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Top teams facing uncertain landscapes


Most of the senior clients we work with undoubtedly have above average intelligence and have highly developed expert knowledge in functional areas, but when they come together to work as a group they often find it difficult to leverage their collective IQ. At this level of seniority they can no longer rely purely on their functional expertise to make decisions as a team, given the problems they are dealing with are complex and multifaceted. EQ now becomes more important than individual IQ.


Now two top teams are the same, but raising awareness of their ‘WeQ’ or collective intelligence rather than individual EQ is frequently being used to emphasis the social and relational aspects of leadership in collective decision-making. We all know that we’re ‘allergic’ to come types of people and multitudes of psychometric assessments provide us with indicators of who we work well with and who we don’t. The idea of enhancing WeQ affords the ability of top teams to welcome one another’s challenging views and in so doing successful leaders build the agility of the group to leverage the diversity of their member’s expertise in a collective space.


The more senior leaders become in an organisation, the more volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) they face. Hindsight is no longer a predictor of foresight. Agile top teams who adopt a collaborative approach when facing complexity are the ones who succeed. This usually includes the surfacing of their differences, dealing with the confrontation of that and so facilitating the convergence on an outcome. The more contentious issues generally attract more opposition and can detract from what needs to be done together, often resulting in the top team getting stuck.


‘Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.’ Laurence J.Peter

Wicked problems, as described by Grint, are complex by nature and partly defined by the absence of any ‘right’ answer. They involve a huge degree of uncertainty and by their very complexity, create new paradoxes and tensions whilst trying to resolve them. Leaders are required to engage the collective in an attempt to address wicked problems. Their team are likely to feel vulnerable and ‘get stuck’ and they need to feel comfortable with this. Dynamic team coaching helps to accelerate this and embed it as a leadership culture.


Dynamic team coaching allows a team to work on a live project (the more complex and contentious the better) whilst being observed by two executive coaches who are specialists in relational team coaching. The coaches contract with the team to intervene at various stages of their discussion to confer between themselves about what they have seen and feed to back to the team. They don’t focus on any one individual, but the process by which the team give, take and share the space in service to their collective decision-making. Each coach often notices different patterns of interacting, some which are well developed and other patterns which are less developed to then feedback. This increases a collective awareness of habitual or unconscious behaviours within the group. For example, team members may make statements, to one another, but do not ask each other questions. After the group observe the coaches’ conversations, there is often a shift in behaviours amongst group members as they continue to work on the issue at hand, but now with greater awareness of some of their patterns of interacting which may have been limiting their efficacy as a group. Usually the group are invited to experiment with a different behaviour pattern to practise a new pattern of interaction which is currently less-developed, whilst they continue their conversation. This is a powerful intervention to unlock nuances and ingrained behaviour; not only does this process raise awareness, but by practising this new behaviour immediately in a real ‘live’ context, it has a strong chance of being adopted by the group going forward.


Some of the latest discoveries in neuroscience are helping us to identify the existence of mirror neurons which allow us to pick up in the body, a sense of a new behaviour that feels unfamiliar to us. The coaches can leverage this phenomena by role modelling patterns of behaviour within their own interactions with one another that are currently less-developed within the group. This facilitates an implicit transfer of additional learning from the coaches to the group. To find out more about dynamic team coaching, email kate@azizcorp.com

Written by Baz, Aziz senior executive coach and specialist pairs and team coach.

Over the last 15 years, Baz has coached hundreds of senior leaders. Having been a Board director himself, he gives these individuals the hard skills to understand the context in which they lead and the soft skills to increase their impact and effectiveness, particularly in complex and volatile times.


Expert Syndrome

Flexible coaching approaches to VUCA

Mirror Neurons

Pairs Coaching

Wicked Problems and Clumsy Solutions: the Role of Leadership – Keith Grint

About Aziz Corporate

Aziz was founded over 30 years ago by Khalid Aziz, a media pioneer of his day who at 21 became the youngest ever appointed BBC producer.

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