The International Coach Federation has identified team coaching as the single biggest area of growth in the field over the last decade and it is not hard to see why. At Sheridan Resolutions, we often talk about reasserting humanity in an era of disruption. This means that businesses must find better ways for individuals to work more effectively within their own teams – and for those teams to work more effectively with others.
This is easier said than done. Some teams are temporary in nature; coalescing around a particular project or task; then there are virtual teams whose members work across different time zones and cultures; and there are many organisations whose teams are shrinking in favour of partnerships with outsourced expertise. Interventions that sound like team coaching (but aren’t)
Distinctions between team coaching and terms such as team building, team development are evolving. Team building can be described as getting a group to function as a cohesive entity. The focus is on developing professional intimacy between team members, role clarity and collaboration. Team development looks at how to increase the performance of a team, bringing deeper forms of cooperation and collaboration to bear.
Team coaching, however, is raising a team’s awareness of how it functions, while equipping it to change its behaviours in pursuit of higher performance. It applies the principles of coaching to the team as a whole.
In spite of a still-emerging set of definitions, however, there are some common factors, typically concerning:
• alignment of people within the team;
• detoxification, where necessary, of the working environment;
• increased responsibility by the team and its members for results; and
• the ability of the team to respond to changing circumstances.
SYSTEMIC TEAM COACHING
Systemic team coaching addresses the connections between teams, helping leadership to engage all stakeholders in the transformation of the business. Some experts describe this as “inter-team coaching”. The coach helps different teams in the organisation, as well as teams from the wider stakeholder community work more effectively together.
THE IMPACT ON PERFORMANCE
It is too often perceived as quick fix by clients for a team coach to come in and “sort out” a team through a single intervention. This doesn’t mean, however, that team coaching interventions need to be applied throughout the organisation – it is clearly important to find the most effective point at which to insert the “acupuncture needle” and a team coach can help the business understand where that is.
THE IMPACT ON LEADERSHIP
Unfortunately, many leadership structures foster only a competitive environment between organisations and teams, competing for resources, attention or money. For a leader to cede control over parts of this “territory” creates a sense of vulnerability.
Therefore it is important in team coaching interventions for leaders to feel secure in themselves. Effective leadership requires courage and a change in perspective to give the people in the team the chance to develop their own skills and, in so doing, to show the leader’s respect for them as colleagues.
THE IMPACT ON COLLABORATION
How does team coaching help a team collaborate beyond its own immediate needs? A team can make strides in increasing its own sense of purpose and reducing team toxicity. When it passes the baton in a project to another team, however, then performance can slide back again if the receiving team members do not see the project as part of their responsibilities.
Systemic team coaching asks an organisation deeper questions about collaboration and its potential for accelerating change. Change can put pressure on different parts of the organisation in the way that teams work together and face the responsibilities that genuine collaboration brings. EG