Montreal-Based Coach is Shaking Up Teams
Montreal Team Performance Coaching
The following is an interview between MontrealTips and Melissa Dawn, founder of CEO of Your Life. Melissa is a Montreal-based Leadership and Team Performance Coach. She works with individuals, teams and organizations to help them uncover their unique strengths and values and harness that innate power to take themselves to the next level. Her CEO of Your Life Coaching organization was recently named one of Hubspot’s top coaching services.
MTLTips: It’s great to have you with us today, Melissa!
Melissa Dawn: Thanks! It’s really great to be here.
What does a team Performance Coach do?
MTLTips: Now, you are a Leadership Coach, which I think many people are familiar with, but you’re also a Team Performance Coach and I think that’s new to a lot of people. Can you tell us what that means?
Melissa Dawn: So, to understand Team Performance Coaching, the first thing to understand is that teams – and in terms of my coaching I’m talking about business and corporate teams of all sizes, levels and industries – each team functions as a system. That system has its own values, strengths, challenges and unwritten rules that govern everything from how the team approaches problems, to how they view management, to how they interact with clients, and so on. The system is powerful and often the people within the system and those around them are not even fully aware of that system.
MTLTips: If they aren’t aware… I mean, when you say “system” are you not talking about documented processes or culture?
Melissa Dawn: Culture, yes, but “documented”, rarely. Or at least not entirely, and the undocumented aspects tend to be the most powerful. So what I mean by “system” is this almost living, breathing organism that evolves out of the combination of different personalities, the leadership styles and approaches, the overall working environment, the history of the team, how it came to be, how it fits into the organizational ecosystem, the challenges it faces now or has faced in the past… all of these elements come together to create the team system. So, what the team has encountered in the past, for example, is going to impact how they approach obstacles in the present, whether or not that approach is documented as an official process.
MTLTips: In the articles you’ve published and on your website, you talk a lot about getting to the core, or the root of the team to solve problems. How does that work in relation to this system concept?
Melissa Dawn: When clients come to me they’re almost always in a sort of stuck feeling, or they feel like they’re running up against the same challenges over and over again. They want to move forward, but every new process they put in place or approach they try keeps butting up against the same issues and the status quo is maintained. Whatever those issues may be – lack of engagement, conflict within the team, people just not wanting to try new things, goals or objectives not clearly communicated or understood, negativity, lack of motivation… when you continually get held back by the same issue or assortment of issues, it actually comes down to the system. This is a characteristic of the system that has been learned and has grown with the team. It’s a part of the team. In this case, the issue can’t be fixed with a new process. We have to get to the root of how it’s thriving so we can cut off that negativity and grow the team in a stronger direction.
MTLTips: That makes a lot of sense, but also… what does that look like? What’s that process? I’m imagining group therapy sessions or something! (laughs)
Melissa Dawn: (laughs) Not quite, but there certainly is a level of introspection that takes place. Believe it or not, there are quantitative assessments involved. I really do believe that what gets measured, gets managed. That’s a fundamental aspect of Team Performance Coaching. The assessments I use have been designed and perfected over the years by top coaches, business leaders, coaching institutions and yes, even some input from therapists. We have to remember that, ultimately, we’re working with humans. Human emotions, human drives, human instincts. So there is a great deal of compassion involved in the process, but also, these assessments that take real measurements of the current status of the team – elements like productivity, engagement, employee satisfaction, leadership effectiveness, collaboration, etc. – these assessments are what start the deep dive into the coaching process. They give a clear picture of the current team system and a benchmark from which to measure progress. From there, we identify the main challenges of the team but, most importantly, we identify the unique strengths – strengths of the team itself and strengths of the individual members. These strengths give us something to grow from.
Growth in Team Performance
MTLTips: That’s the second time you’ve used the word “grow”. I take it growth is a big part of this process?
Melissa Dawn: A huge part! However the team functions today, it grew that way because certain things were fed – ideas, beliefs, habits, etc. Just as negative elements can be fueled and grown, positive elements can, too. So, a key aspect of Team Performance Coaching is identifying those amazing opportunities for growth. It’s not just about getting rid of the negativity or the undesirable habits. It’s about feeding the strengths of the team so that the best parts of the team become stronger, confidence and engagement grow, and collaboration and creative problem solving become a natural part of the evolving team system. Now, a lot of teams struggle with motivation. What motivates people more than seeing the best parts of themselves or their teams grow even stronger? We focus on growing these strengths because that’s where the greatest value lies, but also because it fuels motivation, engagement and productivity like nothing else.
