A desire for systemic impact beyond the coachee
Coaching is becoming a well-known concept across organisations around the world. Many companies, governmental and NGOs hire coaches for their executives ("executive coaching"), their high-potential staff and new managers, to great improvements in fulfillment, as well as individual and organisational performance. Likewise, many individuals are engaging with coaches to help with their ongoing healing, growth, performance and transformation in various areas of their lives - work, health, relationships and family.
At the same time, a common feeling from the clients (coachees) is that they wish that the teams that they belong (and intimate relationships and families) to could also experience coaching. A part of this is their desire to share the sense of freedom and fulfilment that they found through coaching with people that matter to them. Another part is that often clients find that they find it difficult to implement the internal transformation that they experienced on a wider scale, as they find themselves in the same 'system' (environment / context).
"No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main."
There are different ways to support individuals as they try to apply what they personally get from coaching to the systems that they belong to. Some organisations choose to implement a coaching culture in organisations, so that everyone in the system experiences coaching, even if not from a professional coach. Others introduce group coaching models, where a professional coach supports a group of individuals with their individual goals, benefitting from cost-effectiveness, improved connection with their colleagues and enhanced learning through the group context.
One other really powerful way to support this systemic change is by the use of team coaching. Team coaching is a term that is often used but most often not done properly. Team coaching is like one-on-one coaching, but the client is the team or system itself. It is not a team training or even facilitation (much like one-on-one training or facilitation is not coaching).
Introducing 'team coaching'
Team coaching is "partnering in a co-creative and reflective process with a team and its dynamics and relationships in a way that inspires them to maximise their abilities and potential in order to reach their common purpose and shared goals" (International Coahcing Federation, 2022).
We'll offer a metaphor. A team coach is like a very attuned and connected mirror that helps the team see itself, raising the team's awareness of itself.
Team coaching creates a safe and courageous space - an evocative (calling forth) and provocative (courageous) space. In this space, the team is able to integrate the newfound awareness, and decides what it wants to do with this new awareness. The coach partners with the team to deepen this process and encourages the team to take the steps towards their identified goals.
Coach the team, not the individuals
There are some core principles of team coaching. I will share two of the most important ones:
1. Teams are creative, resourceful and whole.
This means that the team has everything it needs to achieve its goals. A coach just reminds them of this fact and provides a nurturing space in which the team can unleash its potential. The team does not need to be fixed by an external source. Rather, if we allow the natural process of teamwork to happen by being a courageous mirror, the team will find a way to face its challenges and dysfunctions.
This means that coaches do not provide solutions (consultant), or even lead the team through a fixed process (facilitation) of the coach's design. We have the team awaken to its own innate ability to create and walk through a process of their own design, aligned to goals of their own creation.
2. Coach the system, not the individual(s)
The system is more than a sum of its parts. A team coach considers the team a separate entity with its own values, thoughts, emotions, and strengths - more than a collection of that of the individuals that make up the team.
It is tempting to focus on specific people in the team - low / high performers, loudest / most quiet etc. It is entirely appropriate to provide individual support. However, an opportunity is missed if the collective lens isn't looked at. This is a common mistake of team facilitators and trainers, in addition to coaches (coaches are very different to trainers and facilitators - more on that later).
In fact, this is one of the greatest values that a good team coach can provide. Most teams are not aware of the system level entity of the team. Most team members will focus on the relationships within the team - people they like, people they don't like, people they look up to, and people who they think are underperforming. When the team awakens to its own existence and its internal processes, it can start unlocking its true potential.
Team coaching, not facilitation or training
Source: ICF Team Coaching Competencies, 2020 v13.11
The ICF has developed Team Coaching Competencies to clarify the distinctions between team coaching and the other forms of team interventions. There are good books written on this subject, with 'Mastering The Art of Team Coaching: A Comprehensive Guide to Unleashing the Power, Purpose and Potential in Any Team' being one of our favourites. We don't have space (or the ability) to write an entire book, but the core takeaway is this:
Team coaching has the power to dramatically and sustainably transform a team, for those that have the willingness to invest the time and energy in it, as well as the courage to step into this very unfamiliar process. This is not a journey for the faint-hearted. And there is treasure on the other side.
Other interventions have their place in team development. We at Cambodia Coaching Institute design and run these for many teams. And there is nothing quite like team coaching.
Team process coaching and 'in-situ' (live) coaching
There are two common ways to engage in team coaching.
The first is team process coaching. The aim of this is to reflect and improve on how the team works together, often focused around an identified team process: decision making, how the team deals with conflict, running effective meetings or various other team processes. The coach partners with the team as its members discuss the topic in question, evoking awareness, reflecting and articulating what we see happening, and provoking courageous and open conversation.
The second is in-situ, or live, coaching. This is a powerful intervention where the coach coaches the team in the here and now as it goes about its work. This is much like a coach observing from the sidelines as the football team is playing. The coach shares their observations and invites the team to experiment with new ways of working together (the ideas for which would be co-created with the team). There could be a focus agreed up front depending on the learning goals of the team (as with the team process coaching).
Curious about team coaching?
If you have a team (and this could be a family or relationship too, not just work) that is willing to invest the time and energy in really seeing itself and asking if there are better ways to operate together, reach out to us to explore how team coaching might help.