Team coaching

Successful Partnership Working – Top Tips video series

We often work with teams and partnerships…. and we’ve noticed some common pitfalls in how they operate, meaning that the road to success can be a lot bumpier than you’d hoped.

So we produced a series of videos with some Top Tips on how to make your partnership and team working more effective.


Intro video

Watch the rest of the series of 7 Top Tips below, plus the wrap up video.


Tip #1 for Successful Partnership Working – on the subject of the project/team/partnership mandate


Tip #2 for Successful Partnership Working – on the subject of the shared vision for success


Tip #3 for Successful Partnership Working – on HOW you work as a partnership/team


Tip #4 for Successful Partnership Working – on making sure your team really does add up to more than the sum of its parts


Tip #5 for Successful Partnership Working – on understanding your stakeholders


Tip #6 for Successful Partnership Working – on team vs. individual results


Tip #7 for Successful Partnership Working – on effectively reviewing or checking in with progress – without micro-managing!


Wrap up – and how we could help YOUR partnership/team


That’s it – do message us on, or comment below, if you’d like a FREE no strings 30 minute call to explore your needs and ask us some questions.





Difference, differentiation and diversity.

Diversity of uniqueness

As Garry Turner’s (The Listening Organisation) recent newsletter to subscribers pointed out, there is a lot of pressure in modern society to be ‘different’ or to stand out to be ‘the best’. ‘Differentiation’ has emerged alongside this, with companies and technology now seeking to tailor make their products or services to particular groups, subsets, demographics or even at the extreme to individual needs. We’re being told from so many angles that ‘being different is good.’
And yet as Garry points out, being different can also be polarising and separating. He goes onto explore connection as the antidote to difference or differentiation.

I had a different thought when I read his views. Whilst I wholeheartedly embrace the importance of connection as an antidote to difference or differentiation, it also made me question whether there was another way to achieve it.

What I get excited by is ‘diversity of uniqueness.’

This is where we have the possibility of celebrating everyone’s unique gifts and talents, accepting and welcoming our diversity of physical and mental ability, sexuality or gender, ethnicity, thought, cultures and backgrounds etc. And more than that – the possibility of acknowledging all of these as varied and valid expressions of humanity, whilst rejoicing in our connection as humans and our common humanity.

Commonly, current diversity programmes and initiatives seem to focus primarily on ensuring there is equal (or at least more diverse) representation in the workplace of genders in particular, with increasing focus on ethnicity. This is hugely important and needs tireless work on this and extensions of the principle (LGBTQ+ inclusion as one example.)
What seems to be less in the spotlight is the simpler act of celebrating the diversity of thought, experience, background that is present in many workplaces, teams and partnerships. Not enough diversity yet – and yet we don’t celebrate the richness that is already there.

Few partnerships or teams we’ve worked with are even aware of the huge range of even work experience that their peers, partners or colleagues have behind them, let alone the enormous diversity of other skills and talents. What if we first brought these into the forefront, and then celebrated them? And taking it further – once everyone is aware of these unique skills and talents – what if some of them could actually be proactively used in service of the partnership, team or organisation reaching their goals?

A case in point – a previous client of ours worked for a charity in their Media team. They were heavily involved in the intense annual three-month campaign period during which there was huge focus on PR, Comms, and where the norm became to work very long hours and pushing themselves to the limit. In a team session we facilitated for them, this individual shared that she had a passion for and quite extensive knowledge of Nutrition. “So what?” you might ask. Well, in times of particularly high pressure and long hours, one of the first things to go other than leisure time can be healthy eating – instead we start to skip meals, eat more ready meals, junk food or sugary snacks to boost our energy or just as a ‘treat’ to see us though the hard times. Often this is all counterproductive in terms of managing our energy and performance. Which is where someone with some good knowledge of nutrition might come in. In fact, when we discussed how these different secret skills could be used, the team agreed it would be a huge help if she could share some simple hacks on nutrition and energy management in busy times. It sounds almost too simple to be true or even useful, doesn’t it? But imagine the incremental benefit of avoiding some food that actually makes your blood sugar crash and your energy slump (with potential lost work quality), and instead perhaps maintaining the nutrition levels in your diet of the required vitamins and minerals, and how that could help the team stay healthier, perhaps avoid some of the bugs that go round, thereby avoiding sick days. Multiply this up over a team of 30 and you could save days of man hours, as well as on the upside improving focus, concentration and performance.

