David Cluterbuck

David Clutterbuck, Practice Lead for David Clutterbuck Partnership, Special Ambassador for the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, and Founder of Coaching and Mentoring International

#052: Coaching the Team at Work

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s guest and early pioneer in the team coaching field — Professor David Clutterbuck — for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast! Professor David Clutterbuck is Practice Lead at David Clutterbuck Partnership, Special Ambassador for the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, Founder of Coaching and Mentoring International, and Visiting Professor at Sheffield Hallam, Oxford Brookes and York St. John Universities and an Adjunct Faculty at Ashridge Coaching MBA. He is also the author of 65 books and countless articles, white papers and blog posts. David is the author of the team coaching classic “Coaching The Team At Work” — an essential read for all team coaches. He is a thought leader in the coaching world and a leading trainer and supervisor of coaches and team coaches. In this episode of the podcast, David shares his journey into team coaching. Themes explored on the show include: his book, “Coaching The Team At Work;” working with teams across the full organizational hierarchy; multiple types of teams (leadership teams, cabin crew teams, stable teams, project teams, learning teams, evolutionary teams and more); knowledge management in teams; working with history in teams; coaching as a link between the inner context and the outer context; getting quick wins; the dangers of focusing too much on dysfunction; goals in team coaching; contracting and re-contracting in team coaching; three core focal areas in team coaching (performance, learning, relationships/behavior); focusing on opportunities vs. problems; performance vs. learning orientations; self-coaching in teams; individual vs. team learning; coaching cultures in teams; learning plans in teams; peer coaching within teams; the importance of having skills in “being coached;” 9 signs when you shouldn’t coach a team; the current lack of team coach supervision; four developmental mindsets of coaches (model-based, process-based, philosophy/discipline-based, & systemic/eclectic-based); powerful questions in team coaching; balancing bringing calm to teams while also generating constructive conflict; three practical tips for coaching teams — 1) how to manage extroverts vs. introverts in teams, 2) how to manage resistance to you as the team coach, 3) a creative way to address the interpersonal conflict in teams; David’s 3-day “From One-to-One Coach to Team Coach” training program; David’s perspectives on the evolution of team coaching and more. This is yet another podcase with a towering figure in the team coaching arena that is chock full of “value bombs” and an episode that you will surely not want to miss!

Listen Now


Learn More about David at:


  1. David Clutterbuck Partnership
  2. Coaching and Mentoring International
  3. David, S. & Clutterbuck, D. (2013). Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring. Routledge.
  4. When Not to Coach a Team (Blog Post)
  5. McChrystal, S., Collins, T., Silverman, D., & Fussell, C. (2015). Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World. Portfolio.
  6. Clutterbuck, D. (2007). Coaching the Team at Work. Nicholas Brealey Publishing.

Listen to the Episode:







Part 1 – Getting to know the Coach: David Clutterbuck


Journey into Coaching

  • Got involved first by helping leaders understand what their roles were and how they could contribute
    • Found that individuals on high-level executive teams were more individually-oriented and not working with a team mindset
  • Looked at what people meant by the term “team”
    • Multiple types of teams – stable teams with consistent members, project teams that would dissipate after the project was done, evolutionary teams
    • Different learning dynamics within each type of team
    • Developed a process (retro-engineering) with people who are experienced on the team and new members – understanding the unwritten history of a team to help it understand itself
    • Helping people understand what drives them, and what systems outside the team affects it: Linking inner contexts with outer contexts (in individuals as well as teams)

Part 2 – Perspectives on Team Coaching

Approaches Working with Teams

  • How does history affect teams?
    • What’s important to hang on to and what’s important to let go?
    • What is the value of hanging on to negative history?
    • How do factors outside of the team affect what history still affects the team?
  • What are teams there for?
    • Dangers of working too much on a team’s dysfunction
    • Basing self-judgments on the wrong goal – often teams are measured on the wrong thing
    • It’s less difficult to be successful at delivering a clarified goal than a more vague goal that is foisted upon a team
    • Book: Beyond Goals: Effective Strategies for Coaching and Mentoring
    • Barry Jentz: don’t assume that initial contracting with a team will sustain future development
  • Stretch goals
    • You must already be riding on a success, and have the resources to invest into a goal
    • Performance building vs. capacity building
    • Winning/achievement orientation vs learning orientation à important not to sacrifice learning for achievement
    • Coupling performance and learning
  • Learning Teams
    • 1999 research: teams with the strongest learning orientation shifted focus of meetings frequently among: learning, task performance, and behavior (individual and collective)
    • Peter Senge: “Knowledge generation primarily occurs in learning teams. Individual learning is a byproduct of what goes on in really innovative teams. But individual learning is not the goal, in fact if it becomes the goal you are in trouble.”
  • Individual vs. Collective Learning
    • Ruth Wageman – high performing individuals on a team do not lead to high performing teams
    • Individual awareness of collective agenda is key
    • Important to have a team learning plan
  • Creating a culture inside the team
    • Manager of a team there to make sure that coaching happens inside a team
    • Coaching is about a mindset shift
      • Learning, processing, application
    • Peer coaching can be more powerful than an external team coach
    • If the coaching task is completely remedial, you may find that most of the time is spent bringing the team to first base
  • When not to coach a team
    • When there’s no rationale for being a team (little interdependence among members)
    • When a group is too big to be a team
    • When only the team leader wants coaching
    • When the team leader is weak and unable to deal with dissention (coach becomes surrogate leader – dangerous)
    • When the team expects you to rescue them
    • When the team lacks resources to succeed
    • When the team’s problems are pathological, when history is bad

Systems Approach

  • Teams lying at the nexus of individual and organization: it’s all about systems
  • If you can work on the team, you’re working on part of the system
  • Book: Team of Teams – General Stanley McChrystal
  • A lot of executive coaching is not delivering results – many organizations are looking for something novel and the team approach is just that
    • There is not a lot of data yet though, so it’s difficult to pitch a team approach
  • Process-based coaching: with people, not to people
  • Philosophy- or discipline-based: lots of information informing the coaching
  • Systemic Eclectic: supporting client while they have the conversations they need to have with themselves

Useful tools, tips, and techniques

  • Question for leaders: What did you do in this session to make the team need you less?
  • Recognizing difference pacing among team members (extroverts/introverts) and calling it out, and separating members to process at their own pace before coming back together as a group
  • Pushing responsibility of solving a problem back onto the group members
  • Ask members to write down what they will do to make other team members’ lives easier

Part 3 – Resources, Parting Words, and Contacting David

Resources for Coaches

  • Coaching the Team at Work (2007)
  • Articles on website
  • Broaden understanding of relevant disciplines: other areas of coaching, family therapy,
  • Otto Laske: Adult maturity within teams
  • Mentoring International: Moscow, Singapore
  • 9-day intensive course: post-graduate certificate

Future of Team Coaching

  • Creating mentoring cultures in organizations – integrating multiple streams within an organization and in connections to the community
  • Team coaching becoming something more normal process within large organizations
  • Amy Edmondson: teams as static vs dynamic?
    • Everything is becoming more dynamic – what are teams evolving into?
    • Assuming individuals’ roles within a team are dynamic is helpful


Parting Words

  • Core of being a coach is to recognize that whenever you engage in dialogue with a team you have no idea what’s going to happen. You have to be prepared – this is the joy of coaching work!
  • If the team didn’t laugh, you probably didn’t have much learning taking place

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