Dr. Doug MacKie, Director, Business Psychologist, & Executive Coach at CSA Consulting

#050: Strength-based Approaches to Leadership & Team Coaching

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s guest and leading organizational coach Dr. Doug MacKie for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast. Dr. MacKie is a Director, a business psychologist and an executive coach at CSA Consulting in Brisbane Australia. He specializes in the strength-based assessment and development of executive and leadership capability within top 100 companies both in the UK, Asia and Australia. Doug completed the largest controlled trial to date on the effects of strength-based executive coaching on transformational leadership behavior. He recently published a book on Strength-Based Leadership Coaching in Organisations (2016).

In this episode, Doug shares his early career as a practicing clinical psychologist and his experiences working on clinical teams. He then discusses his transition into organizational psychology and his mission to bring rigor to the research underlying the coaching field. Themes explored in the podcast include: strengths-based approach to leadership and team coaching; positive psychology; the importance of evidenced-based practice in coaching; strengths-based research controlled trial findings; the importance of aligning with team leaders; using the MLQ 360 with leaders and teams; how to bring a strengths-based approach into team coaching; how team coaching complements and adds to team facilitation and other forms of team intervention and more. Doug also shares some great stories from his practice coaching leaders and teams around the world including working with a team in Mongolia.

This is an episode that is sure to both inspire as well as to educate team coaches. You will not want to miss the powerful insights, lessons learned and practical tips that Dr. MacKie provides!

Listen Now


Contact Doug: http://www.csaconsulting.biz



  1. MacKie, D. (2016). Strength-based Leadership Coaching in Organizations: An Evidence-based Guide to Positive Leadership Development.
  2. Hawkins, P. (2014). Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership.
  3. MLQ 360 and Team MLQ: there are multiple providers online.  Search google for MLQ 360 and Team MLQ
  4. Wageman, R. Nunes, D.A., Burruss, R.A. & Hackman, R. (2008) Senior Leadership Teams: What It Takes To Make Them Great.
  5. Clutterbuck, D. (2007). Coaching The Team At Work.

Listen to the podcast:





  • a Director, a business psychologist and an executive coach at CSA Consulting in Brisbane Australia.
  • He specializes in the strength-based assessment and development of executive and leadership capability within top 100 companies both in UK, Asia and Australia. His qualifications in organizational and business psychology have helped to shape his focus on increasing the performance and engagement of both the individual and the organization. He has more than 25yrs experience as a practicing psychologist and has a particular interest in developing high performing teams and the development of leadership capabilities in senior executives and systemically across organizations. His experience in facilitating the developing executive capability and positive cultures in a variety of countries brings an international perspective and global mindset to his approach.
  • Doctor of Psychology (PsyD), Masters of Organisational Psychology, Masters of Clinical Psychology, Bachelor of Psychology (Hons).
  • Distinguished client list: BHP, HSBC, Norton Rose, Oxfam, Mercers, Beazley, Wesfarmers, Diageo, SAB Miller and Tio Tinto.
  • Doug has taken a leadership role in the development of the coaching industry and has presented at International conferences and published in leading journals on the effectiveness of strength-based approaches to leadership development and importance of effective evaluation and assessing ROI in coaching engagements.
  • He has successfully completed the largest controlled trial to date on the effects of strength-based executive coaching on transformational leadership behaviour and his research was short-listed for the prestigious British Psychological Society Practitioner of the Year Award in 2013.
  • He is currently working a book on positive leadership development. Doug is also an Associate Program Director and Executive Coach with Melbourne Business School and is a member and accredited Executive Coach with the Australian Institute of Company Directors. He has recently published a book on Strength-Based Leadership Coaching in Organisations (2016).
  • Originally from Glasgow, Scotland. Now based in Brisbane Australia
  • Journey to Leadership and Team Coaching
    • Took an interest as an undergrad in the history and philosophy of science; learning in the pub
    • Interested in evolutionary psychology: very comfortable with our knowledge evolving and being replaced over time; not a fixed or predetermined view of human nature
    • A leading figure in the strengths-based approach to coaching
    • Was a practicing clinical psychologist for 10 years: focus was on symptom reduction; felt like there was more beyond just removing symptoms; wasn’t supported to look at higher functioning of patients. Invaluable lessons around behavior change when someone is stuck: cognitive behavioral therapy.  Didn’t get to work around helping people “flourish.”
    • Made a conscious switch to organizational psychology and joined a business consultancy before moving to Australia.
    • Became interested in the positive psychology are but noted the lack of research and evidence to support it to be very weak. There was an evangelical flavor to the field with little supporting evidence.
    • Doug’s controlled trial study of strengths-based coaching: wanted to go beyond self-report measures which tends to be biased; also looking more closely on what actually goes on inside of coaching sessions (often a lot of heterogeneity); the outcome criteria/dependent variables were not clear in most studies.
    • Strengths-based approach acknowledges weaknesses but predominantly focuses on strengths as the foundation for change.
    • Strengths as traits and states
    • Was a quasi-control group design; not randomized; used the MLQ 360 to get multi-rater feedback
    • Very significant effect sizes: after 6 sessions (9 hours) showed a 580% increase in effectiveness on transformational leadership scores
    • Doug published a book which is an extension of the research: Strength-Based Leadership Coaching in Organizations: An Evidence-Based Guide to Positive Leadership Development.
    • Wrote a rejoinder to a critique in The Harvard Business Review that unfairly criticized the strengths-based leadership coaching arena.


