Dr. David Tate, Principal at the Tate Consulting Group, Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant as well an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University and Author

#015: Coaching Family Business Teams

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and leading organizational coach Dr. David Tate for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast.  David Tate is a licensed clinical psychologist, an executive coach and organizational consultant, an author and a Principal at Tate Consulting Group–a boutique consultancy that focuses on executive coaching and leadership advising, family owned and closely held enterprises, and organizational development.  He is an Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at Yale University where he received the 2013 Distinguished Faculty Award. He is the co-author of “Sink or Swim: How Lessons from the Titanic Can Save Your Family Business.”  David is also a certified coach through the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching.  In this episode David shares stories and lessons learned coaching family business enterprises as well human service organizations.  He discusses the importance of managing three subsystems–the management system, the ownership system and the family system–when coaching family business teams.  Other themes explored in the episode include: introducing a coaching culture to a team, using the Team Emotional Intelligence Survey in team coaching, managing challenging individual personalities in team coaching, navigating power and generational dynamics, and more.  The episode is brimming over with tips and tools that all team coaches and team leaders will surely not want to miss!


Learn more about David at: 




  1. Priscilla M. Cale, & David Tate. (2011). Sink or Swim: How Lessons from the Titanic Can Save Your Family Business. Praeger.
  2. Hawkins, P. (Ed.). (2014). Leadership Team Coaching in Practice: Developing High-performing Teams. London ; Philadelphia: Kogan Page.
  3. Thornton, C. (2010). Group and Team Coaching: The Essential Guide (1 edition). Routledge.
  4. Neethling Brain Instrument (NBI) – nbicertification.com
  5. Team Emotional Intelligence Survey – www.eiworld.org
  6. Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching
  7. Executive Coaching Academy



Part 1 – Getting to Know the Team Coach: Dr. David Tate


  • Licensed Clinical Psychologist
  • Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant
  • Principal at Tate Consulting Group, a boutique consultancy that focuses on executive coaching and leadership advising, family owned and closely held enterprises, and organizational development.
  • Experience in many sectors: healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, distribution publishing and construction.
  • Assistant Clinical Professor in Psychiatry at Yale University – 2013 Distinguished Faculty Award recipient.
  • Author of book: Sink or Swim: How Lessons from the Titanic Can Save Your Family Business
  • Keynote speaker, lecturer, advisory board of University of Connecticut’s Family Business Program
  • B.S. from Cornell University, PhD in Clinical Psychology from University of Virginia, pre and post-doc fellowships at Yale before joining faculty
  • Graduate of Executive Coaching Academy – first one on the podcast from this academy
  • Coaching certification from the Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching

 More about David:

  • Being at the heart of other people’s development and growth goes back to middle school – remember being on the bus and have other kids talk about what was going on for them
  • Finding way into a career of being of service just by presence is amazing
  • Grew up in upstate NY near Albany
  • Parents were interesting characters who pursued their education across the country, but always returned to upstate NY
  • In high school knew that wanted to pursue psychiatry or psychology. Weeded out of Chemistry
  • Felt that psychology was essential for understanding behavioral science
  • Worked in Austen Riggs Center in Stockbridge, MA – deep level psycholanalytic treatment for interpersonal challenges that take people out of their lives.
    • In this setting recognized that could be comfortable helping people who were undergoing severe stress and psychopathology. Gave confidence to step into clinical psychology.
  • Did graduate work at UVA, ended up at Yale for pre-doctoral internship (requirement for the degree). Obtained post-doc at Yale focused on systems. How to intervene and evaluate mental health service systems.
  • Was a gymnast starting at age 6, competed in junior high, high school and university level. This experience helped with coaching later on.
  • Interest in theater, participating in community and musical theater. Powerful group experience of perfomance (similar to other kinds of teams). Being comfortable being a performer and playing different roles has helped.