MTLTips: That sounds amazing and inspirational almost, but how do you actually get people to do this? You mentioned before people not wanting to try new things. This all sounds… very new! Won’t people just sink back into old habits?
MD: There has to be a desire to change, for sure. But it doesn’t have to be big to start with. Another key element of Team Performance Coaching is guiding people to have the difficult conversations that need to be had. I think we can all relate to that. Those conversations that, if we were able to have them openly and without judgement, with everyone keeping their cool and speaking respectfully and compassionately, could really change things for the team and open up possibilities.
MTLTips: Oh yes, I can relate to that!
MD: But where do you even start, right? Like, how’s everyone going to react if I just open up this massive can of worms we’ve all been tiptoeing around?
Melissa Dawn: This is where the right coach can have a huge impact. Because having these conversations is not a skill most of us have. When it comes down to it, most of us just weren’t raised that way! We’re raised or conditioned in some way to avoid these conversations completely, but all that does is establish more and more bottlenecks. The right coach will help people learn techniques to approach and guide these conversations in a way that honours the human on the other side of the table, but also holds people accountable – not in a “this is your fault” way, but in a “let’s dig into this together” way. What I’ve found is that all you need is one person to take that first courageous step. One person to really embrace the techniques, embrace the mindset, embrace the challenge and step into it. When someone does that, it has this amazing domino effect! It’s like it suddenly gives other people permission to start speaking more openly and honestly. Really speaking from the heart.
MTLTips: So how does all of this impact performance? It’s called “Team Performance Coaching”, afterall.
Melissa Dawn: When we think of a team system locked in negative or limiting habits, a lot of energy goes into that. Whether it’s trying to keep up appearances, to work around difficult personalities, avoiding speaking up, fear of change, conflict with other team members, lack of clarity on objectives… whatever it is, it takes a lot of energy from the people within your team. When a team can overcome those challenges and really start to grow its strengths, performance is just going to skyrocket. All of that energy previously wasted on unproductive areas can now be directed towards the real work of the team, and that’s working together to meet objectives, inspire innovation and overcome challenges. And, just as that one person taking that first step can have a domino effect on others, the team taking these steps together will have a domino effect on the overall organization. We mentioned culture earlier. This is about co-creating a culture of trust, respect and the courage to be open about things instead of letting them become roadblocks. When you can do that, either as a team, individual or an organization, performance just naturally reaches greater and greater heights. People feel good about what they’re doing and the environment they’re doing it in, they’re happier to be doing it, they feel challenged in the best way and they’re excited about what they can accomplish.
The Process of Team Performance Coaching
MTLTips: So this clearly isn’t something that happens overnight.
Melissa Dawn: No. This definitely takes dedication and perseverance, but the good news is that the first steps really start to open up your perspective. You start to see, right away, what’s possible and it’s an exciting thing, both on a personal and team level. And like I mentioned before, that’s quite powerful in terms of motivation. Those first steps fuel the next ones and so on. Now, I often give one-off workshops on this, which I really enjoy. It’s just amazing to see that ‘click’ in someone. That spark in their eye when they start to get it and get excited about their own potential. But what I really love is when I get to do either a full coaching program, or follow up coaching after a workshop because that’s when I get the opportunity to witness, and be an integral part of, real change. I’ve had a long career. Nearly two decades in different roles and industries in marketing and business development, including several years as VP of marketing. So I’ve experienced being a member of, or leading a variety of different teams. I know how a strong team can raise up a whole organization and I know how a struggling team can do the opposite. What’s truly exciting for me now is that I know how to help those that struggle and it’s so amazing to see the impact that has on the overall organization.
MTLTips: Well, I guess that leaves us with one final question… how can people work with you?
Melissa Dawn: That’s the easy part! All the information about the different workshops and coaching programs I offer is available on my website at ceoofyour.life. Most people use the contact form on my website to get more information or to ask about availability, but they can also reach me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
MTLTips: Thank you very much, Melissa. It’s been great speaking with you and learning about Team Performance Coaching.
Melissa Dawn: Thank YOU!