A book is a device to ignite the imagination.  -Alan Bennett

(Note: This article was originally published on LinkedIn.  View it here on LinkedIn.)

Introduction

My relationship with books has resembled a tumultuous love affair.  Utterly enraptured one moment only to be followed by a crash and burn falling out the next.  In college I majored in English Literature.  The crushing number of books I had to read beat the love for reading out of me by the time I graduated.  While pursuing my Master’s Degree in Social-Organizational Psychology some 6 years later I had recovered and rediscovered my passion for books.  But this time they were more practical and scientific and revolved around themes such as leadership, teams, conflict resolution, organization change, and the like.  By the time I was waist-deep into my doctoral training (also in Social Organizational Psychology) a few years later, books had been replaced with an explosion of articles that distilled the latest insights from theory, research and practice down into 10 to 20 pages for rapid and mass consumption. And so now after a long drought (and a second recovery!) I’m back to reading books but this time they tend to revolve around the specific theme of team coaching.

In this second in a three-part article series on Team Coaching Resources, I’m going to be providing a brief overview of 5 books that I recommend on the topic of coaching teams in organizations.  I have discovered these books from interviewing guests on my podcast show The Team Coaching Zone.  These books have impacted my understanding and approach to team coaching in quite meaningful ways.  In the 1st article published last week, entitled Team Coaching Resources (Part 1): Five Team-Level AssessmentsI provided an overview of five team-level assessments that I’ve also discovered through the podcast interviews.  In the 3rd article coming out next week, I will provide an overview of some of the main team coach training programs that I’ve discovered along the journey of the show as well.  I’ve also recorded podcasts episodes focusing on these themes in case you prefer to listen by audio. (The episodes are available for free download via iTunes, SoundCloud, Google Play Music, Sticher Radio.  Go to The Team Coaching Zone to find ways to listen).

While there are countless books on teams, team effectiveness and teaming, you can count the number of books specifically on the topic of “team coaching” probably with the fingers on one or two hands.  Team coaching is an emerging niche area within the broader coaching field and as such the number of books available on the subject is somewhat limited. However there are a few solid books on the topic that I feel provide both new as well as experienced practitioners with some solid guidance on the subject.  I’m suspect that we will see more books coming out on the topic in the coming years.

I’m going to break down this post into 3 sections:

  • A) A brief discussion of the 70-20-10 rule of learning that puts books into context as one of a number of learning vehicles for team coaches.
  • B) An overview of 5 books specifically on the topic of team coaching that I’ve discovered through the podcast interviews that I think warrant a closer look by team coaches.
  • C) A brief overview of 10 additional books on the broader topic of teams and teaming that I think may be worth a look by team coaches as well in order to develop a broader knowledge base and context for team coaching. 

A. The 70-20-10 Rule of Learning

Producing a podcast show in one’s niche area has a number of obvious as well as hidden benefits. Chief among these is LEARNING.  Interviewing a thought leader once per week results in a steady drip feeding of new concepts, frameworks, tips, inspirational anecdotes, lessons learned from successes and failures, as well as exposure to new books, assessments and training programs.  I can’t say enough about how important learning is for us as team coaches. Since team coaching is fundamentally a process of learning and change, it goes without saying that we as team coaches need to be modeling this process within ourselves to be effective. The learning and stretching we do gets immediately reflected in the value we bring to our clients and keeps our primary tool (the self as instrument) sharpened and ready for action.

You are likely familiar with the 70-20-10 rule of learning which suggests that:

  • 70% of what we learn comes through doing (i.e. on the job experience)
  • 20% comes through relationships (e.g. mentors, coaches, supervision, role models, etc…)
  • 10% comes through formal and informal modes (e.g. training courses, books, articles, blog posts, webinars, podcasts, etc…)

As team coaches its important to consider the myriad ways we can accelerate our learning.  I find it interesting how the dominant emphasis tends to be on attending certification trainings. The amount of money spent on such training likely dominates most expenditures on learning.  While I’m a believer that such trainings are important and useful and have their place, the 70-20-10 rule would suggest that we should be allocating our resources a bit differently.  How many of us as team coaches for example have ongoing supervision, engage in co-team coaching, or shadow more experienced coaches?  I think there is a wide open field for broadening our mindset and approaches to learning as coaches.  I know for me hosting a regular podcast show has been an unintended but secret weapon in this regard.

