed, even encouraged and embraced.

5. Practice Inclusive leadership—coaches can elevate team performance with leaders by increasing their awareness of how they define and create a sense of belonging with people both inside and outside of their team; learn to let go of rigid definitions of who is “in” and who is “out” – learn to have an open mind about the value and perspective of “the other” – ultimately not to defend against but embrace differences.

6. Create “learning zones” – key point: teams that fail, but learn fast and innovate don’t necessarily have to sacrifice accountability. Coaches can help leaders and teams become aware of the danger of holding a false mental model that “teaming” encourages individuals to avoid being held accountable. Performance management is still important but what is key is to create a “learning zone” rather than a “comfort zone” – one that enables mistakes/learning/risk-taking but also encourages fast turnaround and action when mistakes are made.

7. Cultivate an atmosphere of curiosity not competition—coaches are perfectly situated to support clients in team situations using “advocacy and inquiry” approaches to engage and elicit information from all levels.

8. Become aware of the “ladder of inference”—humans have a tendency to “jump to conclusions” and form strong unsupported biases based on limited data or data of limited value. Coaches can help clients become aware of this “confirmation bias” and develop strategies and vigilance for warding off the errors, poor judgments, and outcomes that result from our natural, yet faulty, tendency towards simplistic deductive reasoning.

9. Fail well—coaches are ideally situated to help leadership clients or entire teams re-evaluate how they define success. Optimization of team performance requires that we consider the possibility that failure is a gift—an opportunity to experiment learn and accelerate action towards new possibilities. Failure is a given—but HOW we react to it makes a huge difference in future outcomes.

10. Learn fast—diagnose, design, reflect, act, repeat—a model for continuous improvement that coaches can apply with individual clients or teach/model with groups in situations where mistakes have been made or outcomes have been less than optimal.

11. Leadership best practices in a “teaming” context:

  • Frame the work;
  • Acknowledge your limits;
  • Embrace messengers;
  • Encourage dissent

A practical model for coaches to apply in setting goals for team leader coaching: do they utilize this framework? Do they take on these challenges? What stops them? How can they step up and “team” (its a verb!).


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