There’s nothing like the feeling of working with a team of individuals who are in sync as they have each other’s back, inspire creativity in one another and whose combined skills make one amazing whole. If you have been lucky enough to experience this team dynamic in your career, you know it’s pretty unique. 


But the reality is that most people aren’t that skilled at teamwork. In many cases, team members can’t even agree on what the team is supposed to be doing. Research from Harvard University shows that teams constantly underperform, even with the additional resources they have.  

The Birkman Method 

So how can leaders create a strong and cohesive team that will generate magic and produce something extraordinary that drives your business forward? The answer lies in team coaching with the Birkman Method.  

The Birkman is a psychometric tool that measures behaviors, needs and stress behaviors on a number of components. JMA Executive Coach Katherine Lewis has been using this powerful assessment tool for over twenty years with her clients. “It’s helpful in understanding a client’s perspectives, where their strengths are, where potential stress behaviors lie, and how those perspectives are going to affect their behaviors with other people,” said Katherine.   

The online assessment takes only a half hour to complete, then the coach debriefs the report with the client so that they are easily able to recall and reference it throughout a coaching engagement. “It strikes a balance between complexity and simplification,” says Katherine. 

Teaming up with Birkman 

The Birkman Method is even more effective when it’s used in a team application. By having each team member complete the assessment, the coach is able to understand everyone’s perspective and their perceptual lens, or how they are viewing different situationsThe coach can then better communicate with the team and move progress forward. This process allows for smoother navigation through team issues, creates more empathy among team members and can help minimize roadblocks or misunderstandings among team members.  

Katherine says she finds the Birkman tool invaluable because it highlights the strengths of the team as well as any biases. It also brings to light conflicts within a team, allowing the coach to identify when needs and behaviors don’t align. By better understanding the team dynamic, the coach is able to bring any issues to the forefront to resolve within the team or identify where there may be gaps. The goal is to help team members understand each other and interact with one another better.    

Here are some typical scenarios where the Birkman tool could be helpful in team coaching: 

  • There is stress, frustration, conflict or a toxic culture within a team. 
  • Changes in key personnel have formed a new team, and they need a shortcut to get to know and understand each other. 
  • A team faces a new challenge, and they need to understand whether they are suited to meet that challenge or if additional resources are needed. 
  • A team is repeatedly underperforming their OKR’s or KPI’s. 
  • A team leader wants to optimize their team’s performance.  

A Team at Odds 

I asked Katherine to share a success story of team coaching using the Birkman Method, and her recent work with an ad agency came to mind.  

I work with an ad agency with two very different types of personalities. The creatives, writers and designers tend to be thoughtful, sensitive, peopleoriented and introverted. We’ll designate them with the color blue for this exampleThe senior leadership team is the complete opposite, so let’s consider them red. They are results oriented, executional, and tend to make decisions quickly and without emotion. When the president of the agency (who was herself red) was able to see she had two different groups that were opposing in how they operated, she was able to adjust and modify her leadership to better meet the needs of the creatives of the agency. 

In one example, the agency had recently lost major client, and the response to that situation highlighted the differences in her team. Losing that client had a greater emotional impact on the blue team than it did the red team. The blue team needed more time to process that situation and to be able to express their concern and anxiety surrounding it. Whereas, the red team was ready to move on to begin the work to land a new major client.  

Based on our teamwork, the president now understands that the creatives need more time to get on board with major changes and decisions. They need more opportunities to express their emotions, thoughts and feelings. She now provides an outlet for them to do that, and she no longer underestimates the power that change has on her staff.   

In a matter of a few months of team sessions, we were able to map out every employee and understand where the needs of different groups fell. This data-driven perspective really helpthe president manage her team better which ultimately results in happier, fulfilled and productive employees.  

Related: 7 Key Leadership Strategies for Managing Conflict on Your Team 

Is Team Coaching Worth the Investment? 

Team coaching can be a significant investment by a company because it typically involves an individual debrief with each team member and then a number of group sessions, all done virtually right now due to the pandemic. We usually see this type of coaching done with leadership teams of 8 to 12 people.  

There is value both to the individual as well as to the team. “The two can stand alone, but with this one tool you get benefits to both,” says Katherine. “In a typical scenario, the leader has already completed the Birkman, and we are working together with their results in a coaching engagement so they already know how it works and how revealing it can be. But now, they are curious about their other team members so they bring a couple more members of the senior leadership team in.”  

There’s also the fact that teams are dynamic and change constantly. Katherine has a lot of teams that she works with repeatedly every few months either because new team members have joined or the team wants to constantly add or review their results. “Everyone’s curious to see how the new person fits in. They want to know how they will interact with them, so it’s not repetitive at all,” said Katherine. 

If there is conflict or stress within a team, the investment made for team coaching can be far less than the cost of wasted time by employees and the expense of training new employees when frustrated team members leaveAnd if there is a challenge facing the team, it needs to be functioning optimally in order to address it. Team coaching is a way to maximize your team’s effectiveness in order to impact the bottom line. Revenue growth is the ROI justification for an investment in team coaching.  

A New Team is Born 

At the same time, that investment will yield a more effective, synergetic, resilient and viable team. Your team members will know how to collaborate effectively.  

Coaching teaches teams how to deal with a broad range of challenges and handle them effectively. They now have structure and support within their team, and members feel empowered to use what they’ve learned and incorporate that into daily life at work. You’ll see improvement in communication, conflict resolution, and decision making among team members as they become more adaptable and sustainable.  

Interested in learning more about how JMA’s team coaching using the Birkman Method can improve the performance of your own team?  

Learn More about Team Coaching