So where do books–that old, tried, true and tested learning vehicle–fit in to the equation? Well they definitely fit in the 10% category.  A world of caution: just because most of our learning tends to come through the 70 and 20 approaches mentioned above, it doesn’t mean that those approaches can exert transformative effects. Small things can have dramatic impacts under the right conditions.  A good book can definitely transform your thinking and practice.  Kurt Lewin the famous social psychologist said that “there is nothing so practical as a good theory.” The point is that the driver behind all of our techniques and skills is our mindset–the mental frameworks that breath spirit into and that guide our actions. For me the books that we are going to be taking a look at in this post, can help you challenge your own concepts, your own theories of change and give you ideas about how team coaching can unfold in new and exciting ways.

Okay enough preaching! Let’s get on with introducing 5 great books on team coaching that I’ve discovered on my podcast and that have exerted significant impacts on how practice as a team coach today.

B. Five Books on Team Coaching

#1) Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership by Peter Hawkins, PhD published in 2014 (2nd Edition) by Kogan Page.

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If there was one book that has influenced me the most this is it.  Peter Hawkins contributions to the team coaching field have been super-ground breaking.  The Team Coaching Zone brought Peter over to New York city earlier this year to do a 3-day Systemic Team Coaching certificate training program and the session didn’t disappoint in the least.  I just looked on my bookshelf to grab the book and sure enough it wasn’t there! My wife always seems to be stealing it from me! So Honey, if in the unlikely event that you are reading this post, can return the book? Thanks! 🙂  All kidding aside, I had the good fortune of interviewing Peter back in episode #019 and recommend you take a listen to that episode. You can also watch a short 4 minute YouTube video of Peter introducing the 5 Disciplines of High Performing teams here. I often use this video when introducing Systemic Team Coaching to teams.

I think all team coaches need to understand the body of knowledge Peter has pioneered in the area of Systemic Team Coaching and that has also been further developed through his collaboration with the Academy of Executive Coaching (AoEC). You can check out a podcast I recently did with John Leary-Joyce the founder of the AoEC here as well.

There are a lot of gems in the book Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership.  Here are a few standouts:

  • The continuum of team coaching: a continuum that distinguishes team building, team facilitation, process consultation, high performance team coaching, leadership team coaching, transformational leadership team coaching and systemic team coaching
  • The 5 Disciplines of High Performing Teams framework
  • The CID-CLEAR team coaching process model
  • The journey of the team leader from Team Manager –> Team Leader –> Team Orchestrator –> Team Coach
  • Developing as a team coach
  • Supervision of team coaches
  • Team coaching methods, tools and techniques

In addition to being a great ongoing reference for me as a team coach, I’ve found it helpful to send a copy to team leaders as well as to the members on leadership teams as part of the team coaching process.

So a big shout out and salute to Peter Hawkins here. He’s a great role model for team coaches and the rare find of someone who has been not only a thought leader and teacher but who has also really gotten up to his elbows with teams to apply these principles and techniques over more than 30 years.  I can’t say enough good things about Peter and feel that this book is an essential.

It also should be noted that there is a companion book edited by Peter entitled: Leadership Team Coaching in Practice: Development High-Performing Teams.  This book contains a number of case studies from actual team coaching engagements in a range of industries and that illustrate the Systemic Team Coaching approach.  It also covers some additional themes of interest to team coaches (e.g. the latest research on high performing teams, embodied approaches to team coaching, training systemic team coaches, and more).

#2) Coaching the Team At Work by Professor David Clutterbuck published in 2007 by Nicholas Brealey. 

