Many teams don’t reach their potential: only 20% rate themselves as ‘highly effective’. But why is this? 

Well, human beings have worked for thousands of years in small localised or family groupings; long-term, stable teams with bonds of trust and understanding built up over years and decades. 

The last 50 years have seen a radical shift from this model; the creation of global organisations with multi-cultural, multi-located teams that are often being continuously re-formed and restructured. 

This creates psychological complexity and uncertainty: how can we understand the norms and rules of behaviour when our groups and bonds are so short-term and changeable? Unattended to, this complexity inhibits our ability to dialogue, collaborate, share information, and build the trust needed for high quality conversations. 

How does team coaching work?

Team coaching helps members better understand the assumptions, emotions and dynamics driving their collective behaviour. Most teams are incredibly busy focusing on what they do but spend far less time considering how they work together. This lack of reflection is the root cause of most conflict, inefficiency, duplication, and silo working. 

Team coaches are trained in the psychology of team behaviour and performance; they bring independent perspective and support to aid the team in reflecting and identifying new ways of working. By investing time in this reflective process, teams create real transformation in the value and impact their work delivers. 

Which challenges does team coaching help with?

We are typically asked to help in three main areas:

  1. New leader/new team members: helping the leader and team accelerate the forming process, build collective energy for their objectives and agree clear norms and expectations of each other.
  2. Challenging dynamics: supporting teams that are in conflict, disengaged or fractured, to explore and resolve the roots of conflict, reset key relationships and use their talents in more productive ways.
  3. Innovation-seekers: for those who need to step-up the value they deliver, we help improve their leadership and partnering with key stakeholders, the wider organisation and the sub-teams they lead. 

How do team coaches work with team leaders?

The leaders we work with often have a lot on their plate. We provide one-on-one support to enhance the psychological climate and functioning of the team and their personal leadership within that. 

One-to-one leadership coaching gives a safe and reflective space to explore their role and find new ways to maximise their impact. Exploration, challenge and a fresh perspective often help leaders find new understanding as to why certain dynamics are appearing in the team. 

When it comes to coaching sessions with the team, team coaches bring a mediating and impartial influence, enabling challenging conversations that can be difficult for the leader to facilitate.

What happens in a team coaching engagement?

The team coach will partner with the team to agree a bespoke programme of activities, informed by research into the team through interviews with its members and key stakeholders. These activities can include: individual coaching; observing and providing feedback on team meetings; in-person and virtual “key issue” team coaching sessions and offsites; and coaching the team alongside key stakeholders. 

One-off team events simply don’t create lasting change; our team coaching engagements include multiple contact points to ensure behavioural change is truly embedded.

Is this similar to executive coaching? 

Executive coaching works on a one-on-one basis with the mindset and goals of the individual leader. Team coaching works with the psychological climate and goals of the team as a collective; although it often includes individual coaching of the leader and team members. In both fields, coaching has been proven in multiple research studies as a highly effective intervention for creating behavioural change.

How does this work for executive teams and boards? 

Team coaching is especially helpful for senior leadership teams. Conflicts between functional leadership and top team priorities; managing power and status; leading change and innovation; and energising the wider organisation are all challenges we have coached teams through. We are also practiced in working with post-acquisition cultural integration of merged management teams and observing and reviewing board effectiveness.

In conclusion, team coaching is a powerful approach that helps modern teams understand and address the complexities of their collective behaviour. It enables effective collaboration, trust-building, and reflection, leading to improved efficiency and teams that add more value.

Duncan Lewin