Team Coaching – a definition

What is team coaching?

team-coaching“Systemic Team Coaching is a process by which a team coach works with a whole team, both when they are together and when they are apart, in order to help them both improve their collective performance and how they work together, and also how they develop their collective leadership to more effectively engage with all their key stakeholder groups to jointly transform the wider business”. (Hawkins, 2011)

It is different from team development, which tends to focus on the here and now internal dynamics and processes of a team; team coaching focuses on the future and what will be necessary to thrive in that new environment, and considers the stakeholders outside of the team as well – bringing the expectations of all stakeholders into the room to work with.

The myths and reality of team coaching

(From Hawkins, Supervision with Teams and Organizations in Mind):


Limiting mind-sets Response
Team Coaching only needs to happen when the team first forms The best teams engage in life-long learning and development
Team Coaching only needs to happen when things are getting difficult If the first time you address relationship issues is in the divorce court you have left it too late!
The performance of the team is the sum total of the team members’ performance A team can perform at more than the sum of its parts or less than the sum of its parts. It is important to focus on the team added-value
Team Coaching is about relating better to each other Team Coaching is also about how the team relates to all its stakeholders and is aligned to the wider organisation’s mission
Team Coaching is about the team having better meetings Team performance happens when the team, or sub-parts of it, engage with the team’s stakeholders. The team meeting by itself is the training ground, not the match
Team Coaching only happens off-site in away-days Team Coaching can be assisted by off-site away-days but the core development happens in the heat of working together
“We are not a team unless we work at the same things together” A team is defined by having a shared enterprise that cannot be done by the members working out of connection with each other
Team Coaching is about the team trusting each other Absolute trust between human beings is an unrealisable goal, particularly in work teams. A more useful goal is the team trusting each other enough to disclose their mistrust
Conflict in teams is a bad thing Too much or too little conflict are unhelpful in a team. Great teams can creatively work through the conflicting needs in their wider system
Team Coaching is an end in itself Team Coaching is only valuable when it is linked to improving the team’s business performance

What does team coaching address?

A team coach works with an in-tact team over a period of time to create sustained performance improvement, focused on Hawkins’ five disciplines of high performance:

  • Commissioning – being clear about the commissioning of the team by its stakeholders, and contracting/re-contracting the shape of that commission
  • Clarifying – the team clarifying and committing to their own mission, purpose, strategic aims, values, goals, roles and processes
  • Co-creating – the team being more effective in how they collectively work together to co-create generative thinking and action, which is greater than the sum of their individual efforts
  • Connecting – engaging with all the stakeholders that the team serves, and those it relies on to do its work; building relationships to inspire, motivate and align those wider parts of the system to transform the contribution of the team
  • Core Learning – learning and unlearning at a rate equal to or greater than the rate at which the environment is changing

How do we know which of the five disciplines needs focus in team coaching?

We start any team coaching conduct with a contracting, inquiry and diagnosis/design phase.

Contracting – discussion with team leader/sponsor to understand why team coaching, and why now.

Inquiry – collecting data about the team, their performance, dynamics, relationships. This might include:

  • virtual conversations with each team member, and team stakeholders, all 1-1
  • a questionnaire sent to all team members about what they see is needed
  • a 360-questionnaire sent to all the stakeholders with whom the team works
  • how the team is performing – balanced scorecard if there is one, team’s objectives and progress towards those, employee engagement survey results, existing feedback from customers and other stakeholders.

Diagnosis and design – develop the focus of the team coaching. Draft a map of the possible team coaching journey (though this will need to be co-designed with the team).