The Team Coaching Challenge

Over the next few weeks I am going to be posting a series of posts exploring the challenges of coaching in a team environment. I will look at a number of dimensions of this rewarding and expanding area of coaching starting with defining the client and then considering issues around confidentiality, setting objectives, resistance to the coaching process, agreeing actions and working in partnership with other coaches.

In some situations you may be the sole coach working with multiple clients in a team as well as coaching the team itself, in others you could be functioning in a team of coaches each working with individual clients. Therefore when I refer to the coach I have written this as coach(es) to encompass both a single coach or a team of coaches.

Who is the client?

Defining the client is a key starting point in any coaching assignment; and this can be difficult to define even in the most basic organisational arrangement in which the organisation engages a coach to work on a one to one basis with a coachee. In most cases the organisation pays the fee but it is the individual who determines what they are aiming to achieve in terms of outputs from the Programme. Even in this simple triangular set up issues regarding feedback, confidentiality, openness and progress have to be carefully negotiated from day one to protect the coachee but also make the process sufficiently visible to the organisation so that it can support and monitor the process.

In a team coaching environment these issues are even more sensitive. Potential clients of a team coaching programme are the organisation itself, the individual coachees, the team and other teams/work groups within the wider organisation. The needs of these different constituencies can be separate, overlapping, interlocking or potentially conflicting. Also these different clients are likely to approach the process with different mindsets, often influenced by what part they had in defining the process in the first place.

As in a one to one coaching relationship, it is good practice to define who the clients are and the coach(es)’s commitment to them, but to achieve absolute clarity on this is difficult and these coach/client relationships may need to evolve as the assignment progresses. This is because the coach(es) will gain greater insight into the dynamics of the situation through spending time with their coachees and this may reveal dilemmas or conflicts that were not evident at the initial scoping stage. This is also the case of course, in one to one relationships but in most cases these issues can be resolved within the boundaries of the coach/coachee relationship. This is not always readily achievable in team coaching because of the numerous parties involved.

In team scenarios trust is embodied in the values and behaviours of the coach(es) and people place their trust in the coach(es) not in the document. I call this a ‘working model’ of trust that creates an environment in which difficult issues can be addressed openly and constructively in the right forums.

The other ‘rule’ that I work to, which I have found is very helpful, is not to divulge any personal, confidential information that is mentioned about a team member or relationship with any other member of the team. Kind of obvious really, but often this information does need to be shared. I therefore work with the individual to encourage them to say what needs to be said to the right person and help them work out when and how to do this to reach the most constructive outcome.

In the next post I will explore challenges around maintaining confidentiality and setting objectives.

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