  • Early experiences working on clinical teams of psychologists; no training on how to work effectively as a team; always led by medics who were on the top of the hierarchy, usually a psychiatrist who was dismissive of psychology; pushing up against the medical model.
  • Story of an inpatient who was missing: had been sedated prior to participating in a group program on depression; was asleep when  found; very dysfunctional team with different goals and approaches; teams with no team leaders or team members with any formal training in team effectiveness.
  • Took Peter Hawkins Systemic Team Coaching training in Australia
  • If change doesn’t happen in the room now there this no way it will happen outside. Introduction: leadership shield concept: strengths and development areas as well as areas to experiment and get feedback on.
  • Interplay with team coach on center stage and then fading into the background to put the team on center stage
  • Influences on Doug’s Approach to Team Coaching: leadership theory (distributed, shared, collective, etc…) with a de-emphasis on role of heroic command and control team leader; strength-based approach (have lots of talent in the room…how to unlock it; implicit models of talent); readiness in coaching; maturity of teams (Tuckman’s stages not so compelling to Doug; Kegan’s work more interesting in cognitive-emotional development of teams) and how team leadership behaviors change over time (from transaction to transformational) after a team establishes its norms; importance of research (Hackman & Wakeman’s work) to have a clear team coaching model and outcomes measures; Hawkins 5C model (Commissioning, Clarifying, Co-Creating, Connecting, Core Learning); team process (positivity ratios)
  • One of Doug’s team coaching failures: lack of readiness in an organization for a team coaching intervention. Made the mistake that he could connect to the team through the HR Director.  The Managing Director was the real leader and Doug had a hard time getting access to the team leader. Too many things going on in the session in addition to team coaching.  MD contradicted the team coaching process publicly.  Criticality of stakeholder engagement.
  • Success story with a team in Mongolia: preparation; need analysis; strong relationship with team leader was critical; had been coaching the team leader; explicitly worked with the team leader about his role in the room (dialing down the team leader’s dominance in the team – talked through his leadership shield first; had a transformational impact); story of plane troubles and arriving at 6am–two hours before the retreat kick-off time.  Lesson about self-managmenet and the joint ownership of the process with the team, the team leader and the team coach.  Team has shared its team development plan with its stakeholders to get public support for being held accountable for their goals and development.
  • Strength-based Approach to Team Coaching: starts with a strengths-based 360 with each team member and have them share their strengths with the team (e.g. using the leadership shield type approach) on the first day – helps get the conversation going; MLQ 360 (individual) and then moving not to the MLQ Team (360 feedback on the team’s leadership behavior); ideal format would be two days (first day focused on individual leadership and coaching each other on their strengths) and then on the second day focusing on the team’s strengths.
  • Distinctions between team coaching and other forms of team intervention: in practice Doug is not unduly concerned about it since clients don’t care; more of an academic issue; coaching part – making live observations; stop the process and bring reflections to that; taking the insights into actions; has a team development plan structure that the team works on.  Insights alone are insufficient.
  • Need more ROI studies to show why investing in the ongoing team coaching is worth with the investment.


  • Peter Hawkins book on Leadership Team Coaching
  • Wageman and Hackman on Senior Leadership Teams
  • David Clutterbuck on team coaching
  • Suggests team coaches look into: Strength-based Approaches: what you assess is how you develop; theories of leadership; team readiness; methodology matters (what actually works in team coaching…be explicit about that); team coaches need to collect data that works its ways into journals – serious issue in the gap between theory, research and practice.
  • csaconsulting.biz
  • LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-doug-mackie-a464664
  • Email: doug@csaconsulting.biz

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