Episode #065: Rob Bier: Making Team Coaching Simple, Sticky and Fun


How can you make team coaching as simple, sticky and fun as possible?  And why is that critically important? Tune in to this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast with Rob Bier–Founder of 6:30 Partners and Executive and Team Coach–to find out.

Rob Bier has coached full-time for seven years. His background makes him equally comfortable working with the soft and the hard sides of business and people challenges. Prior to becoming a coach Rob served as founder and CEO of two private equity-backed companies in financial services, and previous to that he was a partner in Monitor Group, the strategy consulting firm.

Rob studied coaching with Professor Chris Argyris of the Harvard Business School, at the Coaches Training Institute, and with Nancy Kline of Time to Think. He has an engineering degree from Stanford University and an MBA from the Harvard Business School.

In this podcast episode, Rob shares his journey from graduate school in the United States, to working with the Monitor Group in the UK, to building his own leadership team in a financial services company that he started in the Netherlands, to moving to Singapore and establishing 6:30 Partners.

Themes explored in the podcast include: connecting team coaching to business performance; team coaching in Asia; three guiding principles for team coaching: simplicity, stickiness and fun; the positivity-productivity framework by Team Coaching International; the white-water rafting metaphor of team coaching; and using “The Thinking Environment” from Nancy Kline to create psychological safety and surface hidden conflict.

Rob shares two stories from his team coaching practice: a success story with the leadership team of a tech startup; and a semi-failure that surfaced conflict too quickly.  He also discusses his thoughts on the future of team coaching and shares a number of tips and resources including: “Time to Think” by Nancy Kline; use of the VoxVote app; Patrick Lencioni’s books The 5 Dysfunctions and The Advantage, and more.  He also telegraphs his own book, “The Big Ride,” which will be coming out in 2017.

This is a rich episode that all new as well as experienced team coaches will not want to miss!  Tune in today to begin taking your team coaching practice to the next level!

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Resources Mentioned

  1. http://6-30partners.com
  2. Kline, N. (2015). Time to Think.
  3. Vox Vote voting app. http://www.voxvote.com
  4. Patrick Lencioni: The Advantage: Why Organizational Results Trump Everything Else in Business
  5. Team Coaching International’s Positivity & Productivity framework: http://teamcoachinginternational.com

Listen to the Episode: itunes-podcast-300x110 oie_FHDKkMxcjd4O oie_wLWK44Dk98d5 oie_P2hcJxBfeWEd


Part 1 – Getting to Know the Guest: Robert Bier

Rob’s Background

  • Robert Bier, Founder at 6:30 Partners
  • Based in Singapore
  • Coaching full time for 6 years
  • Comfortable with both hard and soft sides of business
  • Was the Founder and CEO of two private equity-backed financial services firms
  • Prior Partner at the Monitor Group–the Strategy Consulting Firm where he ran the European financial services practice
  • Chairman of two early stage companies
  • Studied with Chris Argyris at Harvard, with the Coaches Training Institute and with Nancy Kline of “Time to Think”
  • MBA from Harvard Business School
  • Enjoys rock climbing and photography

Journey to Team Coaching

  • Came to coaching in a circuitous way
  • Originally trained as an engineer
  • After leaving graduate school moved to the UK to work with the Monitor Group–strategy consulting group
  • At Monitor Group found that a lot of the work with the top clients wasn’t being implemented: “yield loss problem”; top team dynamics were often the cause; went to Chris Argyris seeking answers
  • Firm put Chris on the Board of the Monitor Group
  • Found it hard to teach Chris’s content with clients
  • Started a venture capital company: a lot of the firms had poor leadership teams
  • Started a private-equity back financial services company: built his own team and company in the Netherlands; was a sandbox for putting all the ideas he gleaned over his career into practice; was a lot of fun; having a CEO who knows what it means to have an effective team is more important than having a team coach
  • Was getting feedback that he was doing a good job coaching the CEO’s of some of the companies: to Rob he was just having coffee and conversations
  • Went to CTI to get trained as a coach but not with the intention of becoming a coach
  • Moved to Singapore: opened up 6:30 Partners 7 years ago to begin his career in coaching; 6:30 Partners – last 30 minutes of the day “do people stuff” – usually happened around 6:30, became the “6:30 rule”; most of the work started as one-to-one executive coaching and has shifted a bit more towards team coaching; some cultural dynamics in Asia that moderate team coaching
  • Notion of collective responsibility as central to the work of team coaching
  • Finding more Western companies that have moved senior teams into Asia that have created some opportunities for team coaching as well as the technology start-ups–they are asking how they can build a world class leadership team; mindset is more Silicon Valley
  • Now doing about 60% executive coaching and 40% team coaching
  • Languaging: “Team Development” vs. “Team Coaching”

