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 skill and group talent.
Team coaching involves a single coach – either a skilled outsider or team leader – working with a group of managers or executives. This type of coaching gives members of the group the opportunity to stretch beyond their current abilities. And 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.
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 – rather than detracts from – the team’s goals.
Not all skilled coaches work with teams. In addition to the skills and perspectives needed for one-on-one coaching, you should expect these five attributes from a team coach:
- No. 1: 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 is always related to improving team effectiveness.
- No. 2: A systems-thinking perspective. Coaches must understand the complex organizational dynamics in which the team operates.
- No. 3: 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, then coach accordingly.
- No. 4: 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 three relational units: with individual coachees, with the team as a whole, and with the organization.
- No. 5: A long-term view. Team coaching doesn’t always have immediate results. Other business and organizational demands are great and constant, so a coach should not 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.