22 April 2024

Team Development Interventions: Authenticity vs Novelty

Why investing in team coaching provides a greater return for team development

In the realm of team development and growth, innovative activities and novel environments such as outdoor adventure courses, theatre, or music-led programs have long been promoted as a means to foster collaboration and creativity. They’re a circuit breaker from the daily grind, providing opportunities for team members to bond, gain fresh perspectives, and develop a shared sense of purpose.

However, while these team development activities undoubtedly have their merits, they often fall short in delivering lasting benefits and a return on investment for organisations.

Team coaching offers a structured and future-focused approach. Unlike one-off activities, team coaching is a continuous process that involves ongoing dialogue, reflection, and skill development. Through a combination of group sessions, one-on-one coaching, and experiential learning, team coaching addresses the specific challenges and opportunities facing them, fostering individual and collective self-awareness to guide them towards higher levels of performance.

In our experience, when it comes to addressing real-life issues and driving tangible results, not to mention prioritising your financial investment, a team coaching program grounded in authenticity and practicality is usually the most effective option.

Here’s why:

It gets to the heart of what’s holding the team back: Innovative team activities can help on a surface level, but seldom address the underlying issues that may be hindering team performance. Team coaching, on the other hand, uses dialogue and group problem-solving to delve deep into the dynamics of the team, identify the root causes of problems – like communication breakdowns, a lack of trust or conflicting priorities – and provide targeted interventions to address them.

Coaching is relevant to real-life challenges: Unlike the simulated environments or staged scenarios used in novel team interventions, coaching works on the specific challenges and interactions the team encounters in their day-to-day work. This allows team members to apply insights and strategies directly to their unique work environment to drive meaningful change within the team.

It encourages the authenticity that fosters trust: Innovative activities and novel environments are detached from the workplace, creating an artificial sense of camaraderie where team members act in a desirable, but not necessarily realistic way. By encouraging people to be their true selves and speak honestly about real challenges in a safe environment, team coaching builds genuine, trusting connections and fosters an environment where open dialogue and collaboration thrive.

It opens up a new level of awareness: Team coaching creates a safe and confidential space for exercises that encourage leaders and team members to examine their strengths, weaknesses, behaviours, communication patterns and interpersonal relationships. This develops each person’s capacity for self-awareness and personal growth which enables the team to leverage their collective strengths and mitigate potential areas of conflict or dysfunction in the future.

Team coaching provides tailored solutions for unique challenges: Teams all face certain common problems – poor communication for example – which form the basis of innovative interventions. However, for real results, one-size doesn’t fit all. Team coaching takes a more personalised approach to developing solutions that are aligned with the team’s unique challenges, objectives and culture, maximizing the effectiveness of the coaching process.

It builds sustainable skills: Innovative team activities can build stronger relational bonds, enhance creativity and problem-solving skills, but their impact tends to be short-lived as team members struggle to translate the lessons learned into their daily work. Team coaching focuses on real-life challenges to help team members develop the specific practical communication, collaboration, and leadership skills needed to succeed back at work.

Team Coaching builds leadership capability: Innovative team activities often incorporate elements of challenge and risk, pushing senior leaders out of their comfort zones and encouraging them to embrace uncertainty and adaptability—critical qualities in today’s volatile business environment. However, team coaching goes beyond this to equip senior leaders with practical tools and strategies for enhancing team dynamics, communication, and decision-making for longer term sustainability. Whether it’s building consensus around strategic priorities, resolving conflicts constructively, or fostering a culture of accountability, team coaching provides leaders with the skills and frameworks they need to navigate complex challenges – not just now, but in the future.

Is there room for a balance of innovative activities and coaching?

In short, yes.

Innovative team activities play an important role as catalysts for fostering collaboration, creativity, and camaraderie within senior leadership teams, and we’ve recommended them ourselves in certain situations. Whether it’s navigating a ropes course together or collaborating on a creative project, these activities help senior teams develop resilience, problem-solving skills, and the ability to thrive in ambiguity.

And, while innovative team activities and team coaching each offer unique benefits for developing team performance, the most effective approach – and the one that may offer your organisation the best ROI – often involves a combination of both. Innovative team activities can kickstart the process, while team coaching provides the structure, guidance, and accountability needed to sustain long-term growth and improvement.

Written by Nina Griffiths


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