How I work
As a player-coach, my first job is to join the stream. Experience how the team works. Get a sense for its rhythms. Where are things slow? Are there blockages related to structure, process, or habit?
The moment I join a team, if they don't already have a set of strong goals, we begin with those. These are not projects that must be completed (working "in" the team). Instead, they are goals toward having greater impact (working "on" the team).
The beginning is helping everybody see what is going on. Often teams aren't high performing because they are just used to how things are. Comfort breeds a sense of satisfaction that can be misleading.
Once they can see what's going on, they can work on changing. If they know the impact they are having could be better, why wouldn't they work on that? It becomes natural. The next step is modeling bravery. Often change doesn't happen because of fear. I help the team get to the root of that fear and work to mitigate it.
Then they can take confident steps towards implementing powerful practices like eXtreme Programming (my preferred method for doing software development), for software teams, or Participatory Leadership (my preferred starting point for management teams).
Once a team has decided they can maintain awareness and continuously improve, I move on to the next team. I work hard not to collude with the teams I'm on. This can be quite challenging as a player-coach, as you're constantly with the team. However, I've found that for roughly 6 months at a time I can maintain a distance from the cultural baggage a team finds itself carrying. Much longer than that and I'm likely to be less effective.
This doesn't mean I wouldn't mind sticking around for longer. However, my role simply changes from being a coach to being a teammate. While it's not my favorite role to fill, it's where I began my career, and there's a level of comfort in it. If I'm needed in that capacity, I'm happy to adapt for a time.