Episode #073: Tony Llewellyn: Team Coaching for Project Teams

How can team coaches help project teams successfully deliver results? What makes team coaching an essential condition for teams working on “complex” vs. “complicated” projects? Can the project manager be the team’s coach? Tune in to this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast where host Dr. Krister Lowe interviews special guest Tony Llewellyn on these and more thought-provoking questions!

Tony Llewellyn, M.Sc. is a team coach, the author of “Performance Coaching on Complex Projects: Influencing Behavior and Enabling Change,” a Collaboration Director at Resolex, a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Westminster. Tony has a 30+ year background working on complex projects in the construction and real estate industries and for the past 5 years has been focusing on developing team coaching within the project management field.

In this episode of the podcast Tony shares:
1. His journey from working as a Director and Partner on complex projects to the field of team coaching.
2. Why team coaching is necessary for the evolution of the project management field at this time.
3. Challenges faced by project teams that require team coaching.
4. Tony’s 5 Phase Team Coaching Model for Project Teams
5. Two stories applying the team coaching concepts on large construction projects.
6. Tony’s 2016 book “Performance Coaching on Complex Projects: Influencing Behavior and Enabling Change”
7. His website and free resources: http://www.teamcoachingtoolkit.com/

This episode provides all those working in the project management arena with a compelling case for incorporating team coaching into the PM approach. It also provides all team coaches with some rich insights into managing complexity in teams, how to overcome some of the key pitfalls of complex projects, as well as how to capitalize on some of the opportunities that await those who dare to make the plunge into this arena. The is an episode that you will surely not want to miss! Tune in today and take your team coaching practice to the next level!

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Part 1 – Getting to Know the Team Coach: Tony Llewellyn

  • Tony’s Background
    • Based in Hartforshire in the United Kingdom
    • Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
    • Sc. in Coaching and Behavioral Change, Henley Business School, studied with Peter Hawkins
    • Focus on coaching project teams
    • 30 year background in real estate and construction industries as Director or Partner in a number of firms
    • Author of 2015 book “Performance Coaching on Complex Projects”, published by Gower
    • Works with the firm Resolex – Collaboration Director
    • Visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster – 13 week module on building effective teams for students pursuing master degrees in project management
    • Website on free team coaching tools and tips: www.TeamCaochingToolkit.com
  • Tony’s Journey into Coaching
    • 30 year career as a surveyor: anticipating how much buildings would cost; found a niche in helping firms behave like companies (e.g. sorting out processes and systems)
    • Tony’s experience having great coaches
    • Wanting to learn how to coach his own teams
    • Coaching sessions with his own coach turned into learning sessions on how to coach his own people
    • 2011 takeover of his company: volunteered to take a package to leave early
    • Stumbled into a program in coaching and behavioral change at Henley Business School – didn’t initially plan to do a Master’s Degree but decided to dive in
    • Dissertation topic selection: his background working with project teams was a natural fit given the challenges of managing such projects; did 20 semi-structured interviews (designers, engineers, project managers, specialist consultants)
  • Challenges of Project Teams
    • Complexity of large projects
    • Technical people
    • Complex vs. normal projects
    • Complex vs. Complicated (HBR Article – Cynefin Framework)
      • Complicated: there is a pattern, predictable, technical people are taught to deal with complicated
      • Complexity: you don’t know what is going to happen; technical people struggle with the move to complex
    • Why do bright people fall into the same traps over the course of their careers given this complexity?
    • Questions he asked in his research: Tell me about a project that went well? Tell me about a project that didn’t go well? Who as an individual should be helping the team with these behavioral challenges?
      • Without any prompting he was fed back a checklist of all the core components of successful teams which corroborated the team literature
      • Found things like: clear vision, clear client and sponsor, etc…
    • Project manager as the team coach? Possibly but PM’s aren’t trained to do this or have historically played this role
    • Turned research into his book on “Performance Coaching On Complex Projects”
    • Did deeper work with project managers to explore whether they could be team coaches: answer was yes; an opportunity to help PM’s build and coach great teams

