Erin Hutchins-2

Erin Hutchins, Director of Corporate Client Solutions and Organizational Coaching for The Coaches Training Institute (CTI)

#014: The Relationship Engine: Designing the Alliance in Team Coaching

Join Dr. Krister Lowe and leading organizational coach Erin Hutchins for this week’s episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast.  Erin is the Director of Corporate Client Solutions and Organizational Coaching for the Coaches Training Institute (CTI) based in Washington DC.  She is a Professional Certified Co-Active Coach (CPCC), is Credentialed with the ICF (PCC Level), is a CTI Leadership Graduate, and is Leadership Circle Certified.  Erin is passionate about heightening awareness, aligning your mind + body + soul, and inspiring transformational change through connecting with your authentic self and purpose. She has travelled and worked across various cultures in Europe and Asia.  In this episode of the podcast, Erin provides an overview of the Co-Active Relationship Engine–a model useful for guiding team coaching engagements–and also takes listeners on a deep dive into one critical element of the Relationship Engine called “Designed Alliance.” Designed Alliance involves helping the team establish a strong foundation upon which four aspects of team coaching can then unfold: 1. Take Responsibility, 2. Choose, 3. Align, 4. Commit.  Erin shares stories from her own team coaching experience and how designing a strong alliance up front sets the conditions for successful team coaching engagements.


Learn More About Erin At: 




  1. The Coaches Training Institute: www.coactive.com
  2. CRR Global: Organization & Relationship Systems Coaching  http://crrglobal.com
  3. CTI Relationship Engine: download of team coaching model provided by Erin Hutchins, The Coaches Training Institute



Part 1 – Getting to Know the Team Coach: Erin Hutchins


  • Working with Coaches Training Institute (CTI) for about three years.
  • Corporate Development Director
  • Front of The Room leader – train students to become coaches and organizational coach with CTI in Washington, DC
  • Certified Professional Certified Co-active Coach (CPCCC) and business development professional, project manager, facilitator, and leadership development consultant
  • Professional Certified Coach (PCC) with International Coaching Federation
  • Years of experience working for consulting firms, including Price Waterhouse Coopers, in US and the UK.
  • Worked on projects involving leadership development, coaching, organizational change, business development and continuous performance improvement
  • Passionate about heightening awareness, aligning mind-body-soul, and inspiring transformational change by connecting with your authentic self and purpose
  • Traveled and worked throughout various cultures in Europe and Asia
  • Certified hypnotherapist
  • Top secret clearance – before working for CTI and after PWC, worked for a consulting company and had contracts in Middle East and Africa, in support of Dept. of Defense and Dept. of State

How Erin got into Coaching

  • Started as an accountant, passion for numbers, but realized that a lot of job was about solving or fixing problems for organizations. Often worked with CFOs or other directors to put processes in place to better help financial processes.
  • Interested mostly in working with people and knowing the person behind the role.
  • Transitioned to People and Change Practice with PWC and worked on a lot of organizational development projects.
  • Coaching started becoming more popular in the UK when she was there.
  • Curious about coaching as a way to develop and grow people without having to fix problems or solve issues, but to be able to develop the whole person.
  • Signed up for first class with CTI – fundamentals class. Wanted to go on. Full certification. Entered coaching industry.
  • Big transition in spending time fixing problems to come from more curious place to deepen relationships and others’ learning about themselves and how they interact.

What is the CTI model?

  • CTI located in San Rafael, California
  • Founded in early 1980s by Henry Kimsey-House, Karen Kimsey-House, and Laura Whitworth.
  • Created the co-active model – letting life happen. Relationship, deepening our learning about ourselves and others.
  • Co-active coaching – consider people as naturally whole and resourceful and have their own creative energies within them. See people this way, not as broken. Radical shift in how we’re used to thinking.

What is Erin’s current role?

  • Different elements to role – one on one team coaching and coach training relationship building into organizations
  • Relationship manager, account manager – often doing coach training within organizations
  • Help design programs that will be working with the organizations
  • Find the right coaches working with the engagement, manage the delivery from start to finish.
    • Over 200 organizational coaches at CTI – most are PCCCs (over 750 coaching hrs.), master coaches (over 2500 hrs.).
  • Helping organizations to craft their coaching strategy. Could be outsourcing to company like CTI that provides coaches, or creating an internal coaching structure (internal coaches), or going through culture change.

What is CTI’s work?

