Co-creating strong team foundations through peer coaching and a thinking style assessment by Charlotte Murray

Since starting my company ‘’, I’ve been discovering ways to apply coaching skills in a technology start-up environment. This can range from sales to team building and more. Over the last few months we have grown the team to five full-time employees, which is sometimes hard to fathom considering we were just two people the same time last year. Since every person who joins a team will change the team dynamics, it was key for us to create a strong foundation from the very start.

When our Chief Technical Officer (CTO) came on board six months ago, he was joining two co-founders who had known each other and worked together (and have been married) for many years. Being aware of this dynamic drove me to look for a way to set a neutral foundation and balance in our new executive team of three. This had to be done before getting into the specifics of the company, our strategy or even the product. To help me build this foundation, I chose the Neethling Brain Instrument (NBI) thinking style assessment.

The NBI uses research in neuroscience to map out thinking styles in a simple graphical format. What is so compelling about this assessment is that every profile is as unique as a fingerprint. The resulting image you receive after the assessment depicts a circle in four quadrants to signify the right and left brain as well the cognitive and emotive parts (top and bottom of the brain).

What I like about this assessment is that it is quick to administer and easy to explain, which means someone who has not been trained in the assessment can quickly benefit and learn from it. There are also communication, leadership and even career implications with this assessment, which can provide further potential explanations of why we might prefer data or creative activities, strategic or process driven work. 

When we began reviewing our own styles we used a peer coaching approach to help each other see each other’s potential. Combining our approach with the assessment supported us to be aware of, and understand where, our own strengths and potential blind spots may lay at this stage of our business. This took us at least an hour, just reviewing our own profiles and discussing how our preferences might show up at work. By creating that neutral and safe space, it allowed us to begin openly talking about our preferences we were able to get to some of those nitty gritty questions that would impact our creativity and productivity, for example: What time of day do we like working? Do we need space to focus and therefore get annoyed with interruptions? Or conversely, do we need to discuss something immediately to progress? How do we prefer to communicate – email, messaging, face-to-face interactions? And so on.

As our own understanding of our preferences became clearer through this process, it also helped us to openly uncover as a team where we might have synergies and where we might anticipate points of friction. What was great about this part of the conversation was that it was completely without making it personal or judgemental. It was a way to appropriately address the dynamics that were driving me to find that strong foundation for our growing team.

As our session progressed, we began incorporating the elements of what had come to light about ourselves through the NBI into how that would shape and influence us as a team. Where are we strong as a team? Where might we have a blind spot? Because the NBI not only offers a detailed description, first and foremost it lays out your profile graphically, which easily allowed us to overlay each of our profiles as a collective.

It was encouraging to see that we all shared a preference for one area, while we balanced each other for the remaining quadrants. We have areas of common ground and areas that complement each other. And it shows in how we work together, even now, five months later.

As the team dynamic keeps changing we take on more people in the team and meander and adapt our product roadmap based on continuous customer feedback, using an assessment for team building that can be hugely helpful in creating a strong foundation that enables and drives that agility. It helps foster, and act as a reminder of, a learning mind set in ourselves and each other.

Questions for our readers:

  • How have you used assessments in team building?

  • What has worked or not worked for you?

  • Which assessment is your go-to for team building?