What’s the stupidest question you can ask your coach?

12th February, 2015

What’s the stupidest question you can ask your coach?

Do you ever feel as though you want to ask that really basic question, but hold back in case everyone else thinks you’re stupid?  This feeling is surprisingly common, in all walks of life and in many different circumstances.  I see this in action when I’m working with a leadership team who are starting to think about how to transform their performance.  And what is the question that is hanging in the air? It usually goes something like this…

“We know when our organisation is doing well - profit, market share, public approval ratings, patient waiting times etc - but how will we know if our leadership team is high performing?  What is it that we should be doing?”

It is this unspoken question that hovers around every new leadership team and every existing team that is finding life pretty tough right now.  What should we, as the leadership team, be doing - day to day, hour to hour, to be truly high performing and deliver what is required for our organisation and our people.

The Rocket Model developed by Robert Hogan and Gordon Curphy is a great tool to guide the formation, development and maintenance of a high performing leadership team.

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The Mission element of the Rocket Model is concerned with what the senior team needs to accomplish.  This is not necessarily the same as the Mission of the organisation but is obviously linked.  In describing and laying out what the senior team needs to accomplish, a number of goals will be defined and developed.  These provide focus and the ability to measure progress.

Going back to our really basic question, we start to think about the behaviours of the individuals in the top team and how that is influenced or determined by the goals that are being developed and set.  Is the leader, and the wider team, confident that the behaviours encouraged or initiated by these goals are actually desirable and will be ultimately of positive use to the team and the organisation?  Remember the Law of Unintended Consequences - sometimes you end up with a completely opposite outcome to that which you intended.

What else should we consider when putting together our goals for the top team?  A good place to start is to ask yourself the question - “how do I know that this goal is truly ambitious?”  I am sure that we are all familiar with the SMART approach to goal setting - Specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time bound but how about adding a final letter?  If we add - B - for benchmarking, we can start to calibrate our team’s behaviour and performance, as well as our organisation’s, against what others are achieving around the world.  And that could be very interesting!

Here are a few ideas that you can use to address the issues that we have identified here.

1.     No surprise with my first idea.  Get yourselves a great team coach.  This is the most effective way to focus quickly on the “vital few” issues that will enable you and your team to become really high performing.

2.     Picking up on the idea that the Mission of the top team might be something different to that of the organisation what is the difference between team coaching and strategy facilitation?  I would argue that facilitating the development of the strategy for the organisation is just that - it is facilitating a discussion and will be of great value.  The team coach on the other hand will be helping you all to think about, analyse and develop the “way you run things around here” to ensure that you become a truly high performing team.

3.     Look more deeply into applying the Rocket Model.  Whilst your team coach will be able to help, you can do some useful preparation by having a look at the book.  You can also follow this series of blogs as we move through the various aspects of the model and how to apply to your top team and your organisation. 

4.     Embrace the idea of benchmarking to make sure you are not kidding yourselves about how great you are.  Use data to ensure you are comparing yourself with the real, outside world and not just your cosy view based on your previous performance. 

5.     Just beware that your new found zeal for benchmarking doesn’t take over and you spend all your time navel gazing.  Keep questioning the relevance of the “vital few” that you have identified and don’t try and develop dozens and dozens of Key Performance Indicators to measure how you’re doing.  That is navel gazing in spades and will only obscure the reality and make life so much more difficult.

We hope you found this blog useful and it has sparked some ideas as to how you might start to focus your leadership team on becoming truly high performing.  Good luck.

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Steve HintonWritten by Steve Hinton

Steve Hinton is an experienced Executive Coach and Consultant working with Chief Executives, Managing Directors, Senior Executives and other leaders and can work with you to create exceptional and successful leadership teams.

Contact Steve for an informal chat, and take the first step toward your team's super success!