It’s just one example, but there are so many small things that could give your team or partnership a ‘Marginal Gain’ and improve performance incrementally, or help you avoid declines in performance. And you just don’t know what they could be until you explore the talents and skills of the people you already have.

Imagine doing this with a newly formed Partnership group, or a team. Imagine how it could help you to achieve your no doubt ambitious goals.

So – let’s be more proactive in celebrating our diversity of uniqueness. It can help to create a jigsaw or tapestry of a partnership or team that is far richer than the one we so often we stop at (with just our functional skills). And the process of exploring and celebrating it can create human connection at a deep and powerful level, in itself supporting more effective relationships and performance.

We’re happy to have an initial free conversation with anyone wanting to find out more about how you can help your team or partnership even more high performing, and to talk about your specific needs. Send us a message and we’ll be in touch.

Contact to set up your call.

Jo Wright is founder of Phoenix, and specialises in coaching Partnerships and Teams, from setting them up for success, to helping them to ‘reset’ when things are going off track.
Thanks to Garry Turner of The Listening Organisation for his newsletter which sparked the idea for this article.


A Systems approach to team success: Lessons from the Thai cave rescue

Recently I worked with a team who are working to deliver a joint project together.  They had a project plan, actions and Leads for each area.  Good progress was being made.  Then an unexpected absence by one Lead meant that certain actions weren’t completed, and the project fell behind.

I was curious about this from a Systems point of view.

In Systems work, Roles belong to the system (team in this case) and not to individuals.  So, the role of performing this Lead task belonged to the system rather than the person who took it on.

What’s interesting is that when the system was disrupted in some way, the role was not taken up by anyone else in the system, with consequences for the project.  Systems are regularly disrupted for a variety of reasons:  People joining or leaving a team, sickness or accidents, new information or priorities, etc.

So, I wondered about what had happened in my client team when their system was disrupted and came up with some options which I later explored with the team.

  1. Lack of clarity on team purpose – what they were here to do
  2. Lack of buy in to the team purpose (not unifying or compelling enough?)
  3. Lack of awareness of what each Lead was doing and where they were up to (was there a process in place to keep each other updated?)
  4. Focus on individual vs. the team objectives/results (so that perhaps a heavy workload for other members of the team/system may have meant they didn’t stop and check, or have time to pick up additional tasks as they prioritised their own projects.)

And then I wondered what would have happened, or perhaps DID happen, in the recent case of the Thai cave rescue.

In that situation, there was one clear and unifying purpose for everyone involved:  The safe rescue of the 12 boys and their coach from the caves.  And it was highly compelling: Lives were at stake, and heavy rainfall was imminent, the world was watching.

There were different roles in the system involved in this, and the Independent stated that in total 10,000 people participated, including 2000 soldiers, 200 divers and representatives from 100 government agencies.   From the diving team, to the medical care, to the engineers who pumped water away or out of the cave system, to the logisticians who coordinated the equipment and teams to manage the rescue.  Local volunteers got involved in filling other roles:  Food provision, local children helping to test the full face masks in local swimming pools, moving equipment etc.

Each of these is an Outer Role in Systems Coaching.  They belong to the system or team and are populated or occupied by individuals. Many of the individuals were highly skilled at their role – a classic example is the cave diving experts from around the world including Thai navy seals.  Others just saw a role that needed fulfilling, stepped in and did it.

And yet that wasn’t enough to prevent the death of one Thai Navy Seal in the days leading up to the final rescue.

But what happened after this tragic loss of a team member?  In my client example, work on the project in a specific area stalled.  In the cave rescue, the team purpose was still unifying and compelling, and someone else will have been brought in to fill the role that had been left vacant.  What would have happened if this had been different?  The whole rescue could have stalled, with disastrous consequences.

