The team wants a diagnostic!

Hi all, my name is Carlo and I’m the Country Director of SolutionsAcademy Italia.

During our experience as coaches and team coaches, it can happen that a team (or a customer) might request to start the process of a team coaching by using a diagnostic.

First of all, I need to clarify that there is nothing wrong with wanting an initial diagnosis through a valid and effective tool. I myself am qualified as an assessor in this sense and I am able to use these tools if and in the form in which the client asks me to. However, as you may know, diagnostic instruments have their drawbacks.

My question here is how to help a team coach to avoid putting himself in a difficult situation… And at this point I can see you widening your eyes and muttering: “Come on Carlo, how is it possible that a team’s request for a diagnostic tool can generate a difficult situation?”

And you’ve right, normally it doesn’t generate any problem and there are so many diagnostics that are able to measure different dimensions of a team: the level of trust, the level of conflictuality, the way the members prefer to communicate, the “personality identity” of a team or also the kind of predominant culture representing the team… and each of them can be a powerful way of representing a specific aspect of the team dynamics.

So why should we consider this request a potentially difficult situation? In order to discuss it we need to remind what are the “benefits” of having a diagnostic. Here are some of them:

  • They can create a common understanding of the problem or of the starting situation
  • They can “justify” the current situation of the team and the related problems
  • They can help to validate some assumptions (This is the reason we don’t trust each other… we are in the earliest stage of the team…)

And we also need to reflect on those other thoughts: How can we be sure that “all” the situations the team experiences are referenced in the diagnostic? Is every teams in a specific stage of their life really observing a lack of trust? How can we be sure that all individuals in every team can be described as the diagnostic is describing them? And finally, what happens if, after having used a diagnostic, every member of the team has different ideas to solve the problem, included the exclusion of some “non fitting people”?

A good question here might be: In which way can the description of the problem with the help of an external diagnostic really help the team to identify a way for the solution?

As a Solution Focused practitioner we believe that:

  • every situation is different,
  • the change happens always,
  • the client is the expert of the situation
  • we believe that the client has all the resources for facing the situation…

Based on that, we (should…) believe that the team has everything is needed to find the solution, that the client (I mean, the team and each team member) is the only person who “really” knows what is useful about the situation. So, why do we need to use an “external” tool?

Normally the need of a diagnostic is related to a form of “measurement” of the progress that a team can do towards the goal and is generally requested by the team lead or from the HR person. If you use a diagnostic before and after the team coaching, you can demonstrate that the money for the team coaching was well spent.

If this is the case, we could offer an alternative solution. During the initial stages of the project, we could let the stakeholders reflect on which kind of indicators they think they can support and represent the progress of the team. During the stage of the individual interviews, we can also ask the team members to reflect on what types of indicator might be useful for them. At the end of our round of interviews, we should obtain a rich grid of the most representatives variables and show the progress this way. Even if the customers still wants a diagnostic at this point, we at least know which one might be the most suitable.

The custom made set of variables can be also used in all the stages of the team coaching process:

  • during the workshop to “scale” the future perfect and to assess the current situation as they perceive it;
  • between the workshop and the follow up, this set of variables can be used by the team to evaluate their progress by themselves, periodically;
  • during the follow up, as a measure of the progress they’ve reached and in order to spot the most fruitful actions they have performed;
  • at the end of the project as a monitoring systems of the work the team has performed.

Of course those are just my thoughts, based on my experience… Do you have different experiences? We could discuss them during one of ours “Free Coaching and Meetup exchange”. Why don’t you join us? Or, if you are based in Italy — why don’t you book a free info call with me?