Part 2 – Approach to Team Coaching

  • Why even have team coaching? What is the purpose in this? What is it good for?  On a professional level: It should be rooted in driving better performance. Team coaching is fundamentally about that. On a personal level: intrinsic rewards of being a peak experience for people; people 20 years from now will remember the teams they have been a part of.
  • A lot of the existence of a team exists in meetings. For most people they associate meetings with “death.”  Great meetings are energizing and fun and can be really empowering.  Ask teams: “What is it like when your team meets?”  A good indicator of some of the aspects of team performance.

Approach to Team Coaching

  • Some guiding principles: simple, sticky and fun
  • Shouldn’t have to spend a day explaining methods and techniques: benefits should come straight away
  • Fast experience of some benefit
  • Does the team behave differently when the team coach has left the room? How much stickiness is there?
  • Team coaching, when it is going well, can be a lot of fun
  • Incorporating Positivity and Productivity frame from Team Coaching International: easy for the team to self-diagnosis
  • Stair step approach: white water rafting metaphor; start in flat water and then go into rapids; start with easier issues first to build momentum and then move into more challenging issues
  • Metaphor of water water rafting: when a person is behaving poorly try to pull them back onto the raft; the collective responsibility of the team to get them back on board; self-coaching
  • Trust: how do we systematically create trust? There is no knob that you can just turn.  You need to create a psychologically safe environment which leads to trust.
  • Nancy Kline’s work on the “Thinking Environment” has helped Rob with this.  The method creates a psychologically safe environment.  A simple set of methods for how to hold a meeting.  A lot of it is about slowing the conversation down and giving the listeners more time to listen. Requires about a 1/2 day of learning the 4 to 5 building blocks and then you can start doing it–how to hold a meeting in a Thinking Environment.
  • Once a safe environment is there you can then engage some of the latent conflicts or tensions that exist in a given group and that often get avoided and that hold groups back.

Stories Coaching Teams

  • Story #1: E-commerce Company: recent example; brought in to transition from the Founders to a professional CEO; coached all 3 which went well; build a high trust relationship with the new CEO; he was receptive with the process of Rob helping him connect with his team; he was more engaged then most CEO’s; lot’s of iteration; recently completed a 2 day workshop where some focus was put on creating the Thinking Environment and then on working some real issues.  They jumped into coaching themselves. Co-creating the agenda with the client with very flexible headings.  Rob identifies a range of issues based on some questions he poses to the CEO and then presents the list to the group and uses a voting app to have the group identify the issues they want to focus on: Vox Vote. CEO committed to continuing with some more sessions (4 to 5 days over the coming 6 to 12 months to continue to build on the progress).  Ongoing team coaching a real issue.  A genuine tension between what it takes to become a high performing team and what companies have bandwidth and time for. The Thinking Environment again is a place to look — have 1 or 2 people in the management team to take the course and who can ensure the principles are being leveraged in the team’s meetings.
  • Story #2: New Academic Institution: a new leadership team; a lot camaraderie since they were new but not lot of trust yet because they were new; lots of easterners and westerners; some conflict avoidance; Rob took them into white water a bit too quickly; only some of the participants were ready to head into some tough issues.  Reinforced needing to start a bit slower and working on the positivity dimension first.  Too much too soon.

Part 3 – Parting Advice, Resources, Contacting Rob

  • Future of Team Coaching: an immature field at present; lots of room for experimentation; will mature quickly. Hard to capture team coaching in frameworks and models easily in books. Not sure how quickly clients will come to see the value of team coaching or how the market will develop.  Team coaching can bring a high return on investment.
  • Resources:
    • Patrick Lencioni’s book The Advantage – the preface and first chapter is very compelling and helps set up why this work is so important.
    • Nancy Kline’s Time to Think
    • Vox Vote
    • Team Coaching International’s Positivity and Productivity framework
  • Rob has a book coming out in 2017 called The Big Ride: How Leaders Are Actually Created
  • Learn more about Rob at www.6-30partners.com

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