Is team coaching the magic ingredient to success?

Oct 04, 2018
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I love working with teams - both as a member and as a coach.

I did when I was an EHO leading technical training programmes for groups of business customers. I did as a manager when I realised the potential of building high performing teams that delivered. I did as a CE supporting partners to develop ambition, trust and delivery plans. And I do now as a coach after introducing Team Coaching into my work.

So what is it about teams that draws, inspires and energises?

One-one coaching can be very powerful and transformational. I know from my own experience of coaching and being coached that there are some things that are best worked on in the private, challenging and supportive environment of a coaching partnership. 

But I also know that as a coach and as a client there are some things that work better when teams of people come together to work on things in a coaching space. 

Much of my work is with leaders across the public sector who invest in coaching to get more things done, develop their careers and transform services for people . One-one coaching can achieve incredible outcomes for individuals. But at times both clients and coaches get a bit frustrated. Often this is because the wider team can stymie even the best thought out strategies for change. These experiences led me to explore the potential of high performance senior team coaching.

So what is high performance senior team coaching? 

I first came across it when I was a CE. I'd built a strong, creative team and results were good. We'd moved from an insular, slightly sluggish council when I took up the helm to one that was delivering good services - high levels of customer satisfaction and staff engagement, good relationships, innovative solutions to community challenges. But, we knew that we could achieve more if we were brave enough to open ourselves up to challenge. So I invited in two team coaches to work with the senior team over a six month period.

What was it like? 

Hard, challenging, time consuming, painful at times, joyful, searching, life changing, inspiring, transformational, a brilliant investment. 

We looked at the overall effectiveness of the team. How we assessed ourselves and how the next level of managers assessed us. What were our strengths? Where were the blind spots? What was our collective ambition? How comfortable we were with challenging the folk we worked with, liked and respected. How we listened - or didn't! How we structured our time together.

It's quite hard to measure direct ROI from coaching investment despite a lot of very clever people trying. How do you put a value on some of the intangibles  that come from a senior team working together really well. For Blaby the high level results around customer satisfaction, staff engagement, financial  sustainability and external verification of services got even better and better. How much could be directly related to the senior team coaching investment is difficult to say. But, decisions were being made more quickly and implemented differently, creative ideas were flowing up from the front line and being put into practice, people were more comfortable with challenge and holding each other accountable for collective decisions and delivery. 

When we look at the work of people like Patrick Lencioni, Chris Henderson and Roger Schwartz, who have focused their work and research into what makes high performing teams succeed we see some common factors emerging

  • Lencioni in his great book "Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team" highlights key factors that exist in high performing teams. 
  • Henderson in his practical book "Jump" identifies  6 levels of conversations which high performing  teams regularly hold. 
  • Schwartz' work in "The Skilled Facilitator" focuses on individual behaviours and looks at helpful comparisons of a mutual learning mindset and a control mindset. 

Behavioural science gives us some great tools to use with teams to help them get insight. Things such as Behavioural Analysis and Process Consulting can really help teams get data and insight which they wouldn't get from more traditional team interventions  such as team building and training.

Team coaching isn't for the faint hearted. This applies to teams embarking on a team coaching programme and to coaches  working in the team coaching space. It requires times, energy, an ability to take on board, at times, uncomfortable data, feelings and experiences  

But people go to work to do a good job, make a difference and feel satisfied. Far too often the processes in organisations  and teams stifle energy and potential to deliver the very best results

I work with Emily Jones, Turnstone Coaching Solutions, in the team coaching space. We specialise  in working with senior leadership teams across the public and not for profit sectors to help them gather the insight and confidence to make changes which really improve performance

Our approach is to really get to understand the client, their teams, their challenges,  and their ambitions before any real work starts with the team.

A typical team coaching programme, if there is any such thing, runs over a period of several months and includes team sessions and one-one coaching.

 If you work in a team and are hungry to see what you can really achieve  get in touch for a chat about how team coaching could work for you. We love helping folk explore what might work for them.

Sandra Whiles

Director, Sandra Whiles Coaching Ltd

I work with people who need a bit of a helping hand to rediscover what makes them shine, be energised and succeed. I love my work as a coach, helping people, organisations, groups, teams and partnerships succeed and supporting small businesses to transform their ideas into reality. All of my work is grounded in a coaching approach and builds on my experience and success in shaping and leading individuals, teams, organisations and partnerships over many years. Before setting up my business in 2016, I worked for 35 years in the public sector. My last job was as Chief Executive for Blaby District Council in Leicestershire, described as "a great council" by the LGA in 2015 with very high levels of public satisfaction and staff engagement. Having trained with Barefoot Coaching Ltd, I am a Professional Certified Coach with the International Coaching Federation, hold a postgraduate certificate in coaching from the University of Chester, have done specialist training in Team Coaching and am a qualified NLP Practitioner. Sustainability is very important to me, so my work is designed and delivered in ways that give clients tools and approaches to use to maintain and build on their successes after their work with me is completed.

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