Is team coaching really so different to individual coaching?

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The answer is really no ... and yes. The intention of coaching remains the same, whether you are coaching one person or a team. Your role as coach is to facilitate their performance, learning and development by raising their awareness, challenging their assumptions, limiting mindsets, and non-helpful behaviours, and encouraging their commitment to action so to achieve the results they want.

Also, the fundamental skill set is the same whether the coaching is 1:1 or team. However, as soon as you are coaching two or more people as a team the application of those skills needs to increase significantly. For instance, you will be building relationship with each member of the team, not just one. You will need to listen to every team member with the same attention as you do when you are coaching just one individual. Every team member must be involved in the process and treated equally and your challenges and interventions should have the intention of raising team awareness and responsibility as well as that of individuals.

It is this additional span of skills application that takes team coaching to another level of coaching expertise. For instance, ground rules such as time keeping and keeping confidentiality are less easy to manage in a group, and facilitation skills are required to maintain boundaries and to provide the team with engaging learning and developing processes for their team workshops. Challenging a single individual is easier than challenging a group of individuals, particularly when they are often challenging each other at the same time. There is often a degree of anxiety and conflict in the team needing to be handled with a judicious mix of care, sensitivity and rigour.

TEAM COACHING SKILLS SET

The team coach uses their 1:1 skills set across all the individuals in the team and additionally will require facilitation skills, conflict management skills and a working understanding of group psychodynamics

Awareness of group psychodynamics

You don’t need to be a psychotherapist to be a team coach. You do however need to understand some of the reasons why people in general behave the way they do in groups or teams, and how to handle group anxiety and conflict as it arises (and it will). Many people can feel exposed and anxious in a team coaching setting, others can become bullish and assertive, and there is often subtle jostling for position as each team member establishes their own comfort zone and sub group.

An awareness of such group dynamics, underpinned by the application of a team coaching model such as Scott Peck, is essential to be an effective team coach. Unskilled handling of conflict in the team during coaching can cause one or more individuals to withdraw psychologically from the process. A lack of boundary management or rigorous challenge can create divisions in the team as they seek at a subconscious level to create these boundaries from within. This can cause the emergence of sub leaders or factions which will then bicker with each other, and then they will all gang up against you, the coach. This ‘kill the facilitator’ dynamic is well known and if handled well by the coach can provide a turning point in the process.

An effective team coach will be able to rise above the dynamics of the group and observe what is going on, observing themselves in the process. The capacity to keep detached from, yet part of, the dynamics of the group is a form of constructive dissociation that prevents the coach from becoming submerged in the feelings and anxieties of the group but rather to be a detached observer of it. From this position the coach can hold the coaching process and structure effectively.