As the coaching field matures and consolidates, what trends can we expect in 2015 and beyond? One place to look for such trends are in the coaching “niche” areas that are increasingly establishing themselves. My contention is that within companies and organizations, coaching teams and groups as well as the larger systems in which they are embedded will become an increasingly prominent trend and niche area. Team coaching is not only a powerful vehicle for generating higher performance within a given team but it also can be a catalyst for supporting change management, for creating leadership cultures as well as cultures of creativity and innovation. A 2012 survey of 1100+ executive, business and life coaches as well as HR and training development professionals found that only 30% of companies have team coaching programs in place suggesting that this is an area ripe for further exploration and development. (Source: The Sherpa Executive Coaching Survey, 7th Annual Report, 2012). When we look back on 2015, we may indeed conclude that it was the year when team coaching really entered the scene in a big way.
You may be asking “so what is team coaching anyway” and “how is it different from individual coaching, from team training or team building?” Peters and Carr (2013) state that: “Team coaching is distinct from individual coaching because in team coaching, the team as a whole is the client and collective performance is the goal, versus the individual focus of one-on-one coaching.” (Source: Peters, J. & Carr, C, 2013, Team effectiveness and team coaching literature review, Coaching: An International Journal of Theory, Research and Practice, 6, 2, 116-136). And while team coaching may incorporate training or team building as part of its process, what differentiates team coaching is that the team coach provides a supportive context to both support and challenge the team to grow and increase performance over time. Team coaching is more of a process that can lead to sustainable change and performance at the group level in much the same way that one-to-one coaching effects such change at the individual level.
As I speak with coaches, with leaders from coach training schools as well as with my colleagues and clients about the state of team coaching, I’m consistently hearing that this is an exciting, underutilized and emerging growth area in the field of coaching. In one global organization where I’ve personally been helping to introduce both managerial as well as team coaching, team coaching is viewed by employees as “a novel and promising alternative to training and team building events.” Training and team building events, while helpful, often are insufficient in and of themselves to generate sustainable learning and change. Over the past 15 years I’ve facilitated numerous team building events and have heard a familiar refrain: “These events make everyone feel good for a while afterwards but when we get back to the office and back to the real work, nothing fundamentally changes.” Team coaching offers a more promising alternative to help facilitate that sustainable change.
But why coach teams in the first place? Here are a few reasons outlined in the Peters & Carr (2013) article cited above:
- Over 80% of companies state that they rely on teams as a fundamental structure for getting results.
- Adapting to turbulent and dynamic markets and operating requirements increasingly depends on groups and teams.
- Many leaders and organizational decision makers remain ill-equipped to create the conditions that lead to high team performance in technical, professional, information and service industries.
While research on the efficacy of team coaching is still in its infancy and while only a handful of studies have been conducted on team coaching specifically, some of the early evidence suggests that team coaching can have an impact on important areas like: innovation, creativity, change capacity, learning, collaboration, trust, decision making, sustainability and more (See Peters & Carr article cited earlier).
Team coaching is an area ripe for exploration and for more theory, research and practice. Beginning this month The Team Coaching Zone (www.TeamCoachingZone.com) will contribute to this exploration through a weekly podcast called The Team Coaching Zone Podcast. The podcast will feature interviews with leading organizational team coaches and focus on exploring the art and science of team coaching. The 45 to 60 minute episodes highlight stories, tips, techniques and practical resources from real world team coaches. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes as well as listen to the latest episodes on the www.TeamCoachingZone.com website.
2015 is going to be an exciting year. Let’s make 2015 – The Year of Team Coaching!