Episode #067: The Past, Present & Future of Team Coaching: A Conversation with Key Pioneers & Thought Leaders


What can we learn from the past and present of team coaching in order to understand its future? What role will team coaching play in helping build 21st century organizations that are fit for purpose? What challenges and opportunities currently face team coaching as an emergent niche area within the larger coaching field? Tune in to this special episode of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast to find out!

This episode features a replay of a panel discussion on “The Past, Present and Future of Team Coaching” that was held on October 20, 2016 at the 2nd International Columbia University Coaching Conference which took place in New York City. The session was co-moderated by Dr. Krister Lowe (Host of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast (www.TeamCoaching Zone.com) and Dr. Sandra Hayes–an expert in Adult Learning, Leadership and Coaching. 7 key thought leaders and pioneers in team coaching were featured on the panel including: Jennifer Britton, David Clutterbuck, Marita Fridjhon, Dr. Peter Hawkins, DJ Mitsch, Phillip Sandhal, and Dr. Ruth Wageman. The panelists participated remotely via the Zoom meeting platform.

The session explored 3 broad questions:
1) What was the Zeitgeist that led these pioneers to contribute to the emergence of the team coaching field?
2) What key lessons learned stand out for each of the pioneers as result of their work coaching teams in organizations?
3) What are some of the key challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the future for the field of Team Coaching?

If you are interested in understanding more about the Past, Present and Future of team coaching then this is an episode that you will not want to miss! For episode  Show Notes go to: www.TeamCoachingZone.com/Past_Present_Future_Team_Coaching. For a video-based version of this episode go to The Team Coaching Zone channel on YouTube: https://youtu.be/i3fb6RLnTcI

Listen Now


Video Replay



  • Panel Moderators: Krister Lowe, PhD & Sandra Hayes, PhD
  • Context: 2nd International Columbia Coaching Conference: Conference theme “The Future of Coaching: Building Bridges, Expanding Boundaries”
  • Panel title: “The Past, Present & Future of Team Coaching: A Conversation with Key Pioneers & Thought Leaders”
  • Context: Understanding the future of Team Coaching requires an understanding of its past including its origins and the contributions of its early pioneers. The panelists, all of whom have been seminal contributors to the team coaching field, will participate in the session virtually with the exception of the moderators who will be physically present. Adobe Connect, Skype or Zoom will be used to conduct the session. The purpose of the session will be to capture the emergence of the field of team coaching through the contributions of its main catalysts and early pioneers. These pioneers have contributed over the past 10 to 20+ years, often alone with little to no support or recognition, in establishing a new sub-discipline within coaching and an inter-discipline that spans coaching, facilitation, training and consulting. The panel will honor these contributions and also provide an opportunity to explore the past, present and future of team coaching.
  • Biographical Profiles of Moderators and Panelists:
    • 1. Krister Lowe, PhD of The Team Coaching Zone (Moderator). Dr. Lowe is an Organizational Psychologist, a Leadership and Team Coach and Host of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast—a weekly interview show that explores the art and science of team coaching in organizations with leading team coaches. He holds M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Teachers College Columbia University in Social-Organizational Psychology and is a Certified Professional Co-Active Coaching (CPCC).
    • 2. Sandra Hayes, EdD, The Team Coaching Zone (Moderator). Dr. Hayes is an Adult Learning and Leadership expert with over 20 years of experience with specialized expertise in action learning and collaborative inquiry. She is a Columbia University adjunct professor having designed and taught courses in leadership and team building, collaborative conflict resolution and adult program development. She holds an M.A. degree in Social-Organizational Psychology and an Ed.D. in Adult Learning and Leadership from Teachers College Columbia University.
    • 3. Jennifer Britton, Potentials Realized (Panelist). Jennifer Britton is the Founder of Potentials Realized—a Canadian performance improvement company, an author of two seminal coaching books (Effective Group Coaching, 2010 and From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching, 2013), and a trainer of group and team coaches via teleseminar, face-to-face modalities and mentor coaching groups.
    • 4. David Clutterbuck, David Clutterbuck Partnership (Panelist). Professor David Clutterbuck is Practice Lead for David Clutterbuck Partnership, Special Ambassador for the European Mentoring and Coaching Council, and Founder of Coaching and Mentoring International. He is the prolific author of more than 50 books (many in the area of coaching and team coaching including Coaching the Team at Work, 2007). David is also a management thinker, speaker, workshop presenter, researcher and occasional comedian. He facilitates a number of mentoring, coaching and team coaching certification programs including both a foundation and advanced level programs for team coaches.
    • 5. Marita Fridjhon, CRR Global (Panelist). Marita Fridjhon is CEO and Co-Founder of CRR Global, Inc. and Creator of the Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) Program—an ICF accredited coach training school. She is the co-author of Creating Intelligent Teams: Leading with Relationship Systems Intelligence, 2016. Her primary focus in coaching is on systemic change, leveraging diversity, creative communication, deep democracy in conflict management and the development of learning organizations.
    • 6. Peter Hawkins, PhD, Henley Business School (Panelist). Peter Hawkins is Professor of Leadership at Henley Business School, Emeritus of Bath Consultancy Group and Chairman of Renewal Associates. Peter is the author of the seminal books: Leadership Team Coaching: Development Collective Transformational Leadership, 2014, and Leadership Team Coaching in Practice: Developing High Performing Teams, 2014. He certifies team coaches in Systemic Team Coaching in collaboration with the Academy of Executive Coaching (AoEC) and also supervises executive and team coaches.
    • 7. Darelyn “DJ” Mitsch, The Pyramid Resource Group (Panelist). DJ Mitsch is Past President and Founding Board Member of the International Coaching Federation, President of The Pyramid Resource Group, and Founder of the Healthcare Coaching Institute. DJ is also the creator of the Team Advantage team coaching program. She provides certification to coaches and team coaches as well as training programs for leaders as coaches. She is the author of Zombies to Zealots: Reawaken the Human Spirit at Work, 2016.
    • 8. Phil Sandhal, Team Coaching International (Panelist). Phil Sandahl is a Master Certified Coach, A Certified Professional Co-Active Coach and the Co-Founder of Team Coaching International. He is the co-author of Co-Active Coaching: Changing Business, Transforming Lives, 2011. Phil has trained more than 1000 team coaches in over 40 countries.
    • 9. Ruth Wageman, PhD, ReThink Health and Harvard University (Panelist). Ruth Wageman is a Director at ReThink Health—an initiative of the Fannie E. Rippel Foundation—and is an Associate in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Ruth is a leading scholar, advisor and educator in organizational behavior and collaborative leadership. She is the lead author of the book Senior Leadership Teams: What it Takes to Make them Great, 2008 as well as numerous articles including A Theory of Team Coaching in The Academy of Management Review, 2005.