Coaching the Team at Work

This book which came out in 2007 is probably one of the first books dedicated directly to the topic of team coaching.  I had the good fortune to interview David on the podcast back in episode #052.  David is a real personality: brilliant and funny and a very prolific writer.  He has published more than 50 books including a number on coaching and mentoring.  Some of the specific elements I like in Coaching the Team at Work are:

  • A nice introductory chapter on What is Coaching?
  • A section on the business case for team coaching which provides some arguments for the benefits of engaging in team coaching
  • Four models of team coaching placed on a directive to nondirective continuum
  • The concept of learning teams: what is a learning team, 6 types of learning teams and how to coach a learning team.  This is one of the most substantive parts of the book where David dedicates over 75 pages to the topic.  The book is worth purchasing for this section alone.
  • The self-coaching team
  • Distinctions between team building and team coaching

This book may be a good first read for a would-be-team-coach as it provides a nice broad overview and introduction to team coaching as well as some depth.  It also will appeal to experienced team coaches as a reference for specific topics of interest (e.g. coaching different types of teams including learning teams and virtual teams, transitioning teams to self-coaching, working with team leaders, and more…).

#3) From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching by Jennifer Britton, published in 2013 by Josey-Bass/Wiley.

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I discovered Jennifer early on back in episode #011.  She has done a great job of distinguishing group coaching–where the focus is on the individual’s development in a group setting–from that of team coaching–where the focus is on the development and performance of the team as a whole. She calls them “related sisters”–both sub-disciplines within the larger coaching field.  This is a very well written and edited book. It is a really solid work that sets a high standard. I would say individuals new to team coaching would also do well to consider this as a first read on the subject.

Some noteworthy aspects of the book in my view include:

  • The section on 12 best practices in group and team coaching
  • The core competencies for group and team coaches with linkages to ICF’s competency framework
  • The roles of coaching, facilitating and training in team coaching: fusion of approaches
  • The 5 stages of a team coaching process
  • Tricky issues in team coaching and when/why team coaching may fail
  • Virtual design and delivery of team coaching
  • Creating connection and engagement throughout the team coaching process
  • Co-facilitation
  • Trends in team and group coaching
  • An appendix with some exercises, tools and resources for group and team coaches

Again, this is a solid introduction and resource for team coaches.  Also team coaches who aren’t familiar with group coaching may find this book a double benefit as team coaching interventions can often be blended with group coaching as well (e.g. working with a leadership team on both individual leadership development as well as the team’s collective development and performance).

#4) High Performance Team Coaching: A Comprehensive System for Leaders and Coaches by Jacqueline Peters & Catherine Carr published by FrisenPress in 2013.

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Among the first to get doctoral degrees based on a co-dissertation on team coaching, Dr. Jacqueline Peters and Dr. Catherine Carr have produced a very slim yet solid and practical resource on high performance team coaching.  I had the good fortune to interview Dr. Peters in episode #012 and Dr. Carr in episode #013.

Peters and Carr were students of Peter Hawkins and it was through them that I discovered his great work on systemic team coaching.  This book is another another great resource for team coaches that provides a step-by-step approach to coaching teams for performance.  Some aspects of the book that stand out:

  • It can be read in a few hours – it’s slim (only 80 pages), affordable and available both in hard copy as well as in e-book format
  • Very practical with some great tips and tools for team coaches
  • Supported by solid research based on the work of Hackman and Wageman, Hawkins and others
  • Provides a great 6 step team coaching cycle and model which I found really helpful when I was first getting deeper into team coaching. The 6 steps include: 1) Assessment, 2) Coaching for Team Design, 3) Team Launch, 4) Individual Coaching, 5) Ongoing Team Coaching (including Peer Coaching), 6) Review Learning and Successes.
  • The role of psychological safety at the center of the model
  • Team cycle: the 6 phases of team coaching mapped onto the beginning, midpoint and ending phases of a team’s lifecycle

This book provides new coaches with a great resource for jumping right into the “pool” of team coaching and also will provide more experienced team coaches with a range of useful concepts, tips and resources that make it worth a look.

