From disconnected group to a cohesive force

Developing a self-governing, highly effective team

Guy was a board-level compliance officer at a global bank and soon to retire. The bank was planning a corporate restructure and decided not to replace him. Instead, Guy’s team – who had only worked together for a year – needed to prepare themselves to self-govern.

Context and characters
The colleagues barely knew each other and were not connecting on a human level. Guy was dominating the operating rhythm of the team’s function (desperately holding on); the colleagues were not aware of future plans and there was a palpable fear of the unknown.

The goal of the coaching intervention was twofold: To make Guy’s departure a painless experience for his remaining team, and to empower them for agility, self-organisation and self-governance.

Stepping stones
Our first priority was enabling the team to get to know each other on a deep, personal level. The surprise in the room was evident as they discovered each other’s styles and preferences as a reflection of who they were.

I worked with Guy on the messaging for the team, explaining why the wider organisation favoured a leaderless approach.

We continued the sessions by acknowledging the sense of fear and helping each person to deal with it honestly and openly. We talked about how (the process) they would organise themselves and their work without Guy to oversee the team, which gave them concrete action items to implement straight away.

Guy wasn’t present for all sessions, which showed both him and his team that they were readying themselves to step up and lead in his absence.

What changed?
When purposefully faced with the inevitable the team could see each other behind their titles, hierarchies and corporate roles. They started relating to one another, making their communication much more straightforward and transparent. The power of the collective started to happen.

By focusing on the changes to come, they could start exercising the team muscle ahead of time. This shift in perception of how they could self-organise for effectiveness pushed the whole team onto a new path of thinking and experimenting with what was possible.

The story continues
When Guy left, there was a sense of sadness and calm. The drinks were planned, the gifts and card awaiting his farewell. And the new team was ready and excited to help drive the company forward. All team members grew personally, which in time will enable them to grow into new leadership positions.

One of the team members said of the coaching, ‘I am really grateful to the company for providing this programme. It has been the best experience in my entire executive life.’

*Name has been changed for confidentiality