Post by George Johnson, Vision Coach and Chief Vision Officer at The Team Coaching Zone

Have you ever been brought into a planning session that makes you go “Uh, oh…” within the first hour? If you’re a team coach, chances are that this situation might sound a little too familiar…

… So I’ll tell you my memorable story, and what I did to recharge the session. Some time ago, a CEO of a high-tech digital signage company arranged a merger with a Canadian counterpart, and before the merger could happen, he left to take a new job. As a result, the president of the board became the CEO. I had been hired to conduct a strategic planning session the next week that would bring the two groups together. And like I mentioned: the first hour spelled trouble.

One of the funniest jokes I’ve heard in my industry is this – what does a team coach do at lunch? Humor aside, in this situation and in ones you may find yourself in later on, the answer is this: redesign your afternoon session.

I told the group it was time to take a break, and for the next 30 minutes, I brought the president of the Canadian company and the new CEO together. I voiced my concern about the lack of cooperation that was going on in the room, asked if they sensed it and what they wanted to do about it. They agreed that the planning session was premature, that they had a lot more work to do on roles and responsibilities, and that we needed to do the best we could to take advantage of our time together.

We changed the agenda on the spot. Here’s five ways that you can do it, too:

  1. If things aren’t working, sense it and be open to change. The key is trusting your gut, your instincts and to be willing to be vulnerable. Bring up what you sense to the group. If you’re feeling uneasy, chances are everyone else is feeling it, too. As a team coach, to not bring it up would truly be a disservice to the group.
  2. Are people sitting behind desks or in a row? If behind desks, bring them all together in a semi circle to close the gaps that seating arrangements often create.
  3. Look at the geography. Are people sitting by function or department? Have people get up, change chairs and shuffle around. This will often change the energy.
  4. Have people change roles. Let marketing assume the role of production, and the CEO take on the role of sales, for example.
  5. Go back to the purpose of the meeting. Ask the participants what the purpose of the meeting is. Why are they here? What did they want to achieve?

These are just a few suggestions intended to open and facilitate conversation. What would you do? Do you have any challenging team session stories of your own? I’d love to hear your thoughts – share them in the comments below!

Interested in learning more from team coaching experts like George Johnson? Subscribe to the Team Coaching Zone newsletter to receive a wealth of podcasts, blogs, webinars and resources to keep you in touch with the latest in team coaching. Learn more about the Team Coaching Zone here!

George Johnson has been coaching executives and their teams on vision and strategic planning for over 15 years. Go to his website www.entrevis.com to learn more.

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