Team Coaching—A driver for superior performance and collaboration

Team Coaching enables teams to perform and build capability by learning to work together and manage their interdependencies well while staying focused on the expectations of their leaders, groups, businesses, clients and stakeholders at large.

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Amidst the chaos of last year, leadership and culture across businesses transformed rapidly. Staying relevant meant adapting work styles and leadership styles much faster than what is comfortable.

Siloes, hierarchies, power distance, command and control have given way to more virtual, inter-dependent, innovative and trust-based ways of working together remotely. Some have coped, some have thrived, while many may have fallen behind.

How can one support people to deliver with accountability and passion in a self-sustaining way during challenging times? One of the solutions may lie in Team Coaching.

International Coaching Federation (ICF),the leading global body for coaches and coaching mentions: “Team Coaching is one of the fastest-growing disciplines in the coaching profession and is becoming increasingly important in organisations, including private corporations, government agencies and non-profits.”

In the past, several companies positioned one-to-one coaching as a white-glove offering for the blue-eyed few. A disadvantage to this kind of exclusive offering is that while it focuses on the individuals, it pays scant attention to the larger teams. There is a need to have a broader and self-sustainable solution during these times. Team Coaching has plenty to offer in this space.

Team Coaching enables teams to perform and build capability by learning to work together and manage their interdependencies well while staying focused on the expectations of their leaders, groups, businesses, clients and stakeholders at large.

The coach, the leader, and the team work together to tap into their collective potential and make more possible, collaboratively and sustainably.

David Clutterbuck, in his book, Coaching the Team at Work, says, “Team coaching is not just about performance. It is also about capability–the ability of the team to perform in the future by growing and adapting to changes in the environment.

Concentrating only on performance now creates a short-term perspective that endangers performance in the future.”

Team Coaching’s power lies in its ability to work with and unleash a team’s potential through reflection, interaction and tangible actions. It can work well when a new team is coming together, or a new leader is taking over, or the team has a challenge at hand, like crucial projects to deliver, new strategies to develop, products to launch and markets to enter, or in helping a team transform into a high-performance unit.

It is essential to be clear on the distinction or boundaries of Team Coaching from Team Building, Consulting and Training.

Team building is a short intervention focused more on the team getting to know each other and lays the foundations for cooperation.

Team training is about a trainer imparting specific skills or transfer of knowledge to a team which helps them perform better. In the case of consulting, the focus is on problem-solving, and the consultant tends to be the expert or observer who disseminates knowledge on a specific project.

Team Coaching, on the other hand, builds capability to deliver on its purpose and mission without losing focus of themselves as a team, the organisation, their stakeholders and the ensuing complexities.

The question that remains is, ‘How does one go about engaging a team coach?

The first step is to get internal buy-in and sponsorship on team coaching being the right intervention.

Such a move would also mean that one has the team aboard as well as the leader on how they could potentially benefit from team coaching, along with their commitment to making it work. Ideally, the team should not comprise more than five to ten people. If there are more than five, it is better to hire an internal or external co-coach to help manage the complexity.

As far as possible, one must select a practitioner team coach who has solid experience working with teams and knowledge of business and team dynamics. Additionally, it is recommended to select a coach who is accredited by a recognised coaching body, such as ICF, so one knows this coach has the right skills and foundation and abides by the standards and ethics of coaching.

ICF recently announced its Team Coaching Competency Model which is a comprehensive resource document for those evaluating enlisting a Team Coach.

Qualities to look for in a coach include self-awareness, presence, empathy, deep listening, dialogue skills and a willingness to provoke conversations that are crucial and sometimes uncomfortable.

Even amidst possible discomfort, a Team coach must be able to hold a very safe, calm and trusting space for the team where psychological safety and confidentiality underpin everything that happens in team coaching.

The coach’s chemistry with the team and the leader would be another vital check point before engaging a team coach. The length of a team coaching engagement should be any where from four to six months and may extend by a month or two depending on complexity.

The coach may need opportunities to observe the team in action during meetings or huddles and have individual conversations with team members and leaders on a need basis.

In some situations, it may be beneficial to use a team diagnostic, such as 360-degree feedback for the team at some stage of the process to get a snap shot of the progress, strengths, perceptions, blind spots, or even dysfunctions of the team.

Given the complexity of team coaching, it is worth checking if the team coach will be taking the assignment to supervision and the confidentiality agreements necessary in that case.

Team Coaching does not work in all situations. It is crucial that the team identified for team coaching is an intact one that works together and has co-dependencies to navigate.

Otherwise, there will be little glue to bind them and keep them committed.
If the group is likely to be restructured or re-organised shortly, it may not be the best time to engage in team coaching. Team coaching works when the team members are together and co-dependent for at least the duration of the coaching. Team coaching may not be the ideal intervention if the team has unhealthy levels of conflict and dysfunction or lacks resources to accomplish the challenges at hand.

Team Coaching is an evolving and promising field with immense potential. The heart of the process is about the team unlocking its capability by raising awareness about their collective behaviours, strengths and weaknesses. They learn and lead themselves, build trust and mutual accountability and can self sustain and not have to depend on a coach in  a few months.

When that transfer of process happens from the coach to the team, one knows that it was a successful engagement for one self, the team and the team coach.

Team coaching holds the keys to several team challenges in a fast-paced and dynamic  world, where individual and team interfaces have tremendous energy that needs to be constructively unleashed for superior performance and business results.

To learn more about professional coaching and its organisational benefits, visit International Coaching Federation.

Professional coaching services can be found using ICF’s directory of credentialed coaches spread all over the world.

The International Coaching Federation (ICF) is the world’s largest organisation leading the global advancement of the coaching profession and fostering the role of coaching role as an integral part of a thriving society. Founded in 1995, its 35,000-plus members located in more than 140 countries and territories work toward the common goals of enhancing awareness of coaching and upholding the integrity of the profession through lifelong learning and maintaining the highest ethical standards. Through the work of its six unique family organisations, ICF empowers professional coaches, coaching clients, organisations, communities and the world through coaching. Visit coachingfederation.org for more information.

In India, ICF is represented by six vibrant chapters, all led by volunteers — ICF Bengaluru, ICF Chennai, ICF Delhi, ICF Mumbai, ICF Pune and ICF Hyderabad.

Latha Emmatty Gupta is an ICF Accredited Coach and Founder of OD Mantra, a boutique coaching, consulting and OD firm. She spent over 25 years with leading corporations at executive and board positions in India, where she was responsible for talent and leadership development. She is an expert on 360-degree feedback tools and a master practitioner for Big Five Personality Assessments.

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