Team Coaching in Healthcare: Without Trust, Teams Fail

In the first post in this series, we explored why many groups of capable, well-intentioned leaders fail to function as a high-performing team. Today, we’ll dig a little deeper into a coach-led transformational process and the role of trust.

In our story of the transplant team who engaged us for team coaching, the process began with telephone interviews of the four senior leaders as well as a dozen others around them in the transplant program. These confidential conversations allow coaches to gain a sense of what’s working well and what could be better.

Elements we probe include:

  • How cohesive is the team today?
  • What “elephants” are in their living room?
  • What are their latest wins and hottest challenges in the months ahead?
  • And what are the obstacles standing in their way?

Several online behavioral assessments are administered to the team before the offsite session, focusing on personal strengths, needs and preferences for managing conflict. Each member has an individual debrief with the coach before the offsite to help them start to better understand what they uniquely bring to the team.

The 70-20-10 Principle: How team coaching differs from training

Adults learn differently than college students sitting in a lecture hall receiving new information didactically. Most professionals have experienced a malady we call ARS Syndrome: Acute Reactive Seminar Syndrome. This is the experience of attending an exciting seminar with the intention of applying the new learning back home, only to find that the whirlwind of real life smacks us in the face on Monday morning and that notebook of new ideas winds up gathering dust on our bookshelf!

The best way for adults to develop and change their behavior is experientially, not didactically. It has been called the 70-20-10 Principle of Adult Learning: If investing $100 in adult learning, the best formula is to invest $10 in new information, $70 in immediate application of that new information, and $20 in a coach to facilitate that new learning.

Therefore, team coaching sessions are very experiential, interactive, and focused on change.  Patrick Lencioni’s model for high-performing teams is the road map we use for the journey that begins with an intensive two-day offsite and continues with 1-on-1 coaching of the individuals making those changes.

Typically, one or more follow-up team sessions continue the learning of new principles and supports the collective development of the team.

Vulnerability-based vs predictive trust

The first principle of great teams is Vulnerability-Based Trust. Lencioni describes this kind of trust as differing from what we normally think of as Predictive Trust: I’ve known someone long enough to predict how they will behave in each situation. Vulnerability-based Trust is more than that. It’s when team members are willing to be “emotionally buck-naked” with one another. They are willing to say things like, “I don’t know the answer” or “I need your help” or “I’m sorry for what I said.”

We have learned over the years of our work that there are ways to accelerate this level of trust for new teams as well as teams who have worked together for years.

The impact of this part of our work is profound, humbling, and surprising to team members. It is impossible to overstate how this stage of self-discovery instantly opens doors to better relationships and better teamwork.

Unless and until a team does this work around expanding their trust together, they will not be able to break through the most typical barrier to great teamwork: engaging in constructive conflict around ideas.

We’ll explore constructive conflict in our next blog post in this series.

Eric Norwood
About the author

Eric Norwood is a trusted, experienced advisor to C-Suite leaders, helping them improve their performance individually and corporately. He is a catalyst for change for his clients.

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