Mazher Ahmad, Principal at Philosophy IB, Human Capital Consulting Practice

#044 – Scaling Internal Team Coaching: The Philosophy IB Approach

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s guest and leading organizational coach–Mazher Ahmad–for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast. Mazher Ahmad is a Principal at Philosophy IB where he oversees the firm’s Human Capital Consulting Practice area and where he is also actively involved in the Leadership and Team Practice area. Mazher has in-depth experience as an Executive and Team Development coach, and has worked with leaders at all levels, across a variety of functions and industries. Prior to joining Philosophy IB, Mazher was the Chief People Office for the KIPP Charter Schools, the largest network of public charter schools in the nation, and also served as Chief of Staff to the Chairman and CEO of Dun & Bradstreet, where he oversaw a number of strategic human capital initiatives. He has an MBA from the University of Chicago.

In this episode, Mazher shares insights on Philosophy IB’s approach to scaling internal team coaching. Specific themes explored include: the driving need for team coaching in business; the importance of understanding the fundamentals of teams; developing core coaching skills; the use of diagnostic instruments in team coaching; designing a team coaching training curriculum; catalyzing an internal team coaching culture and more. Mazher shares a number of insights and lessons learned from a recent client engagement involving training more than 30+ internal team coaches.

This is an episode that both new as well as experienced team coaches will surely not want to miss!

Listen Now

Contact Mazher



  1. Philosophy IB
  2. Katzenbach, J.R. & Smith, D.K. The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performing Organization
  3.  Williams, N. The Work We Were Born To Do
  4. Mcchrystal, S. Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World
  5. Kimsey-House, H., Kinsey-House, K., Sandahl, P., Whitworth, L.  Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives
  6. Team Coaching International: Team Diagnostic







Part 1 – Getting to Know The Team Coach: Mazer Ahmad


  • Principal at Philosophy IB in New Jersey
  • Oversees human capital consulting practice and participates in the leadership/team development area
  • In-depth experience as team development and executive coach
  • Was Chief People Officer for KIPP charter schools, Chief of Staff to the Chairman and CEO of Dun and Bradstreet overseeing a number of strategic and human capital initiatives
  • MBA from University of Chicago, Bachelor’s from University of Pennsylvania
  • Passionate about working with people at all levels of organization
  • Energized by making a difference in people’s lives and workplaces
  • Philosophy IB: Boutique management consulting firm around for 15+ years
    • Initially worked on aligning internal and external branding
    • Has evolved into focusing on integrated approach to delivering value to clients re: human capital, strategy optimization, and leadership/team coaching
    • Clients are Fortune 500, travels frequently

Journey into Coaching

  • Work as a residential advisor at UPenn, remembers working through issues with students
  • In business school and after did a lot of work on financial side, but was more excited to work with and coach students who were coming out of MBA
  • Was living and working in London started thinking about what he wanted to do, found a book called The Work We Were Born To Do by Nick Williams, called him up and hired him as a coach
  • Returned to the US and decided wanted to make a shift to coaching at individual and team level
  • Now does IFC certification in partnership with George Mason and Rutgers universities

Part 2 – Perspectives on Team Coaching

Trends in Teams

  • People are realizing at all levels that you can have an amazing culture at work, but real change takes place at the team level à driving change through a combination of top-down and bottom-up approach
  • Intuitively, everyone understands that great teams lead to great outcomes, but how to replicate and scale that?
  • Organization à Team à Individual
  • Team is the fundamental unit of change
  • Social change happens easiest in groups à contextual conditions for individuals to come along
  • Putting stock in research out there that talks about the team performance curve
  • How to become extraordinary? It takes time and effort
  • C-level executives often struggle with CEO and direct reports all coming together and not understanding why they are getting together
    • Need to get really clear about reasons for coming together – strategy brings clarity, knowing what is in and out of scope
    • Then define roles and how teams work together – commitments, operating agreements needed to be high performing


  • We’re not going to bring you the answer your team needs; each team is unique
    • Fundamental principles make high performing teams, but team needs to identify its purpose, what work it needs to do, and what are behaviors it wants to hold itself accountable to moving forward
  • Work with TCI Team Diagnostic tool is really powerful in terms of productivity and positivity, gives teams real insight and data from which teams can develop
  • Answer lies within the team, job as a coach is to help extract that
  • Wisdom of Teams – Katzenback and Smith: helping team with its design
  • Diagnostic depends on where the team is…
    • Early on, need to do 1-2 day engagement off-site, focus on working on the team
    • More and more, teams are asking for continuous engagement months later, and in between they are observed
    • Tool to understand how teams are operating: Spoke web-based tool to capture kinds of conversations that take place (questions, advocacy, side conversations, etc); allows you to hold a mirror up to the team to compare what they want and what they currently do
    • Synap: diagrams influencers, connecters, etc to see what roles are in real time
  • The answer lies within the team, job is to hold a mirror to that

Example: Biotech spin-off of big pharma

  • R&D engagement, large team
  • Observed team after initial engagement to see what was happening, then linked it to what they said they wanted to do
  • This brought extraordinary results
  • Important to see the team in action, nothing beats in-person interaction to pick up on subtleties and norms in the office
  • Diagnostic helps focus teams on what will help them lead to change
  • How is data informing us?

Case Study

  • Large company engagement that said they want to invest in their people to have them develop the skills to become great team coaches themselves
  • Organization was going through austerity measures, tightening resources
  • C-level executives really wanted to invest in this in order to become effective team development coaches
    • These things usually get cut, but they understood the importance of this
  • Scaling up over a couple of modules to learn the fundamentals of team principles
    • Team chartering
  • Before they got to the team coaching, they looked at what being part of a group meant, what active listening was, how to help groups change perspectives – looked at skills, very experiential, then gave them time to practice
  • During the course of the training, was in corporate HQ, other higher-ups in the company heard about it and stopped in to say how important they thought it was
  • Debrief after session they led: went so well that they asked them if they would do similar interventions with 20 other teams within that organization
    • Investment was starting to pay off
  • Strong case for the power of training internal team coaches
  • Organizations don’t always have the time for full-on coach certification program, implementing a “Leader as Coach” program is effective
  • Good coaching skills are just good leadership skills
  • Challenge: how to scale up? Build internal capability
  • Will continue to help build and facilitate conversations to support internal capacity

Lessons Learned from Case Study

  • Wasn’t a traditional team intervention; was working with people who would then be working with teams
  • The power of starting with the fundamentals
  • There’s nothing like putting people through experiential learning
  • The more you can bring out real life examples from people, the better
  • Always searching for that level of authenticity – cut through data, corporate speak
  • How to find the line of best fit? Newer and very advanced people
  • Took a few iterations of what they wanted to do; helpful that leader on the client side was very clear about what she wanted
  • Having a great team of consultants to work together with allows you to bring the best experience to the client

What are you excited about?

  • The way of the world is moving toward teams
  • Team coaching is a profound mechanism to help organizations improve the way they work
  • Excited about integrating consulting work with classic team development work

Part 3 – Resources, Parting Words, and Contacting with Mazer


  • Wisdom of Teams
  • Team Coaching International Diagnostic Survey
  • The Team of Teams (Stanley McCrystal)
  • Coactive Coaching (Phil Sandal)
  • Work with Executive Coaching (Backbone and Hart)


Parting Words

  • Enjoy it! This is real, powerful, impactful work
  • Making others’ world of work better makes their world outside of work better

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