Case StudyTheir mission is to “improve human health by unlocking the power of the genome.” The Accelerator team works with startup companies to catalyze innovation, find new applications of genomic technology, and expand the company’s ecosystem.
ChallengeSystemic team coaching supported the arc of the team’s development over over 24 months:
Team expansion in 2020:
Move beyond 3-person single-site team based in San Francisco Bay Area serving US only
Open a new European base in Cambridge, England, staffed with 3 employees
Deal with challenging internal and external factors:
Ramp up 5 new employees and 2 long-term intern contractors
Leader went out on maternity leave February-March 2020 with her second child
Adapt to COVID and WFH requirements
Multiple sick employees, some out for up to 2 months
Organizational changes and expanded mandate in 2021:
The Accelerator’s executive sponsor, the parent company CTO, retired and a new CTO came on board with an updated focus for Accelerator
Team is expanding to Australia and China by Q3 2021
Team members realigning to the new model, with one exiting the team and company
BackgroundCraig Martin of Martin Global Leaders provided executive coaching to the head of the Startup Accelerator since 2019, helping her develop leadership skills to establish a solid foundation of support for the Accelerator within the parent company organizational structure and secure requisite financial and talent resources for its survival, efficient operation, expansion, and fulfillment of its mission.
The genesis of the team coaching was to conduct a half-day team forming/bonding session in San Francisco in Q1 2020. With the advent of COVID lockdown globally, it became impossible for the team to meet in person, so we shifted to a team coaching approach that would not only provide team learning but also support the team as it transitioned to a virtual model and ramped up a two-continent mandate.
Over the course of the program, the initial phases of team coaching served the following functions:
- Identify all stakeholders and their expectations
- Become aligned on objectives and strategy
- Establish a common language for discussing team and dynamics
- Develop standardized processes for expansion
- Help team to know each other
- Recognize impact of WFH and COVID on team members and how can support each other
- Survey stakeholders on satisfaction with team
- Provide the team tools and protocols for continued learning
- Help the team leader become more skillful in leading, delegating and focus on long term strategy and expansion
Our coaching work continued through Summer 2021 with the following tasks and steps:
- Understand unique needs of stakeholders in APAC
- Upgrading team process for larger size
- Shift from hub-and-spoke to other next level structure
- Developing management skills
- Onboarding new members
- Communications and meeting protocols with Asia time zones
- Plan to conduct round 2 survey of stakeholders in 2022
It’s important to note that the team coaching was entirely virtual using zoom and Miro, and the use of technology in itself has been a key resource and learning for me and the team, which the team has come to enjoy. We employed a number of key frameworks in the team coaching:
Team frameworks employed:
- Five Disciplines of High Value Creating Teams, (Hawkins. 2017) This model has served as the organizing framework for the team coaching and has been referred to in nearly every team coaching session to help them orient their team self-development. For example, we referred to this when opening the team’s aperture to include external stakeholders. We also connect back to the core learning to acknowledge the learning and growth at various stages of their journey.
- 6 Team Conditions, (Wageman, et al, 2008) This model has informed my strategy on the key areas for the team to work on, especially to make sure they have successfully completed their work on designing and implementing strong processes to support future team expansion.
- Tuckman Model, (Tuckman, 1965) – This well-known model describes stages of team development.
- The Discipline of Teams (Smith & Katzenbach, 2015). The distinctions about working groups vs teams were used early in the team coaching program to help the team understand the distinctions and choose to be a true team.
Five Keys to a Successful Google Team (Google re:Work). This model has featured and popularized Amy Edmonson’s distinctions about Psychological Safety. Tteam referred to this early in our work and was useful especially when we were discussing the toll of COVID on team members.
- Team coaching has many direct and indirect benefits for this team. Among the indirect benefits has been more rapidly scaling up their ability to deliver on the key business goals. This has raised their profile in the market and company, expanding the team’s ability to contribute to the broader ecosystem and stakeholders, including current and future patients:
- In April 2021 the leader and her team were recognized as one of “The Top 25 Most Influential Innovators” by Innovation Leader magazine for its development of the genomics market.
- In May 2021 the CEO and CTO “doubled down” on the Accelerator model following a business and financial review by the team leader. They have asked for an expansion into additional markets on a rapid timetable by 2022.
- The Systemic Team Coaching was cited in an article in the Journal of Commercial Biotechnology (2021) as instrumental in helping the team ramp up during its global expansion.
- For additional queries, the Head of the Accelerator is available to provide a reference.
Amanda Cashin, Co-Founder & Former Global Head of Illumina for Startups & Illumina Accelerator