#5) Group and Team Coaching: The Secret Life of Groups by Christine Thornton, 2nd Edition published by Routledge in 2016.

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This gem of a book was just published a few months ago in 2016.  I have an interview lined up with Christine in October and am looking forward to bringing the episode out to the listeners then.  This book’s distinction is that it is grounded in a 70 year tradition: the group analysis / group relations / group dynamics body of work.  I’ve had a number of listeners of the podcast requesting for more information on this approach.  This book is the one that helps connect this tradition specifically to the area of group and team coaching.

When the book arrived in the mail I was surprised at how small it was.  However once I opened it up I discovered how much substance is in this book.  This book will take you into this 70+ year tradition and help you get up to seed quickly and practically.  Th group analysis and group relations tradition is one that all team coaches should be familiar with in my view.  Some aspects of the books that I think stand out include:

  • 9 Group processes – the secret life of groups (Group Matrix, Communication, Translation, Mirroring, Exchange, Resonance, Condenser Phenomena, Location, The Reflection Process)
  • 8 group factors that influence learning and change (Connectedness and Belonging, Interpersonal Learning, Competition/Envy/Admiration, Idealization and Emulation, Practicing Courage and Freedom to Act, Witnessing and Being Witnessed, Encouragement, Group Performance Coaching)
  • Teams and groups that don’t work: dysfunctional teams and dynamics
  • Managing beginnings, middles and endings with groups and teams
  • How to use tools in team coaching: 7 rules
  • Contracting
  • Substantive models and information on coaching groups vs. teams
  • Working with the team leader and the team: dual loyalty
  • Strategies for tackling problematic behaviors that can crop up and more

So for folks wanting to go deeper into the psychological dynamics underlying groups and teams, this is the book for you. While it touches on deep concepts its also very practical and will leave you with practical insights that you can apply immediately as a team coach.

During my graduate work I did a significant amount of training in group relations and have found it super helpful for me as a team coach. Specifically it has helped when the the psychodynamic processes going on in groups gets tough–this body of knowledge helps you with “holding” the group.  In addition to reading the book, team coaches would do well to attend a group relations conference in order to experience these dynamics first hand.  When the team coaching engagements I’m a part of fail, they usually boil down to one of the themes laid out in this book.

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Alright, well there you have it: the top 5 books that I would recommend on team coaching. I don’t think you can go wrong with any of these. I’ve delved into all 5 personally and they each have had an impact on my team coaching practice. You may wish to listen to podcast episodes with each author before purchasing one of the books in order to get a feel for their ideas and style.

I’m sure there are some other books out there on the topic of team coaching that I haven’t yet discovered or covered here. I know some additional books are in the works including one by Phil Sandal that it coming out next year in 2017. I’m looking forward to that one in particular.   And as the field heats up I imagine we are going to see a proliferation of books on the topic.  Feel free to share your recommendations on books that specifically focus on team coaching in a comment to this post.

C. Ten Additional Books on Teams and Teaming

Obviously there is a broader literature on teams, teaming and team effectiveness and performance. As team coaches it goes without saying that we should have a broad and rich background of knowledge about teams in general to support our craft.

In this section I want to briefly cover some books that don’t focus on team coaching per se but that I’ve come across and discovered via my interviews with thought leaders and that I think you may want to check out.  Again this list isn’t exhaustive so I hope you’ll excuse me if your favorite book on teams doesn’t show up!

