A guide to team coaching for executives and leaders

Most people seem to understand the basic concept of ‘coaching’ in a business context, and picture two individuals working together to achieve an outcome – such as improving performance. But team coaching, especially when it is conducted by an organisation’s leaders, is a far less simple concept to grasp. And for good reason.

Coaching a team within a business can sometimes be fraught with unpredictability, egos, conflict and disparate needs. It’s something most leaders naturally shy away from. Nine times out of ten they’d opt for the fallback position of coaching each individual in the team, because it’s a far more palatable proposition.

So why, in a business, is there often this disconnect between ‘coaching’, and what we have all been part of as children or in a sports club – and that’s being coached as a team? If the idea of coaching a football or tennis team is a norm, then why not team coaching in an organisation?

If executives and leaders worked alongside professional coaches to coach their teams, how much better could the team’s performance be?

Is team coaching really so different from one-to-one coaching?

The answer is really no... and yes. The goal of the team coach should be the same as a one to one coach, that is: to facilitate the performance, learning and development of the team. This entails raising the team’s awareness, challenging their assumptions, and resetting their limiting mindsets.

But challenging an individual is typically easier than challenging a group of individuals. We often see a degree of anxiety or conflict in a team. That needs to be handled with a judicious mix of care, sensitivity and rigour.

The team coach will be building relationships and listening to each member of the team. That requires the same level of attention as if coaching an individual. This also means involving each team member in the process and treating them equally and fairly. In contrast, the coach is also trying to raise team awareness and responsibility, as well as that of individuals.

This all takes team coaching to another level of coaching expertise. We see a wide range of challenges in team coaching that require this extra skillset, including:

  • time keeping
  • maintaining confidentiality
  • creating boundaries
  • managing conflict
  • understanding group psychodynamics
  • building group relationships
  • monitoring and reporting at team level.

For a professional coach, these skills should already be part of their armoury. For the executive or manager as team coach, we would typically ‘coach the leader’ and help them acquire these skills. For one thing, a senior leader may be seen by the team as just that – a senior, who may be someone to fear or someone to try and impress.

The leader as coach therefore has an immediate task to undertake: to be seen as a coach that is helping, facilitating and motivating not controlling and commanding.

Management guru Ken Blanchard probably sums it up best. He said: “Today’s leaders must be partners with their people… they no longer can lead solely based on positional power”.

Team Coaching

Implementing an effective team coaching process

Teams come in all shapes and sizes, with differing needs and demands. On the face of it, this seems like an insurmountable challenge when you have a large organisation with anywhere from 50 to 500 plus defined teams.

What is needed is a process that is flexible enough to deal with these challenges, but rigid enough to be a repeatable framework.

Fortunately we’ve based our process on an elegant and highly practical team coaching framework created by Dr Peter Hawkins, Professor of Leadership at Henley Business School. The framework delivers five core disciplines, borne of two distinct dimensions:

Inside/Outside the team

We start by thinking about who is inside the team (having complementary skills, committed to a common purpose, with a set of performance goals and approach for which they hold themselves mutually accountable) and who is closely connected but outside the team (stakeholders who have an investment in the team’s performance and outcomes, but not involved in the delivery).

team coaching disciplines chart

Outcome/People focus

We also look at the cognitive outcomes (purpose, vision strategy, delivery of objectives, systems and roles) and people (such as their interpersonal relationships, team dynamics, leadership style, culture, values and so on).

From this we can create four boxes – or disciplines – that constitute each team.

  1. Commissioning – stakeholder expectations.
  2. Clarifying – team tasks.
  3. Co-creating – team relationships.
  4. Connecting – stakeholder relationships.

The fifth discipline right at the centre, and core to the team’s sustainable success, is reflecting, learning and integrating.

The role of the team coach is to help the team in the following ways, in order to decide which discipline to focus on first to achieve better team performance:

  • Be aware of its performance in each of these disciplines.
  • Understand the impact of each discipline on overall team performance.
  • Enhance its effectiveness with relevant interventions in each discipline.

Where can Coaching Focus be of help?

disciplines of team coaching if they’re to be effective coaches. We can provide this coaching support, and deliver this structured coaching across your organisation.

We can also deliver effective team coaching across your business, and support the coaching activity you already have in place.

We have a detailed briefing document around how we work; please ask for a copy.

Use the contact form, or give us a call on 01884 266005.