Podcast #041 - Coaching Learning Teams Within & Across Organizations


Tara Nolan

Tara Nolan, Founder and Managing Director of Lime Trees Road Executive Coaching, Facilitator, Executive, and Team Coach

#041: Coaching Learning Teams Within and Across Organizations

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s guest and leading organizational coach Tara Nolan for this week’s episode of the Team Coaching Zone Podcast.  Tara Nolan is the Founder and Managing Director of Lime Trees Road Executive Coaching.  She is also a Facilitator, Executive and Team Coach.  Lime Trees Road works alongside companies, teams and individuals to identify the negative behaviors that frustrate organizational performance and personal fulfillment. Then it goes about changing them. It’s an approach that works, and its growing list of global clients includes: Microsoft, Deloitte, Zurich Financial Services, ICON, Johnson & Johnson, and Ericsson.
In this episode of the podcast, Tara shares her journey from investment banking into executive recruitment and then into executive and team coaching.  She discusses the influence of a number of coach training programs and certifications that she has pursued including:  Ontological Coaching, Gestalt Coaching and Systemic Team Coaching.  Themes covered in the podcast include: Tara’s “ADD VALUE” team coaching model; the leader as coach; coaching the team as a whole, the team leader and individual team members; coaching multiple “learning teams” within and across organizations as well as agile teams; the Team Diagnostic Survey and more.  Tara also shares a number of stories from her own team coaching practice as well as provides recommendations on a number of essential books and resources for team coaches.
This is an exciting episode loaded with insights that every team coach will surely not want to miss!

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Contact Tara

Resources Mentioned

  1. Edmondson, A. (2012). Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate and Compete in the Knowledge Economy. Jossey-Bass.
  2. Gestalt Coaching Method
  3. Peters, J., and Carr, C. (2013). High Performance Team Coaching: A Comprehensive System for Leaders and CoachesCalgary, AB: InnerActive Leadership Associates, Inc.
  4. Team Diagnostic Survey
  5. Thornton, C. (2010). Group and Team Coaching: The Essential Guide (1 edition). Routledge.
  6. Wageman, R., Nunes, D. A., Burruss, J. A., & Hackman, J. R. (2007). Senior Leadership Teams: What It Takes to Make Them Great (Canadian ed edition). Boston, Mass: Harvard Business Review Press.





Part 1 – Getting to Know the Coach: Tara Nolan


  • Managing Director of Lime Trees Road Executive Coaching
  • Based in Dublin, Ireland
  • Lots of interest in team coaching in the UK and Ireland; Tara has worked with Peter Hawkins and John Leary Joyce who have collaborated to create a systemic team coaching program
    • Peter Hawkins coming to New York in January 2016 through the Team Coaching Zone
  • Facilitator, Executive, and Team Coach
  • Studied economics at Trinity College in Dublin
  • Became an international exchange trader in London
  • Became a head hunter in New York, London, and Dublin
  • Diplomas in Gestalt coaching, Systemic team coaching, and is a certified ontological coach
  • Certified in FIRO-B, MBTI 1 and 2, LST and GSI instruments
  • Currently working on MCC as part of ICF credentials
  • Runs marathons and recently qualified as a yoga teacher and sometimes incorporates what she knows from yoga to her coaching practice
    • Both activities bring centering, push you to the edge of your limits, lots of parallels with working in teams
    • Learning to ask for help and find your limits
  • Travelled with family which exposed her to lots of different worlds and ultimately saw the oneness of humanity

Journey into Coaching

  • Very intuitive and spontaneous personality
  • Was asking “is this it?” in executive search job
  • Met with someone in a café in London, learned about team coaching, was fascinated by looking at what motivated people to do what they do, and what gets in our way to trip us up
  • Had her own transformational shift
  • Does a lot around limiting assumptions and limiting beliefs; Kegan and Lahey immunity to change theory
  • Was intrigued by ontological coaching; wanted to help people go further in their careers
  • Julio Lalo at Newfield in Colorado brought ontological coaching to life
    • A “whole person” approach
    • Language as a domain – the requests, assessments, assertions, offers, promises, and declarations we make as language acts; if we master these we have a good command of our language and can work interpersonally with people – but many people don’t master this
    • Somatic realm: wisdom of body is deep, paying attention to physical body will give us lots of information; has found this to be quite effective in coaching
    • Emotions/Moods: we live in a mood and emotions have us; emotions are closely linked with assessments; when we get used to a particular emotion it becomes us; we’re not always conscious of our moods; these really determine the range of options we have and role of a coach is to expand this range and capacity for people to get what they want à “there’s no good or bad emotion” – they all provide us information
    • Spiritual domain: ontological coaches may or may not use this domain in their practice; Tara doesn’t entirely use it
  • “ontological” = philosophical study of being; existential study
  • Personal transformation
    • Nature of assessments: our ability to scrutinize is hard to assess objectively
    • Personal stories she learned as a child could be let go – realizing you don’t have to own certain narratives can be transformational
  • Lime Trees Road: street that her grandmother used to live on, formative relationship