1) Leading Teams: Setting the Stage for Great Performances by Dr. Richard Hackman (2002) and Senior Leadership Teams: What It Takes to Make Them Great by Wageman, Nunes, Burruss and Hackman (2008). I’ve written a number of blog posts on the great research underlying these works that focus on the 3 Essential and 3 Enabling Conditions that underlie team effectiveness.  In these works, Dr. Richard Hackman and Dr. Ruth Wageman lay out some world class research on teams, the role and need for team coaching, clearly defined outcome measures for team coaching as well as a diagnostic instrument that team coaches may find particularly useful in team coaching engagements.  Check out the following podcasts to learn more about this body of work: Ruth Wageman, PhD on “Reflections on the Theory, Research and Practice of Team Coaching.”  http://www.teamcoachingzone.com/ruthwageman/. Trexler Proffitt, PhD on “The Team Diagnostic Survey: Coaching Teams for High Performance.” http://www.teamcoachingzone.com/trexlerproffittphd/.

2) Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-Performance Organization by Jon Katzenbach and Douglas Smith (1st edition, 1999).  This is a very practical book based on extensive work with real-world teams.  The authors lay out a Team Performance Curve which maps the developmental stages of a team from a working group –> a pseudo team –> a potential team –> a real team –> a high performing team.  Of particular benefit to team coaches will be the author’s findings on the team basics that drive team effectiveness including: small #, complementary skills, common purpose and performance goals, common approach, mutual accountability. A classic that in my view belongs on the shelf of every team coach.

3) Teaming: How Organizations Learn, Innovate and Compete in the Knowledge Economy (2014) by Amy Edmundson. This book provides a great overview of the historical trends and forces bearing down on organizations and why teams have become the fundamental unit of organizational learning today.  Edmundson makes an important distinction between team as a noun vs. teaming as verb and suggests a shift to a more dynamic way of thinking about teams.  I also appreciate her perspective on the fundamental shift underway in organizations from the “organizing to execute” model to the “organizing to learn” model.

4) Team of Teams: New Rules of Engagement for a Complex World (2015) by General Stanley McChrystal, Tantum Collins, David Silverman, and Chris Fussell.  This is one of my favorite recent books on teams.  Based on the experiences of the Special Operations Forces who faced the challenge of developing a new teaming-based approach to fighting a nimble unconventional adversary (Al Qaeda) this book is ground breaking in many respects.  In addition to being a very compelling story, the book provides a template for scaling up large numbers of small nimble teams to collaborate on a large scale.  The book has a number of implications for organizations of any type and, in my view, provides team coaches with a way of thinking about scaling up team coaching beyond just one or a few teams in an organization.  Look for an upcoming Team Coaching Zone podcast episode with co-author of the book David Silverman who is the CEO of CrossLead–a company that is bringing the insights from Team of Teamsinto the world of business.

5) Creating Intelligent Teams: Leading with Relationship Systems Intelligence (2016) by Anne Rod and Marita Fridjhon. I’ve had the good fortune of interviewing Marita Fridjohn from CRR Global twice (Episode #020 and #Episode #051 where she provides an overview of her new book).  The book provides a wealth of wisdom based on Marita’s distinguished career coaching individuals, teams and systems.  The book gets into why we need intelligent teams and provides a deep dive into Relationship Systems Intelligence which extends emotional and social intelligence into the realm of systems. The book covers a number of themes including the competencies of intelligent teams, a three phase approach to working with and developing intelligent teams, change in teams and more.  The book is designed to be practical and contains a range of tips and exercises in addition to a paradigmatic shift in the way we think of teams.

6) Extraordinary Groups: How Ordinary Teams Achieve Amazing Results (2009) by Geoffrey Bellman and Kathleen Ryan.  This book, recommended by a guest on the podcast, provides a great evidence-based look into the essential factors that give rise to high performance in teams.  The work presents a Group Needs model that can help teams, team leaders and team coaches nurture groups to extraordinary performance.  I have been listening to this book recently via audiobook and have found it useful.  I appreciate that the book is based on insights from extensive work interviewing extraordinary teams in an incredibly diverse range of industries.

7) Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches and Project Managers in Transition (2010) by Lyssa Adkins.  I came across this book while interviewing Bob Costello on the topic of coaching agile teams in the software development field back in episode #053.  This book provides a great dive into being and becoming an agile team coach and how to coach an agile team.  I think this is another domain that team coaches should spend some time becoming familiar with even if they aren’t working in the technology and software sector.  Stayed tuned for more upcoming podcasts on team coaching with agile teams in the near future.

