The team coach diaries - team coach or team facilitator?

21st March by Neil Atkinson

Reading time 2 minutes

Share this article:

Twitter LinkedIn
Content image

The two roles look alike and have some crossover, but when you coach a team it is vital to know the difference.

Preparing to coach a new team recently has reminded me of a key take-out from my team coach training:

learning how to coach a team involves as much unlearning as it does the learning of new skills or competencies.

Many of us who move into the team coaching space have a fair bit of experience in facilitating team workshops, running awaydays and even leading teams ourselves.

All of that equips us with useful tools and skills, but it can also get in the way when we aim to coach. It’s all too tempting to design a beautifully structured workshop in which we take the team through a series of facilitated discussions and exercises aimed at helping them define their purpose, map out their stakeholders, or create a team charter.

Of course, these all have a place in team coaching, but our dependence on them often prevents us from doing what the team really needs: coaching. So, what exactly is the difference? A colleague of mine puts it beautifully: 

“Coaching a team often just means creating the conditions for them to have the conversations they really need to have with each other”.

People attending the AoEC’s team coaching training programmes often find this shift challenging. When we’ve learnt how to be good facilitators and are used to the satisfaction of running an engaging and upbeat workshop, letting go of all our tips and tricks can be tricky.

But team coaching, like executive or leadership coaching, is more about our ‘way of being’, than our habits of ‘doing’. Can we hold up a mirror to a team and do we have the resilience to hold the space when things that need to be said suddenly bubble up to the surface? And can we resist the urge to rescue or fix? Knowing that we’ll deprive them of some helpful learning if we do, however uncomfortable the alternative may seem.

That’s why the AoEC’s team coaching competencies have ‘Coaching Fundamentals’ at the heart of the model. Coaching fundamentals are those core skills which coaches have, such as active listening, staying curious, asking questions to evoke awareness, and knowing when to sit back and stay quiet.

The team coaching competencies also include ‘Resilience’ - not just because resilience is a key attribute for effective teams, but also because team coaches themselves need to be resilient and able to stay present and grounded when the going gets tough.

We cover these competencies in detail over our three-day Team Coaching Fundamentals programme which we are running again at the start of April. We also use simulations so that participants can practice how they keep their ‘coaching hat’ on and avoid the temptation to take on a role that may feel safer in the moment, but potentially won’t serve the team best.