The client and their challenge

I was asked by AQA to help a newly formed leadership team perform at their best. They needed to be able to perform well as a team in order to meet project deadlines, and they realised that unhelpful behaviours and communication were derailing them.

The project

I carried out interviews with each team member to understand their views of their strengths and weaknesses, and what they thought a high-performing team would behave like. A series of interactive workshops were delivered showing how the mind works and why we can behave in ways that hinder performance, even when we don’t want to. Everyone developed a better understanding of themselves and also how others in the team worked. We used psychometric profiling to help this understanding.

We talked through real work situations to help the team develop practical plans to avoid the emotional pitfalls they had previously been falling into. An example was the need to “win” in team meetings, rather than listen to what others had to say.

A team charter was created, where specific behaviours were set out that would help them achieve their outcomes. We developed the skill of giving and receiving feedback, which enabled them to discuss with each other up when they weren’t showing the charter behaviours or reinforce behaviours that were in line with it.

We developed a wellbeing App that was bespoke to the organisation that enable the team to increase their awareness of the psychological areas we were working on. The results from the App were discussed in one to one coaching sessions, providing a great source of information such as levels of threat and drive.

The outcome/benefits

At the end of the programme participants reported that they were better able to manage themselves at work, make decisions more effectively, give each other constructive feedback and hit their project deadlines. They reported having a better understanding of the sources of stress for them, and how they could actively manage it during difficult periods of the project. They became better at supporting each other, and working in ways that enhanced performance and wellbeing.

The App helped the team to understand themselves better and work out what psychological tools worked best for them. They found having objective data to refer to during coaching sessions really helpful. We found threat and stress levels reduced during and after the programme as the team applied the skills they had learnt.

Quote  – David Shaw – CIO at AQA

“I initially engaged with Sarah to provide individual mentoring/coaching as I am leading a challenging, high-stakes programme.  We are achieving the initial objectives around sustaining and incrementally improving my performance as the going inevitably gets tougher.  As a result we have extended Sarah’s role to wider team development and also some other one-to-one mentoring.

Given the holistic approach and sports pedigree, I spend about 25% of my time with Sarah focussing on my marathon running.  As a result of Sarah’s encouragement and ongoing support, I have gone from being an average club runner to representing England in my age group later this year.

I  – and the wider team – are delighted with the work together. The concepts used are robust, the sports/business crossover works really well for us and, most importantly, we all think Sarah is great.  She is intelligent, perceptive and empathetic, clearly adept in applying psychological theory, balances challenge and tact very well and brings a different perspective in a way that is relevant and insightful.  Everyone buys into the process (and we are a relatively sceptical bunch) and we are seeing the beneficial outcomes where, individually or collectively, we apply the methods.”