Part 2 – Team Coaching in Project Teams

  • Trends in agile software movement: shift from waterfall approach to software development being replaced by agile, iterative ways of working and managing projects
  • Book by Lyssa Adkins (2010) on “Coaching Agile Teams”
  • No one has really understood why do we have to have a kickoff workshop, why do teams go through Forming, Storming, Norming and Performing phases, not enough time in workshops to get into the “why” of these things
  • Agile PM’s are starting to get it but the ideas aren’t filtering fast enough into the broader world
  • Distinction between internal and external teams: team coaches can help lead them through the behavioral mine field
    • Internal: pulled together to deliver on a specific outcome/project
    • External: consultants or specialists who are brought together
  • Other “X” factors that tend to impact team success : great sponsor relationships, stakeholders, clear vision, compiling the right teams – having someone (team coach) that can help be on the look out for these is critical
  • Performance Coaching on Complex Projects Model
    • Helpful to have a sequential model even if they are fallible
    • Pyramid – layers
    • Assess the Environment: environments create time and resource pressures, lack of experience; bad team dynamics are often not the people but systemic in nature; team coaching role is to engage sponsors to think a bit deeper about the environmental factors.
    • Five Start Setup: usually a clear outcome and end point; perhaps not clarity on how to get there; kick-off workshop – have to help technical guys not getting into technical details too quickly; persuading the project sponsor and leader to set time aside to look at key components: 5 key elements – 1. Clear Vision, 2. Right People, 3. Critical Stakeholder and Plan, 4. Rules of Engagement, 5. Accountabilities to Each Other; about co-creation; missing the opportunity to set the behavioral norms in place.
    • Enable Execution: the crucial “what’s next” after writing up the notes from the kick-off; it would be naïve to assume that everything will proceed well; need to engage the leadership; encourage having time in each meeting to look at the “project team book” to see if they are working on it; quarterly sessions with the team as team coaches
      • 1st Quarterly Meeting: come in an look at communication; co-creation around conflict resolution process for example; creation of a collaboration committee/working group
      • Importance of data in this phase: risk management – collect from wider project team and feed that back to the project’s leadership; most of the risk in project teams is behavioral
    • Build Resilience: large projects can extend over 3-5 years; things go wrong; a team that anticipates that in a resilient way can manage well vs. slipping into conflict; growing interest in wellness and wellbeing; when you have a stressed project team things can go wildly wrong; secret is the co-creation aspect
    • Embed New Learning: going beyond just lessons learned at the end – not useful for the project; continual learning throughout the process (monthly and quarterly reviews); using feedback tools to help with that reflection
    • Model is visible at www.TeamCoachingToolKit.com
  • What is the purpose/function of a team coach: helping the team achieve a desired outcome
  • Tony’s vision for the future: the project management profession incorporates team coaching so that it doesn’t need to rely on external team coaches
  • Stories of Coaching Complex Project Teams
    • #1) Setup of a Research Facility: 20 people came to kickoff, two facilitators, 1 day; establishing a compulsive vision; project teams tend to live in a bubble; had one of the researchers come in to talk about the importance of the research so that the team members could tap into a larger purpose; module on communication styles – people often not understanding their differences which leads to poor communication; light weight tests; chose SDI – Strengths Deployment Inventory; introduced concept of “learning from the past” – story telling of past success and failures; nuts and bolts of getting rules of engagement/team charter in place.
    • #2) Large Residential Project: Difference between executive and project team coaching; different tools we may use; joined project about 6 months in; used some data collection with a wider team of 90 people which revealed a disconnect between the workers and the leaders; fed back data and nothing happened after a few months; by the time they got to the 3rd report of feedback the challenge was to get the project team to understand the real concept of “optimism bias.” Came to realize that there was a failure in the data flow: info that was coming up was being filtered – by the time the 4th person got a hold of it then it had become watered down
    • How to present research to professionals sitting around the table: what happens in teams is known in the literature, how to get people open to that.
    • The game: how to make them feel smart!

Part 3 – Parting Advice / Resources / Words of Wisdom

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