In the Thai cave rescue, alongside the grief at the diver’s tragic death, the focus on the team purpose was relentless. The role he had occupied was taken on by someone else and the rescue continued.  Three other divers were hospitalised when their air tanks ran low during the rescue.  When bringing out the 11th member of the boy’s team, the diver lost hold of the guide rope and in pitch black had to backtrack to try to find it again, delaying him and his precious cargo by nearly an hour.

With every setback, the team worked together to solve the problems, stepping in to fill the formal and informal roles that were needed to get the job done.  The incredible result of all 13 being successfully rescued was one I certainly didn’t expect.  And it’s a wonderful example of how a team, with no prior ‘team building,’ but a clear mandate and purpose, relentless focus on the team’s (vs. individual’s) result, creativity in approach, flexibility in how they went about getting the job done despite setbacks, can be spectacularly successful.

With the team I’ve been coaching, we explored what had happened and why. It transpired that they did think the project purpose was clear, compelling and unifying enough and in fact each had taken great ownership of their various actions and tasks.  Where they had fallen down was as the disruption (unexpected absence of a team member) hit the system, they hadn’t come together to come up with a contingency plan.

Knowing that disruption is inevitable, I facilitated a discussion about how they wanted to handle it in future, and they came up with a 5-point action plan:

  1. Ensuring all team members are kept up to date: The nominated ‘observer’ for any team meeting will commit to updating any absentees with what happened, what was agreed and the actions
  2. Filling vacant roles: They all took personal responsibility for noticing and naming a disruption to the rest of the team, so that between them they could fill the vacant role in the system – or agree as a team to postpone deadlines
  3. Shared communication/project files: From now on, they will more regularly keep their shared filing/documentation up to date so that it is easy for anyone in the team to trace where a particular part of the project is up to – and pick it up if needed
  4. Mitigating the risk of vacant roles: To help mitigate the risk of unexpected absenteeism, where possible they will have two named owners on a project area/workstream – a lead and a ‘buddy’. Not only will the buddy be more up to speed, but there’s a secondary advantage in buddying with someone from a different part of the team to exchange ideas and approaches
  5. Team vs. individual results focus: Where workload is an issue (so the possibility of focusing on individual vs. team results exists), each individual agreed they would raise this quickly with their line manager to agree priorities – and to agree and communicate the implications for the team project, so that the team project would not fall behind because of an individual workload challenge

I’ll be following up with the team in a few weeks to see how they’ve done.

How clear are you on your team’s purpose?  How compelling and unifying is it?  What could you do to make it more so? And how willing are you to put the team’s goal ahead of your individual goals and priorities?  Finally, how do you handle setbacks that occur due a temporary or permanent change in the team personnel (remembering they are just occupiers of the various roles the system requires)?

If you want some help working on this with your team to make it even more successful, drop Phoenix a line – it’s our speciality and we love to make a real difference to team performance.


Source for much of the details of the Thai rescue is from this article:


Author:  Jo Wright                                                                                                                                24th July 2017

Jo is the founder and lead facilitator for Phoenix Training & Coaching Ltd.  Phoenix works across a wide range of organisations and sectors with the aim of bringing humanity to work and driving performance, by working with leaders, managers and teams who want to shift gear and be more effective.

How hard do you push your team members?

“Trust is knowing that when a team member does push you, they’re doing it because they care about the team.”    Patrick Lencioni

We’ve been working a lot recently with teams who through building trust and relationships are arriving at a place of healthy, constructive conflict in service of maximising team achievement and results.

If trust is absent, many will either avoid putting their head above the parapet and openly disagreeing with others or pushing you harder, or will push in a way that is destructive and counter-productive.

By building strong relationships based on deep trust, it becomes okay to disagree or to push others – and yourself – harder, because there is a shared goal or purpose towards which you are working.  And disagreement or a push is more likely to be viewed as ‘just another perspective’ rather than potentially destabilising when you know it’s because they just want the best for the team result.

How deep are the relationships and trust in your team?  How do you know they are deep enough to allow healthy conflict?   How do you encourage creative conflict so that people can have their say?

What are your experiences of the impact of trust – or its absence – in teams?