  • CTI started as a coach training company
  • Started (organically) doing more work with organizations over last 7 – 8 years – one on one, team or coach training
  • Started by matching leaders with coaches – found that leaders requested help for their team, to help teams work better.
  • A relationship model (“Relationship Engine”) developed over time for teams. Couched within cornerstones:
    • Holding others as naturally resourceful, creative and whole
    • Everyone has a role, everyone has a purpose in the team
    • Evoke transformation – what is the greater agenda for the team? How to evolve so we move from more creative place and less from a reactive place?
  • Four elements of the Relationship Engine:
    • Take responsibility – for your contribution and impact as team member. Teach members how to respond rather than react.
    • Being able to choose as a team – generate a range of options to address challenges or opportunities that the team is facing. Team is empowered to choose from a conscious state.
    • Align – getting clear about how to align as a team in order to move forward around the choice that was made. Model is not about coming to an agreement, but it’s about creating alignment / everyone needs to be on board.
    • Commitment – every team member commits to a course of action
  • Designed Alliance creates an enormous amount of safety and trust for team to operate. How do you design your alliance and why do we spend time on it?
    • Designing how you’re going to work together so that you’re at your best. Builds container for the relationship, builds trust and safety. Everyone builds so they can say what they need to say and fully play within the relationship.
    • Case Example:
      • Consumer goods client
      • High performing team in product development
      • First question team coach asked of team: What do you want, who are you, what do you need in order to be part of this team? Everyone had a different answer reflecting people’s values (i.e., communication boundaries, clear schedule)
      • Second question: What do we need to design so that team is successful? What does it look like? What’s the definition of success?
      • Other questions: When things get challenging, how do you want to be with each other? Around conflict, for example? What are team’s greatest strengths? What are you proud of? What are greatest challenges? What would make this team coaching a success? How committed are you?
      • Learn how each individual operates, and where they shut down – when they feel they’re not part of the team anymore
    • Need to dance and flex between the relationship part and the action part.
    • Designing alliance is 90 min. – 2 hours with a team. May need to pick it up in next session if things pending.

How do you move from team from individual interests to the group’s interests?

  • Start with individuals, and then start shifting into questions about team, like: “What are team goals?” “What does the team look like when it’s at its best?”
  • A little training happens in the beginning of the coaching process. Teaching skill of designing alliance so they can carry it out in ongoing way.

Team coaching often involves other skills like training and facilitation. How do you approach the team leader in designing alliance?

  • Usually coach with team leader separately. What type of coaching depends on how they’re interacting with their team (i.e., is the coach directive in making all decisions? Or is responsility shared with the team?)
  • Before getting into designed alliance, do a team assessment – interview the team leader to understand how he/she sees team. Send assessment out to each team member, and then team coach has this info to start looking at alignment/gaps.
  • Want to empower team leader. Flexibility needed around team coaching, asking self: when do you step in as coach, trainer, facilitator, or when do you step back to allow the team leader to carry the process?
  • Spend time upfront with your team on the design alliance to relationship-build and get clear about objectives.

Story of a team coaching process

  • Case Example:
    • Mortgage company
    • Small team, some new hires, some people who’d been there a long time.
    • Brokered a lot of coaches to the company
    • One team had a lot of big challenges around moving forward as a team, very toxic relationships
    • Came in to do team coaching to get team back on track
    • Talked up front with one on one coach of team manager to see what was going on with him/her. Did a team assessment, and talked with team manager.
    • In the beginning, the team manager didn’t think it was possible for team coaching to work.
    • Two team members in particular weren’t speaking, high performers, duplicating efforts
    • Before starting, put two members with one on one coach to prepare them for larger process.
    • Spent four hours in the beginning doing designed alliance with the whole team
    • Asked each team member to say whatever they needed (to “clear”) in order for them to be present in process.
      • e., one person wasn’t motivated and was pulling back, another person overworked and stressed without support – different people responded in different ways.
    • Team leader expressed objectives: main one was to be able to communicate. Other members also expressed objectives and purpose.
    • There was a lot of negative energy on the team so asked some energy shift questions: What does success look like? What are you proud of?
    • People generally felt like they were not acknowledged – this was a real insight for the team leader.
    • Did exercise to help each person on team to connect better. Spent time acknowledging each person. For some people acknowledgement is really hard to give or receive, so it took time, but well worth it.
    • Humans have a need for recognition and acknowledgment. When there’s a lot of negative energy, want to create more safety and trust and for each person to be heard.
    • Update on this team – Homework for team: Each team member – as takeaway – states what future outcomes they want from team coaching. Team leader then works with team to align three or four areas of focus to dive into in next session. There’s greater hope and motivation now with this team.
    • 4 – 5 team coaching sessions total is average. A couple of those need to be in person. Spend time with team in person in building relationship. Use Skype or phone for check-ins and gauging temperature of team. Decide check-in times in person with the team. Have team agree and come up with how to work best. Help team to have its own commitments.

What are additional skills that team coaches have to add on in addition to individual work?

  • Focus on whole system
  • Be able to dance and be flexible in the moment around what’s needed
  • Know yourself as a coach (manage your own stuff) and know how to train in doing that, and when to train. I.e., spend time with a problem solver type of person in what it means to be curious, how to listen and ask questions.
    • Important to be able to teach people how to be creative rather than reactive.
  • Stay open and curious to how the process is unfolding
    • Notice your agenda, let it go. Do what serves the team the most. Objectives of team will evolve while you’re working with them.
    • How do we want to redesign if /when necessary?
    • Come from place of curiosity
    • Steer away from being prescriptive

Parting advice from Erin

  • Don’t be afraid to stay longer with the design alliance. It allows you to go deep and go into some of the underlying causes that are important for creating the container/trust.
  • Continue your learning as a one on one coach
  • From team coaching perspective, choose a model (like CTI’s relationship engine model), have a framework in place
  • Connect with CRR Global (Center for Right Relationship), sister organization to CTI.
  • Do what you need as far as you’re trained to feel confident in working with a team.
  • Stay open and curious

To contact CTI and Erin:

  • CTI – coactive.com (CTI is doing a lot of work all over the world, coaching across many cultures – Europe, Asia, Middle East)
  • erin@coactive.com

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