Question: Coaching my team to think more broadly, practically

I am undergoing a role change within my company. My current role, as a global finance and productivity manager is being eliminated, and distributed across three separate functions.

We have a smart team of experienced analysts that I have been handing over to in 1-on-1 and team sessions for last 2 weeks.

They are quick to grasp the technicalities of a task, but fail to see the big picture. They also have difficulty in grasping the priorities or improvisation needed, based on situation.

My move is contingent upon a smooth handover. I will appreciate any advice on how to handle such transition.

4 Expert Insights

I'm going to approach your question from a mentor POV rather than coach. So this will come across more in the 'telling zone."

True coaching involves more inquiry than advocacy. This draws out their own capacity for being able to solve situations on their own. So what I wonder is whether or not you've been attempting to actually 'coach' or have been doing something more akin to managing/educating/mentoring/delegating and then wondering why they're not approaching things more like you would.  Educating's original purpose was inherent in the latin root of the word 'educate' which means "to draw from within".....

This approach flies in the face of our country's addiction to knowledge transfer as the be all/end all of how to develop those around us.  it's not, it only perpetuates the problem of making oneself the "answer man" that everyone goes to and as a consequence direct reports/peers others don't have any need to up-level their own critical thinking skills.

So, personally, there are a number of options that I see:

1. Learn to coach them.  Assume they already have the capability and capacity and then help them uncover  the interference to the natural expression of those abilities. Then help them subtract that interference.

2. Hire a coach who knows how to do #1 and have that person not only grow your team's potential but also yours in the offing.

3. Get them all together and ask them how they would solve the scenario you presented. Remember, the leader's real job is to develop leadership in others and tasking them with this problem could grow their skills.

4. Lastly, in order to take whatever solution they come up with out of #3, you'd need also to approach each one of them as unique. This means how they go about things is different. There's no one size fits all solution to why they're behaving as they are and your strongest avenue is to approach them as singles rather than a collective unit.

It sounds like you've done a great job of getting the facts across. For the bigger picture, priorities and creative problem solving,  is it possible to convene a group meeting. Brain storming and collective wisdom can be very powerful and give your team a real experience of what is expected on them going forward.

I have to add that having a coach or experienced facilitator lead such a meeting would be worth the investment.

Good luck in your new position!

This brings up an important issue that I am fond of as a consultant: individual differences.  Not every one naturally thinks out of the box and perhaps what often goes into being a great analyst might not necessarily correlate with creative thinking. With this in mind I have the following considerations (all contingent on the luxury of having time which seems like you do not have and not knowing all the details):

1. Give your analysts some assessments to measure their true native strengths. Now you know what/who you are working with and what to realistically can expect. If you "ask a pig to sing" do not expect it to sound very good.
2.  If you can, put creative types in their teams. In his studies of team effectiveness, Meridith Belbin found that a "diverse" team can often break through the type of stuck-ness that you are experiencing.
3. Structured "brain storming" sessions led by an internal or external facilitator who knows how to stretch a focused mind.
4. Give them time. Work with them to get the Big Picture. They are likely "C" personalities (in the DiSC). If they are "C" personalities, they take time to get to the end result.

It sounds like you have a lot of career lessons to teach your people in a short time. Here are 2 suggestions for your consideration.

1. As far as teaching others to see the big picture, I recently wrote the lead article for the QHSE magazine titled "Identifying Cascade Effect Risks in Organizations". My 12 page article uses gamification and a unique deck of cards I created to teach professionals about the big picture cascade effect risks potentially present in organizations. It's a good primer in the big picture of business.

2. Teaching others to prioritize and improvise on-demand are skills that can be honed with business War Game simulations. I use the deck of cards in the above mentioned article to expose professionals to a series of common business risks. They learn to deal with a random mix of potential business and organizational risks. I use team exercises to teach them how to react to these organizational risks. They are dealt with 12 of the 56 risk cards in the deck at a time randomly until they go through the whole deck.  Each team then has to create short, mid and long-term action plans to get out of theoretical disasters their hand of cards represents.

As a take-off from my point #2, you could create a series of 5 or more theoretical undesirable scenarios in your organization that you want your people to master. Make sure these different scenarios cover all of the lessons you want them to learn in the short term. Spell out each scenario in writing and challenge different groups of your people to resolve those  issues in a given time. Score them and openly compare different group answers and solutions. Share best practices they developed. Give the best teams some kind of recognition / prize. I am sure you could create a handful of memorable War Games that they will never forget.