Seven things you should know about team coaching

19th July by Neil Atkinson

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Seven things you should know about team coaching

For the last few years, the coaching world has been abuzz with talk of team coaching. With articles in the professional press and lots of coverage at conferences, it’s one of the industry’s hottest topics. 

But many people are confused about exactly what is team coaching? And even among experienced team coaches there are differences of opinion.

Whatever your current perception, here are seven views on team coaching which every coach should know:

1. It happens over a period of time, not in a one-off workshop

With one-to-one coaching, working with a client over many months is necessary for deep insight and lasting change to happen. And so it is with team coaching too. The coach forms a partnership with the team and works with them towards achieving a goal or set of goals. The coach and the team might connect through off-sites, workshops, one-to-one coaching and the coach observing team meetings. Educating clients that a one-off workshop isn’t likely to lead to lasting change is a habit every team coach needs to take on. 

2. It requires the core skills of an executive coach and much more besides 

Team coaching is a synthesis of skills including coaching, facilitation and team building. Which is partly why it takes time to be really proficient. The core skills of a great executive coach are really important –  your ability to build trust and rapport, to adapt to what’s happening in the moment, listening at multiple levels, and balancing support with challenge. A good coach creates the sense of safety for a team to experiment, be honest and try new things. 

3. The coaching objective needs to be created by the team 

In all coaching, the views of stakeholders and sponsors are important - but the people being coached must set the objective for the coaching themselves. If this isn’t the case, they’re unlikely to feel really committed and engaged. In Systemic Team Coaching® a thorough ‘Inquiry’ happens at the start of project, through which the opinions and needs of stakeholders are sought and the team reviews them, along with other data, to decided what they need to address to create a real uplift in performance. 

“Systemic team coaching® is a process by which a team coach works with a whole team, both when they are together and when they are apart, in order to help them improve both their collective performance, and how they work together, and also how they develop collective leadership to more effectively engage with all their key stakeholder groups to jointly transform the wider business."

4. The team leader isn’t the client 

If a coach treats the team leader as their principle client, they probably won’t be considered as operating objectively in the whole team’s interests. That can prevent there being enough trust for the coaching to be effective. Some say it’s also not the team which is the client but the organisation they work for –  the coaching is about identifying how the organisation can best benefit from this team. Professor Peter Hawkins, who leads some Systemic Team Coaching Certificates and modules on the STC Diploma goes further by saying it’s the stakeholder in the wider community – and the stakeholders of tomorrow. 

5. It’s not all about improving team dynamics 

Team workshops tend to focus on the internal aspects of the team and not the external connections with stakeholder, employees, customers, suppliers and so on. In Systemic Team Coaching® we pay as much attention to what’s happening outside the team and the various systems in which it operates. Of course, if the team thinks it needs to improve how it works together that should be on the agenda. But the needs of those connected to the team are equally important, as are the relationships the team has with its stakeholders. This concept is explained in detail in the book Systemic Team Coaching by John Leary Joyce and Dr Hilary Lines. 

6. It involves coaching the team together and one to one 

As well as coaching the team together through events and workshops, the team coach will usually coach each member one-to-one. This might be to support them with identifying how they can best contribute to the team’s shared goals or purpose, which may have been defined in an earlier workshop. One-to-one coaching might also help explore what the concept of the team’s need for ‘shared leadership’ means to each individual. 

  • 7. It can be useful for teams at different levels and with different challenges 

Team coaching is an increasingly popular from of development for senior leadership teams and the C-suite. But the approach can be useful for leadership and management teams at all levels. In his article for the AoEC, Chief Consultant Coach, David Kesby states that team coaching is useful for what he calls ‘extra-dependent teams’ – those without a shared goal who are part of team who share a common practice or professional discipline. Team coaching can also be a helpful intervention for teams undergoing change, newly formed or newly merged teams, or those who urgently need to improve performance.