Colm Murphy & Melissa Sayer: Coaching Teams to Increase Team Effectiveness & Diffuse Organizational Learning

How does team coaching contribute to team effectiveness and the diffusion of organizational learning? What is the state of research on team coaching? How can team coaches leverage research to inform practice? Tune in to this week’s episode of the Team Coaching Zone Podcast to explore these fundamental questions that strike at the heart of the efficacy of team coaching. Melissa Sayer is a Team & Executive Coach for Performance Hub and a Doctoral Student of team coaching at the University of Portsmouth. Colm Murphy is a Business Coach for teams & leaders for Dynamic Leadership Development Limited and a Doctoral Student of team coaching at the University of Portsmouth as well.

Themes covered in the podcast include:

  • How Colm & Melissa teamed up to contribute to both team coaching scholarship & practice
  • Colm’s dissertation topic: how team coaching contributes to team effectiveness
  • Melissa’s dissertation topic: how team coaching contributes to organizational learning
  • The research-practice gap in the team coaching field
  • Lack of stakeholder voice in team coaching evaluation measures
  • The imbalance of current research focusing on leadership teams vs. other types of teams
  • Team coaching as a learning partnership
  • Teams as central to the diffusion of learning in organizations
  • The critical role of coaching as a vehicle for facilitating the “transfer of learning”
  • The 4 I’s of Learning Transfer: Intuiting, Interpreting, Integrating and Institutionalizing
  • The wide body of research on team effectiveness and how to measure it
  • Kirkpatrick’s 4 levels of learning evaluation
  • Learning in real time via team coaching
  • Defining and differentiating team coaching
  • Bringing one’s whole self as a team coach
  • 3 evolutionary metaphors for teams: machine, family, system
  • Team coaching as an emergent process
  • Case examples and lessons learned from coaching real teams
  • And more!

Now that the Fall semester is getting underway, it’s time for team coaches to head back to school and get their learning on as well!  Tune in to this episode and let Melissa and Colm help you take your scholarship and practice in the area of team coaching to the next level!  

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Part 1 – Getting to know the Team Coach

Colm Murphy

  • Business coach for teams & leaders for Dynamic Leadership Development Limited
  • Doctoral student of team coaching at University of Portsmouth
  • Father of triplets!
  • From Dublin, Ireland
  • Has his own executive coaching, team coaching, & learning/ development practice
  • Director of a team coaching program at University College Dublin
  • Collaborates with Professor Clutterbuck on Leeds Beckett team coaching program
  • Previously an accountant, head of Learning and Development in Deloitte, Director of executive development at Symantec

Melissa Sayer

  • Team & executive coach for Performance Hub
  • Doctoral student of team coaching at University of Portsmouth
  • Worked as client director at Colliers International in London
  • Moved back to Ireland with her family
  • Designed and delivers leadership development program at Trinity Business School
  • Passionate about the role of women in business

How did they meet?

  • Met at an Academy of Executive Coaching program in London
  • Felt connected through an alignment of values in the chaos of the program
  • Decided they wanted work in partnership (rather than alone) as team coaches
  • Together explore alternatives to bring research of team coaching into the work as practitioners

Part 2 – Approach to Team Coaching

  • Both curious about how to add more rigor to team coaching and its outcomes.
  • Colm’s core research question: How does team coaching contribute to team effectives?
  • Melissa’s core research question: How does team coaching contribute to organizational learning?
  • Research gaps they wish to fill in team coaching:
    • Lack of academic research in team or executive coaching
    • Most research only worked with 1 team – they are investigating how learning transfers from 1 team to others
    • Current research findings are based on feedback of team members – they want to bring in stakeholder voice
    • Current research only focuses on leadership teams – they are interested in a wider range of team types (working with a leadership team, functional team, and project team)
  • Views coaching as a learning partnership. Melissa studies the impact of team coaching on the wider system of organizational learning. Teams are central to how organizations learn, learning of one team spreads from one team to next
  • Facilitates organizational learning about assumption sharing which creates heightened level of awareness in an organization
  • Committed to team coaching research with the goal to add accountability for what we are doing in team coaching, for both the science of teams and for practitioners working with teams
  • They incorporate conversations about metrics and team output during the contracting phase of team coaching
  • Metrics for team effectiveness:
    • Output of team meeting stakeholder expectation
    • Capability of working together in future
    • Improved learning and well-being of team members
  • Metrics for organizational learning:
    • Cognitive changes in learning
    • Behavioral changes in how teams learn
    • Organization learns from best practice
    • Links coaching to the transfer of learning
  • Separates team coaching (which is more sustainable) from other team interventions (short-term, analogy of champagne)
  • Team coaching has elements of facilitation, process, coaching, OD. Team coaches bring their full self by wearing these different hats when necessary
  • Metaphors for teams:
    • Team as machine
    • Team as family
    • Team as system
  • Team coaching is an emergent process, team is the client, it’s a relationship over time, it’s about creating space for collective thinking, improving internal and external communication
  • Process of their coaching engagements:
    • Find team’s definition of success right away
    • Analyze at pre and post data of intervention with assessments
    • Co-creation then begins. Acknowledgement of where the pain points are and where growth as a team is needed
  • Case example- Coached a team for 16 months. Key outcomes include:
    • Enabled different types of conversation the team was having with a board
    • Took more control over relationship with board
    • Generated strategy and planning
    • Delivered on stretch goal
    • Team members developed individually by showing more vulnerability
  • Lessons learned from case example:
    • Readiness of leader is a key variable in team coaching. The leader was not ready to be vulnerable in front of the team
    • Importance of setting up the environment for team coaching

Part 3 – Closing / Parting Advice / Words of Wisdom

  • Colm:
    • Desire to share with ideas with others, please reach out
    • Team coaching can be brutal! He’s learned how to manage his expectations. Give yourself permission not to be perfect.
    • He is doing his research fundamentally to learn more about the practice of team coaching
    • Don’t make any assumptions, be curious about your teams
  • Melissa:
    • Relationships is at the heart of team coaching. Relationships with the team leader, team members, and the partner you are working with
    • Put time into building your relationship with your partner. The strength of her relationship with Colm is the strength of the relationship with their clients
    • The more empathy you have for yourself, the more you can have for others while working



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