 How David got into coaching and team coaching

  • Not a direct path
  • Was on research faculty at Yale for a number of years, then discovered it was more meaningful to be in hands on role
  • Got off the research path, started own clinical practice and consulting business
    • One of the areas was family businesses
    • Had a good blend of skills in individual and systems level interventions, and come from a family business background, too. (Family law firm, owned a video store, family has real estate)

 Why David pursued coaching credentials

  • Proponent of continuous self-improvement and life long learning
  • Enjoy learning in groups of people
  • Additional training made sense – did three coaching programs
    • CTI based program at Yale – helped with understanding distinctions between coaching and psychology
    • Executive Coaching Academy – wanted to understand at more fundamental level how the coaching works in larger organizations (16 week program by Jeremy Robinson, coach in NYC)
    • Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching (based in NJ, but opportunities for learning in most cities) – rigorous program, gave additional tools and frames for coaching.

Why David got into team coaching

  • While doing more leadership coaching, it became clear that an important competency in working with leaders is helping them develop effective teams
  • In work as clinical psychologist, did a lot of group work, this background mapped on nicely to working with teams
  • Working with family enterprises, a lot of engagements were about helping a group work better as a unit. How families work as teams is a little different from how we normally think of teams in coaching.

Part 2 – Hits & Misses Section

Challenges around teamwork in family enterprise

  • Not just relevant to families, but anywhere there’s a strong relational component in the organization.
  • Five fatal flaws related to why the Titanic sunk and also why many family firms fail to make the transition from one generation to the next (in the book):
    • Overconfidence
    • Ineffective leadership
    • Fragmented teams
    • Frail architecture
    • Lack of planning and organization
  • Family enterprise systems are comprised of 3 subsystems:
    • Management system
    • Ownership system
    • Family system
  • Helpful to think of these three circles and start to identify fault lines that come up based on one’s position in that system. Different interests and needs that can create tensions.
    • Example: family members and non-family working in the business – tensions around non-family members perceiving a glass ceiling in advancement in the organization.
    • Example: Interests of shareholders who work in the business vs. shareholders who don’t. May have owners who expect a divident check every month and shareholders who are more concerned with reinvesting profits to help grow the business.
  • May work with a number of different types of teams: management, board of directors, family team, etc.
  • Fault lines also come up around family dynamics, sibling rivalry, in-laws, etc.
  • Case Study 1:
    • Called in to work with an individual who was in third generation of a family business, still operated by 2nd generation leaders
    • Father had just passed away and he was called on to step up and assume more responsibilty and leadership, felt pressure to do that.
    • Immensely gifted but had some gaps about how to lead within the business but also in the family
    • Individual – 6 members of 3rd generation needed to be brought together as team to help business go through succession process. 2nd generation wasn’t OK making a plan until 3rd generation could work together and demonstrate that they could.
    • Coaching was new to the organization
    • First step: Worked with two main leaders in 3rd generation, individually and together, to see how they could align their vision.
    • Then worked with the whole team to get them on the same page to share vision about how they could move forward. 3rd generation brought plan to their parents and gave them confidence in their capacity.
    • Take–aways:
      • Leaders need to learn how to unite teams. Family systems especially need to be aware of the three circles in particular.
      • Introduced a coaching culture to the family. The process is gradual.
      • Coaching often happens for people who are derailing versus as an opportunity for people in whom the company wants to invest.
    • The way a team forms up-front really predicts whether at team is succesful and how rocky their road is.
  • Case Study 2:
    • Team in a human service organization, most members had been working together for 15 – 20 years
    • Four years ago, a new leader was brought in
    • There was some inertia and difficulty getting things done on the team
    • Usually start with an assessment process with team – interviewed everyone and administered assessments including the NBI. Also did the Team Emotional Intelligence Survey (helpful for teams to look at factors that make them successful or that could be developmetn opportunities for them).
