Culture of Learning – Team Coaching Edge Excerpt

April 30, 2024

by Management Dynamics

Create a culture of learning to increase Resilience

People often think of Resilience as bouncing back from setbacks. As we said earlier, we prefer to think of it as bouncing forward. This means they don’t just revert back to how they used to do things, they learn from the experience and develop as result. They are stronger in some way. In high-performing teams this also happens. When a setback occurs, the team bounces forward, having learned from experiences, and challenged themselves to stretch, adapt and move to the edge. High-performing teams invite in challenge which creates the stretch, adaptation and learning without a setback needing to occur. They are then ready when setbacks do happen. There are a number of key things that high-performing teams should pay attention to when seeking to create a culture of experimentation and learning.

This includes developing an agile mindset, experimentation, changing perspectives and holding up the mirror. Let’s look at each in turn.

Agile mindset

An agile mindset is one where all team members are open to looking at what they do as individuals as well as challenging how other team members are doing things. They look externally for new ways of operating – they are not afraid of trying to see the world in a different way and learn from all types of experiences and influences. It’s a mindset of ‘can do’ and ‘how can we do this differently or better?’ It’s a fundamental belief that anything is possible. As a team this is hugely empowering. An individual team member might lack confidence in one thing but as a team they know that everything is possible – the key is just to find the way.


Teams who have a regular practice of experimenting with how they do things are substantially more successful and resilient than teams who don’t. Teams who experiment regularly are not interested in perfection first time. They accept that each time they have a go they’re learning from that experience. It’s more about the information that they gain as they experiment to build towards whatever the final output or outcome might be. All the big leaps in humankind, whether it’s reaching the moon or developing a vaccine, have taken an experimentation approach. This is where people learn in small steps and build on what they understand each time. There is no fear or criticism of failure in this process. It’s all about what information they are gaining to help them build on being more effective next time and having another go. High-performing teams use an experimentation mindset approach in everything they do. They use it in how they deal with customers and practice different communication styles to see what will work. They use it in constantly challenging the tools that they use and how those tools could be improved. This doesn’t mean that they go messing around with processes and ways of doing things all the time. They experiment in a controlled way with permission from the rest of the team. They have a routine for reflecting on what works and what doesn’t; for planning experiments and managing the risks associated with that. They review the results of their experiments and then decide what to do next. Coach the team to reflect on how they could experiment more. What conditions will they need to put in place to make sure that happens?

Changing perspective

High-performing teams don’t just have one way of looking at things. They regularly change their perspective to see things differently and to notice things that they might not have spotted otherwise. They create Routines which help them to change their perspective on their work. They talk to people outside of the team to get different viewpoints and they identify experiences which will create insights and connections. These experiences don’t need to be directly related to the work of the team to be successful. In fact, the more different they are the better. The most important thing is to be able to explore the analogy that the experience creates and bring that back into the team as learnings. We often see teams having enjoyable team-building days or social activities, but they are usually isolated events with no link back to the team’s day-to-day activities. They may be fun activities but the power of the perspective that could be generated is not harnessed and brought back into the overall team. Analogies are incredibly powerful ways to change a team’s perspective. Coach the team to consider what analogies they could use to think about how they could see their work from another perspective. When they are doing team building activities, they should ensure that they always do a debrief of the insights people have created about the team as a result.

Holding up the mirror

Whilst looking outside the team really helps them to get a wider perspective, the team also need to look inside regularly. We call this ‘holding up the mirror’. This is about creating experiences that help the team to reflect on how the team is working and what could be improved. It’s also about helping the team to see how well they’re demonstrating their expected behaviours and where they could create further opportunities from all the difference and diversity within the team. As team coaches, we often help teams to hold up the mirror. We do this by creating team challenges and by doing team observations. Any experience which is designed to help them notice the Edge Dynamics within the team is useful. Using our diagnostic tool is also a way of holding up the mirror. Feedback processes can be a very powerful way for both individual and team development, this means helping the team to give each other feedback on what works and what doesn’t in their Relationships with each other. High-performing teams build in Routines to regularly hold the mirror up for themselves and we know when they have got to high performance because they no longer need us to help them with this.

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