The Dynamics of Team Coaching
What’s “Team Coaching?”
Leadership coaching doesn’t have to be a one-on-one process. Just like coaching a sports team, coaching a work team involves honing both individual skills and group talent.
At CCL, when we speak of team coaching, we’re referring to the process of a single coach working with a team of leaders. This type of coaching has evolved alongside increasingly team-oriented workplaces.
Team coaching involves a single coach — either a skilled outsider or team leader — working with a group of managers or executives. One of several types of leadership coaching, team coaching gives members of the group the opportunity to stretch beyond their current abilities.
What to Look for in a Team Coach
As with individual coaching, team coaching should focus on results. An effective leadership coach will work with the team to use its relationships, shared experiences, and interpersonal awareness in a way that supports the team’s goals.
Many leaders are happy to leave team coaching to professional consultants. If that’s you, in addition to the skills and perspectives needed for one-on-one coaching, you should expect these 5 attributes from a team coach:
A Focus on the Whole
A team coach may have the ability to coach individuals in many ways, but the goal is to facilitate learning for the team as a whole. The coach should find ways for team members to gain insight and practice different behaviors in the context of the team and its goals. Individual assessment and feedback may be a component of team coaching, but it’s always related to improving overall team effectiveness.
A Systems-Thinking Perspective
Coaches must understand the complex organizational dynamics in which the team operates.
Comfort With Ambiguity
Team dynamics often create unpredictability. Coaches shouldn’t expect to drive the direction and specific outcomes of the team. Instead, they must be willing to learn the ways in which the team works and then coach accordingly.
The Ability to Set Boundaries
Coaches need to be skilled at understanding, identifying, and managing boundaries. A team coach should be finely attuned to the many relationships within the team. The coach has to work within at least 3 relational units: with individual coachees, with the team as a whole, and with the organization.
A Long-Term View
Team coaching doesn’t always have immediate results. Other business and organizational demands are great and constant, so a coach shouldn’t pressure the group to change too much too soon. If a team coach is persistent and patient, the team and the individuals within it will function more effectively.
By partnering with the team in the context of its everyday work challenges, the coach can introduce new ideas and see opportunities to improve team performance.
How to Provide Team Coaching at Your Organization
Being a team coach requires a wide range of skills and perspectives. Underlying those are personal qualities of courage, risk-taking, and maturity.
Leaders can build their own coaching skills and learn how to have coaching conversations with their teams, in effect becoming a team coach for their organizations.
Let’s discuss how you can become an effective team coach and coach your people:
1. Be clear regarding performance and development.
Try to facilitate learning for the team as a whole. Find ways that your team members can gain insight and practice different behaviors to improve their individual and team member effectiveness. Assess and moderate their behaviors as well.
2. Develop organizational savvy.
Be collaborative and open to influence and learning. Share unsuccessful strategies so others may avoid the same difficulties.
3. Utilize a systems-thinking perspective.
Understand the complex organizational dynamics in which the team operates.
4. Be comfortable with ambiguity.
Team dynamics often create unpredictability. Coaches shouldn’t expect to drive the direction and specific outcomes of the team; instead, they must be willing to learn the ways in which the team works, and then coach accordingly.
5. Understand, identify, and manage boundaries.
A team coach should be finely attuned to the many relationships within the team. The coach has to work within at least 3 relational units: with individual coachees, with the team as a whole, and, finally, with the organization.
6. Remember that team coaching doesn’t always have immediate results.
Effective team coaching does require some altruism and a strong desire to help your organization. Other business and organizational demands are great and constant. Don’t expect too much too soon from the team members.
If you’re acting as a leader-coach and you’re persistent, the team and the individuals within it will function better.
Start slow — introducing small changes that foster growth and development as you do your part to advance teamwork. Here are 3 things to try:
- Introduce a new view. Invite a trusted colleague to coach the team. A fresh perspective may help the team see new paths and solutions.
- Break the rules. Doing something different within a team can create positive turbulence and open up new possibilities.
- Share your struggles. Having team members hear and see some vulnerability on your part might translate into authenticity on their part.
So lead on, and happy team coaching!