Do we really understand what team coaching is? Coaching will have completely different meaning to different people depending upon their exposure to coaching.
Patrick Lencioni argues that whilst teamwork is compelling and elusive, when developed, it is a more powerful competitive advantage than finance, strategy or technology. He suggests it is difficult to develop effective teams because it is extremely arduous to master effective behaviours.
Whilst organisations acknowledge the importance of team effectiveness and more are embracing team coaching as a method for improving performance, team coaching is currently at the same stage that one-to-one coaching was at about twenty or thirty years ago. Just as there was confusion about what individual coaching was and how it worked twenty years ago, there is currently much debate and confusion about what team coaching is and how it differs from other forms of team development such as team facilitation and team building.
There is also still confusion between group coaching, (of individuals in a group setting), individual coaching of members of the same team, and team coaching which focuses on the development of the team.
It is essential that we develop clarity so that those responsible for buying team development and coaching have a better understanding of what is available but professional bodies are not yet offering a point of view to support their members and organisations.
Team building is usually a process that helps teams in the early stages of team development, what Tuckman would call the ‘forming’ and ‘norming’ stages. Most of the activities in team building focus on team bonding, understanding and relating better to each other and perhaps the mission, goals and expectations about performanc
Team facilitation is when a team facilitator manages a process to resolve a particular conflict or difficulty, a process review, or enables a strategy or planning process or team away-day.
A number of definitions of team coaching have been developed in recent years for example, Hackman and Wageman define team coaching as “direct interaction with a team intended to help members make coordinated and task-appropriate use of their collective resources in accomplishing the team’s work.” David Clutterbuck suggests that it is “helping the team improve performance and the process by which performance is achieved through reflection and dialogue”. Whilst Clutterbuck’s definition emphasises the achievement of performance and the reflective stage of learning, I agree with Peter Hawkins who argues that team coaching should help a team move around the whole learning cycle and enable team members to develop new ways of thinking and engaging with their collective challenges.
I also agree with Newell and Grix who emphasise that successful team coaching always occurs ‘in the system’ of the team. For example, in the organisational context and the team’s purpose.
In 2006 Hawkins and Smith defined team coaching as “enabling a team to function at more than the sum of its parts, by clarifying its mission and improving external and internal relationships. It is different, therefore, from coaching team leaders on how to lead their teams, or coaching individuals in a group setting.”
Since then they have proposed a continuum of team coaching from team facilitation to systemic team coaching. They suggest that team performance coaching is where the coach focuses on both team process and performance; leadership team coachingfocuses on how the team collectively gives leadership to those who report to them and how they influence key stakeholders; transformational leadership team coaching focuses on how the team wants to run their business and how they will transform it and systemic team coaching enables the team to reframe and enhance the way it relates to and serves its business environment.
I would encourage those responsible for developing leaders and teams not to ask for what they have experienced before but to consider what is really needed, what would add value and to explore team coaching as a way of developing leaders that hold each other accountable for sustaining changed behaviours.