      • At team level, emotional intelligence is about team’s ability to identify emotions in themselves and in others at individual, team, and organization level.
    • Team identified important strengths: care and respect amongst them, everyone committed and dedicated to work, a lot of creativity and horsepower
    • Development opportunities: hadn’t well defined goals and roles and responsibilities, difficulties managing negative emotions.
    • Team was operating in stealth mode, wasn’t formally on organizational chart. Previous CEO had formed team as a kitchen cabinet, small group of advisors. Had the capacity to laser focus on problems and solve them.
    • Realized they were undermining other leaders’ leadership by not going through formal channels.
    • In process of reforming the team, they realized they could move to have more visibility.
    • Tools: Triangulating data from various tools. Connections between the NBI and the Team Emotional Intelligence Survey. The group turned out to have a strong R2 (interpersonal focus), very caring as a group. Difficulty being more strategic as a group.
    • Take-aways: have to toggle between different lenses (personalities, relational dynamics). Think of team as an organism, what’s happening at that level? Think of the relationship of the team to the rest of the organization.
  • Case Study 3:
    • Three brothers and two sisters in law – owners
    • Long standing history of problematic things that had happened in the past that were impacting how people felt about each other.
    • Challenges about the vision for the business – some wanted to sell, others wanted to hold and transiton to next generation. A lot of different perspectives. Highly politicized environment.
    • One member had brittle personality and people were afraid of him. Had sharpest mind for business ownership but undermined his own credibility in the group because of how sharp tongued he could be. Could sense where people’s weak points were and go for the jugular.
    • Over time David exited the system when they decided on a new CEO and got outside non-family board members.
    • Take-aways: Would have been helpful to do more work with the next generation. Bring in additional advisors to work as more collaborative advisory team to the business.
  • Case Study 4:
    • Seven occupational therapists
    • Working together for almost 25 years and developed successful practice
    • Original founder brought in other partners over time
    • Reached a point where there was a lot of tension because they all had different visions about where the business should go, and they had stylistic differences.
    • Did initial assessments, including NBI
    • Discovered significant thinking style difference between founder and rest of team
      • Founder – strategic and entrepreneurial, excited about new ideas and new possibilities, ways to grow the business
      • Other partners – much more content to focus on what they had, more relational or process oriented styles
    • Leader was defacto leader, though everyone was equal partner. Group gave him a lot of reverence and respect
    • Introduced possibility of Founder’s Syndrome: when group becomes overly dependent on leader to determine direction, and leader has trouble letting go of that authority and distributing it to others.
    • Helped them to look at ways to work on promoting mutual understanding, improving meeting effectiveness, and communicating with strong emotions, given stylistic differences.
    • Fixed ways of seeing the leader. Had trouble with the idea that things could shift. Fatigue set in. A lot of people thought that it wasn’t a worthwhile use of resources at that point. More entrepreneurial partner decided to open other businesses that were more interesting to him.
    • Take-aways:
      • Getting better at detecting up front when there’s too much water under the bridge to be able to establish a sense of newness in the team.
      • May think of it as a “miss” because it didn’t go as hoped but maybe the outcome is good in the end. The intervention may have accelerated team’s development. Teams need to disband at some point sometimes.
  • Other lessons learned:
    • Things don’t go as well when there’s a lack of resources toward the engagement. People run out of interest, time, money, or energy.
    • Challenging personality disorders / dysfunctions that can derail process or group.

Part 3 – Parting Advice/Resources/Recommendations



  1. Priscilla M. Cale, & David Tate. (2011). Sink or Swim: How Lessons from the Titanic Can Save Your Family Business. Praeger.
  2.  Hawkins, P. (Ed.). (2014). Leadership Team Coaching in Practice: Developing High-performing Teams. London ; Philadelphia: Kogan Page.
  3.  Thornton, C. (2010). Group and Team Coaching: The Essential Guide (1 edition). Routledge.


  1. Neethling Brain Instrument (NBI) – nbicertification.com
  2. Team Emotional Intelligence Survey – www.eiworld.org

Coach Training Programs:

  1. Institute for Professional Excellence in Coaching
  2. Executive Coaching Academy


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