By: Julie-ann Odell
Organizations, business leaders and personnel are driven to learn to work more effectively together in today’s fast paced, highly volatile, complex and globalized business environment.
How we do business and the way we work has completely changed and is constantly evolving. The coaching profession came into existence to fill an unmet need in this interactive, fluid world of rapid change and complexity that has to create diversity and inclusion as an integral part of strategic growth, and organizational success. It has grown out of diverse fields such as social psychology, quantum physics, the humanities and group dynamics and as a modality of support to personal and professional development.
Coaching has also changed in response to the rapidly changing landscape in which teams now operate and has been the fastest growing component of leadership development in the last 10 years. The U.S. estimated market value alone for personal coaching was $955 million in 2015 and $1.02 billion in 2016. It is expected to reach $1.34 billion by 2022 — a 6.7% average yearly growth rate from 2016 to 2022.
The newest kid to appear on the coaching block in the past decade is team coaching which is increasingly becoming a popular coaching choice, as organizations turn to the team as the engine of business. Team coaching adopts many of the principles of executive coaching but the fact that the client is a team, not an individual, makes a huge difference.
More and more team coaching is being incorporated into organizational development, as a standalone program or as a follow on to training, and team coaches can often find themselves working with a geographically dispersed team with members who connect from across the continent, or across the globe. At the organizational level, being able to involve more employees in a coaching process at one time is a key advantage. Providing these services at a lower per-capita price has definitely been an initial selling point for organizations, as is the time factor.
Common types of teams that benefit from coaching include:
Teams with new leaders
Teams after a merger and acquisition (M&A)
Any team that wants to build trust and alignment.
Team coaching is now well rooted as an avenue for leaders to draw on in support of better business results, better relationships and enhanced personal and collective goals, as it is highly impactful with cultural change and improving leadership. Team coaching engagements take place in the context of an organization, which operates with existing goals, vision and values that are shared by all team members to differing degrees. The team coach focuses on three levels of impact: self/individual, team and organization.
As organizations start to roll out this work, the added advantages of the cross-functional fertilization that happens among parts of the organization, through the relationships and conversations that happen among peers, becomes an even more important advantage of the team coaching process. This can lead to culture change over time, as initiatives that bring together members from different parts of the organization have a significant impact on building new relationships. These new relationships can then transcend across the silos that exist and have a positive impact on the organizational culture by breaking down pre-existing walls.
The Coaching Conversation
The power of the team coaching process is in a sustained series of accountability. Communication is the oxygen for any coaching conversation, with a focus on goal setting, deepening awareness, supporting action and creating conversation, and a critical aspect of team coaching is for the coach to engage the team in the kind of communication that is vital for building and sustaining successful teams. The “triad of communication” includes what the International Coach Federation (ICF) calls “direct communication, powerful questions and active listening.” Coaching is all about a conversation with intent and the collaborative nature of the team coaching conversation and the connectivity it creates.
The Importance of Building Trust
Trust is a foundation of all successful coaching conversations and totally essential. Without trust, team members may not be willing to open up or engage in the coaching process. In the team environment, the ability for a team member to become vulnerable with their peers, as well as their leader, requires a certain level of trust, as such, team members may take time becoming open in the coaching conversation if they do not feel that the coaching space is nonjudgmental and safe, not only with the coach, but also with all team members. Team coaching helps to build trusting relationships within the team and explores the different needs, and what is important for team members individually, and collectively.
Key to masterful team coaching is supporting the team in creating agreements that will last beyond the coaching work. Agreements usually spell out the accepted behaviors of a team and coaches will keep the team members focused and mutually accountable for the goals, work plan and results of the team. This includes both the leader and team and may involve bringing the tools and models that participants are learning back to their work, as well as integrating structures and ideas into their work processes. For example, a coach may work with a team on having more difficult conversations, and may introduce the team to a common model or framework they can use to surface difficult issues.
Awareness Is Key
Key to the coaching process is a focus on deepening awareness around the issues at play and helping the team develop deeper insight into their strengths, roles and the patterns that support and sabotage them. The process focuses on the relationships within the team, as well as learning areas, and is a good indication of productivity and positivity. It is the behavioral agreements, coupled with goal setting, that can bring some of the greatest benefits to teams and enhance performance.
Some common team coaching focus areas may include:
When a new team is being created and needs to hit the ground running.
When an existing group of leaders needs to evolve into a team.
When an existing team is not performing as well as it could.
When a team wants to reinvent itself to meet challenges in its environment.
When the team acquires a new leader or changes membership significantly.
When a team is highly effective and successful and wants to keep ahead of the game.
When trust and communication needs to be improved.
When the corporate culture needs to be defined.
What Team Coaching Is and What It Is Not
In creating successful team coaching engagements, it is really important to talk about what team coaching is and what it is not. The team coach is not a business advisor, a counselor, a replacement for the leader or a group therapist. The team coach is a resource and support to the team who strengthens and empowers members to do their own work, not do it for them and it provides an opportunity for a team to grow and perform at a whole new level.
How Long Does It Last?
Team coaching is a sustained process and like developing fitness takes time. Holding teams accountable to action is key in the coaching process and It is quite common for team coaching engagements to be six months to a year in length, launched through a one- to two-day offsite retreat, and followed up with regularly scheduled team coaching sessions.
Employees today face personal and professional challenges that were never imagined by the working generations of the past and in times of significant change, team coaching can help whole teams make plans and co-ordinate effective action to sustain team performance. In such fast changing times, leaders wishing to take full advantage of their team-based structures would benefit from employing a competent and qualified team coach.