8) Great Business Teams: Cracking the Code for Standout Performance (2008) by Howard Guttman.  This book has been recommended a number of times on the podcast.  This book dives into more than 30 examples that demystify high performing teams at the top levels, business unit levels and functional levels.  A 5 factor framework points towards the ingredients that lead to high team performance. Another solid resource for team coaches who want to expand their background reading on what leads to high performing teams from an author who has been deep in the trenches.

9) The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable (2002) by Patrick Lencioni.  I couldn’t neglect to mention this well-know classic. Written in the form of fictional tale of a struggling Silicon Valley firm and its female CEO who helps a dysfunctional executive committee to become a team and succeed, this book uses storytelling to convey some deep insights into teams. The book lays out the 5 dysfunctions: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention results.  It also includes a questionnaire that teams, team leaders and team coaches can use for assessing these shortcomings.

10) Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems (2014) by Barry Johnson, PhD.  I discovered this compelling body of work back in episode #017 with Cliff Kayser.  All teams and organizations face polarities (also known as paradox, wicked problems, chronic tensions, and dilemmas) that as author Barry Johnson suggests cannot be solved but that can be managed.  When teams and organizations identify the polarities (interdependent pairs) that are at play, the power latent in these “energy systems” can be harnessed to drive change.  As a team coach I find these polarities constantly revealing themselves.  While not a book specifically on teams like the ones mentioned above, this book has deep implications for teams and team coaching.

Conclusion

In this post I’ve attempted to provide team coaches with some recommendations on the main books on team coaching out there that I’ve discovered through my interviews with thought leaders on The Team Coaching Zone Podcast.  I’ve also tried to put books into the broader context of learning using the well-known 70-20-10 rule.  In addition I’ve suggested some books that touch on the broader topic of teams, teaming and team performance.

I know that many other books not mentioned above have come up during my podcast interviews like Kegan’s Immunity to Change, Schein’s Process Consultation, LaLoux on Reinventing Organizations and more. Other guests on the show including Bill Torbert, Barry Jentz, Andrew Sillitoe, Geetu Bharwaney, and Jim Tamm have also published books that are relevant to team coaching as well. However in this post I have limited the review to those 10 I just mentioned.  Once again feel free to chime in with comments to this post on your favorite book on teams.  I’m particularly interested in ones that you may have discovered on the topic of team coaching that were not mentioned here.

I hope you found this post useful. I don’t know about you but it can be challenging to find the time to read in our busy lives. While we may learn the most through doing and through relationships such as mentoring and coaching, sometimes spending time with a great book whether in audio or hard copy format can surely be worth the investment.  One compelling idea can have a ripple effect on your practice as a team coach and can make all the difference. I hearken back to the time when I was a college and a graduate student and how much reading I was required to do. I wish I had the above list of books back then!  It surely would have accelerated my journey down the road to becoming a better team coach and to serving teams and team leaders more effectively.

Next week I’ll be releasing the 3rd and final article in this series on Team Coaching Resources along with a podcast.  That article and episode will be focusing on 5 team coach training programs that I’ve come across on The Team Coaching Zone Podcast.

Until then I’m going to curl up with a good book and see if I can ignite the imagination! Cheers!

Krister Lowe, MA, PhD, CPCC

Dr. Krister Lowe is an Organizational Psychologist, a Leadership and Team Coach, and the Creator of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast and Website (www.TeamCoachingZone.com). He is a specialist in leadership and team coaching and has more than fifteen years of experience consulting to diverse organizations in more than 25 countries throughout Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and the Americas. His coaching, consulting, facilitation and training interventions have reached more than 25,000 people globally. He is the Host of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast–a weekly interview show that explores the art and science of coaching teams in organizations–and that has a listenership in more than 95 countries around the world.

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