Sorry about the delay in posting the last instalment of my posts on team coaching. I have been in hospital with appendicitis which took my attention away from blogging for a time. Pleased to say I am fit and well again now.
So this is the final instalment which looks at how to maintain your focus of attention, working in a coaching team and some of the evaluation of team coaching interventions.
I hope you find helpful.
Focus of attention
This aspect of team coaching wraps around all of the above points and is probably at the heart of the difference between team and one to one coaching and perhaps is a reason why some brilliant one to one coaches may not necessarily be suited to team coaching.
In a one to one coaching relationship the coach can create an environment in which they can focus all their attention on the coachee and be present for them alone. In a team coaching environment this is much more difficult to achieve, even during the one to one sessions. The coach has to hold the agenda of each person they are coaching and maintain multiple trusting, constructive relationships even when there may be direct conflict between some of those individuals.
When the coach is working with the team there is an added variable to manage and that is how they are being as a facilitator to the team. Amongst the things the coach needs to be conscious of in this role are how the team is functioning as a whole, how individual team members are feeling and how the coach is managing their own input to the event.
Balancing everyone’s needs in this setting, so that individuals don’t feel ignored or sidelined can be very difficult to pull off.
Working in partnership with other coaches
The last challenge I would like to look at in relationship to team coaching is the challenge of working in partnership with other coaches. In a one to one setting the coach just needs to manage his/her relationship with the coachee and the organisational client; in a team setting this often extends to working with other coaches.
Working through potential differences before the project commences is vital if a shared sense of values and philosophy and a common approach are to be achieved. Aside from the problems managing differences can cause directly to the coaches, the conflict can very easily show through to the client. This is clearly unlikely to inspire confidence in the ability of the coaching team to have a positive impact on team working within the client organisation if they are unable to work as an effective team themselves.
On the positive side of course working with other coaches is an incredible learning opportunity and can lead to extensive pay-offs in terms of new knowledge and approaches and enhanced networks and resource bases.
There seems to be little research data available relating to the effectiveness of team coaching although Richard Hackman and Ruth Wageman (Hackman and Wageman 2005) draw some conclusions about the conditions needed for it produce the best results. The article focuses on the application of coaching interventions by team leaders, rather than by external coaches, but some of the findings are interesting nonetheless. In a study of field service teams at Rank Xerox (Wageman 2001) the results suggested that effective coaching behaviours helped well designed teams to improve performance but had little effect on poorly designed teams. Poor coaching behaviours were found to be damaging to the performance of poorly designed teams but had little impact on well designed teams.
They also suggest that four conditions are required for team coaching to have a positive impact on a team’s performance; firstly that the team’s choice of processes are relatively unconstrained by task or organisational requirements, secondly that the team is well designed and the organisation supports team work, thirdly that coaching interventions focus on performance critical task processes and lastly that coaching interventions are made at times when the team is receptive to them. They suggest that there is a human compulsion to create temporal markers, for example they refer to a manufacturing plant that ran continuously but was organised around six week performance periods, to pace our activities. They argue that our awareness of the beginnings, mid-points and endings of activities create opportunities for coaching; beginnings for motivational interventions, mid-points for strategy related or consultative interventions and endings for educational or learning interventions.
These conclusions are helpful but don’t take account of the full range of variables that could be experienced as an external coach, the most important being that it is rare to work with a discrete team that is focused predominantly on one task.
From almost any angle you look at it team coaching tends to be more complex and challenging than one to one coaching. So in terms of development it would helpful in most cases for coaches to get some ‘flying hours’ under their belt in a one to one setting before progressing to team coaching assignments. However in my experience I have found team coaching to be really interesting and rewarding, particularly the sense of camaraderie that tends to develop amongst a team of coaches. Having already gained some experience as a facilitator, before developing myself as a coach, I have found that coaching has led me to review my approach in the facilitator role and by applying coaching tools I feel I am able to connect much more effectively with groups. In the reverse I have found that my facilitation experience can be very useful in working with coachees who may be experiencing challenges in influencing in a group or team setting.