Part 2 – Perspectives on Coaching and Team Coaching

Journey to Team Coaching

  • Had been informally working with teams anyway while doing individual coaching
  • Hadn’t considered as an explicit track to pursue until she sat with John Leary Joyce and did the systemic team coaching training with him and Peter Hawkins
  • Was challenged to create own model of team coaching, was intimidating at first but did so through practice with a team
  • Leaned into what Catherine Carr, Dr. Jacqueline Peters, and Dr. Ruth Wageman talk about – having a clear purpose, understanding that you have a real team, and understanding what a team is about, knowing skills and capabilities of the members

Approach to Team Coaching: Align, Develop, Deliver

  • Alignment: clear purpose, looking at members’ mindset, aligning mandate of the team and the mindset of the team
  • Leader as a coach: helpful in team coaching process to empower the leader
  • Assessment up front, then lots of interviews up front with team members and stakeholders, uses Ruth Wageman’s Team Diagnostic Survey at the beginning
  • Team launch based on these initial activities, then the team crafts a team charter: mission, vision, purpose, working agreements, standards and success measures, timeline
  • Then meet 90 minutes every 3-4 weeks about six times to have a group conversation, or working on particular skills or objective, or growing group model
  • What is happening in ongoing sessions?
    • Need based tasks given the team’s coals
    • Spot coaching or peer coaching
    • Simultaneous individual and leader as coach coaching; individual coaching for the sake of the team
  • Last part of the model is about story telling: how to tell the story and deliver to stakeholders, and review

Example: Leader as coach model

  • Leader was fairly new and was quite shy
  • Team of portfolio heads cobbled together
  • Leader had the assumption that he couldn’t chime in when portfolio heads were struggling
  • Was able to break down assumptions and bring skills to make decisions
  • Helped leader to develop his team and give feedback in a way that served the individuals and entire team

Example: derailment

  • Leader became a bystander, absolved self of responsibility, turned out to be the stumbler in the team
  • Leaders really need to be on board, coaches don’t want to usurp leadership role, or be a rescuer

Learning Teams

  • Seems like unit of currency now is teams (virtual, agile, learning)
  • Developed leadership development program for a client; included team coach approach with action learning related to an issue that the client wanted solved; lots of stakeholder involvement
  • 75 in cohort, set up into teams of 5-7 people
  • Began similarly to find alignment, shared assessment results up front
  • Levels of learning: individual operational styles, how to perform as a team, and how to bring it back to the organization – had to deliver what this meant personally, as a team, and for the greater good of an organization; end goal was to bring a solution to a particular problem, but also to work with a team they had never worked with, and then they could bring what they learned to integrate into their general work and scale
  • Helps people get in the practice of being part of functional teams
  • Learning opportunities: about difference, equal importance (task vs interpersonal relationships), notion of safety (creating a culture that allows people to be themselves)
  • Shifted culture of how the work is happening in this company – permanent fixture

Business Consortium

  • 5 different companies: Microsoft, Deloitte, ICON, Zurich, and Ericsson came together to nominate 5 high potential people from organization to learn from each other’s culture
  • They developed what they wanted to learn about from each other and then they delivered form that in a team way
  • Program lasted 4 years
  • Landed in number of ways:
    • Interesting to learn from others
    • Networking opportunity on a peer level
    • Cost-efficient way of learning
    • Took place at each client site

Learning Teams

  • Sometimes we take an apathetic route to learning; this is active and practical, modeled on how teams work in an organization
  • Learning orientation vs. productivity orientation
  • People are much more experimental when they have a learning orientation
  • Amy Edmondson’s book on Teaming
    • Teams learn through doing, happens using the team as a learning vehicle

Working with Agile Teams

  • Client in the digital space;
  • Having a cross-functional approach and an appetite for learning
  • Always mindful of the stakeholders, what’s the purpose?
  • The point is not just creating a product, but a product that customers love
  • Clients appreciate the time to slow down but recognize that the work ultimately helps motor them forward
  • Reflection, figuring out what’s working and what isn’t, helps move forward

What is most exciting now?

  • Notion of high-performing teams – what distinguishes these?
  • In VUCA world, can we tolerate it and align teams with pace of what’s happening in the world?
  • Teams want to be “high-performing” but what does this look like if we get there?
  • Appetite for difference – agile teams are able to let go and try something new
  • Learning agility as differentiating high performing teams from good performing teams
  • Trends in team coaching: cutting into hierarchies, reshaping what a team means, millennials are working with CEOs, depth of experience vs awareness of current realities in which work is being done

Part 3 – Resources, Parting Words & Contacting Tara

  • Academy of Executive Coaching, Peter Hawkins’ Leadership Team Coaching
  • Constellation work – quite applicable in team coaching
  • Gestalt practice can be applied
  • Ruth Wageman (Senior Leadership Teams book), Jacqueline Peters, Catherine Carr (High Performance Team Coaching)
  • Kristine Thornton Guide
  • LinkedIn
  • Email: tara@limetreesroad.com

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