Question #1: What was the impetus or the Zeitgeist that led you to contribute to the field of team coaching? 

  • Phil Sandhal: Alexis Phillips was Phil’s inspiration. Had spent years doing coaching training for CTI including in Japan.  Met Alexis and she had been working on a team assessment tool.  In 2004 Phil had a “wow” moment…taking the impact of coaching and doing it at the team level. Transforming the way people work together.
  • Marita Fridjhon: Born and raised in South Africa during apartheid era.  Impotence of individual activists to create change around apartheid. Unless we can have a systemic approach and impact, then change is very difficult to effect.  Going from individual to the collective whole.
  • Ruth Wageman: Got into studying coaching by accident.  Did research at Xerox on self-managing teams.  How to move from autonomy to interdependence.  During the days when self-managing teams became popular.  The shift in the role of the team leader to one as a coach.  Examined the conditions that led to team effectiveness which led Ruth to start defining what team coaching is.
  • Peter Hawkins: In the 1970’s Peter was a team leader, and had the realization that the responsibility for the whole as more then the sum of the parts was being delegated to him as the team leader and that felt wrong somehow.  Had the belief that if everyone got along well interpersonal then the team would work great–but found that wasn’t true.
  • DJ Mitsch: Background in broadcast management in the sports industry.  Managed a lot of high performing teams. Unlike with sports teams, found that business teams didn’t have a clear way to win.  Discovered an approach to coaching teams in 4 months to  accomplish an extraordinary goal. Looked into Tuckman’s Forming, Storming, Norming & Performing research that looked at the stages of a team’s development (but not in 2 years but in 4 to 6 months)
  • Jennifer Britton: Started as a team leader in the UN. Stumbled across coaching in the 2000’s in the UN.  Was curious how to bring coaching conversations into communities, governments with partners.  Does a lot of work virtually now.  The value of team coaching is creating pause points and give teams a new language and framework to work across differences in a safer way.
  • David Clutterbuck: Learned early on that you have to coach the individual in relationship to its system such as the team for example.  Did a study of top teams and boards in the UK–difference between dialogue and DIRElogue!  Did some research that was commissioned by the European Commission about learning in teams.  Not all teams are the same. Discovered Leigh Thompson’s book “Making the Team” as well as books by Richard Hackman and Ruth Wageman.  In 2007 book on “Coaching the Team At Work” wanted to inquire into what is team coaching?
  • Marita Fridjhon: How do we shift from “me” to “we” to “it.”  It as the “system.” Shifting from “ego” to “eco.”
  • Jennifer Britton: Group and Team Coaching overlap yet different.
  • David Clutterbuck: a 3 or 4 cornered model: The team, the team leader, the team coach.  Looking at FaceBook at their high performing teams.  The role of team leader as very important. How to enable teams to create a coaching culture in the team.  Team leaders and team members play an important role in that.
  • Marita Fridjhon: Hold leadership as a role that belongs to the system.  Everyone can step into that role.  That’s a very different way for leaders to negotiate teaming.
  • DJ Mitsch: neuroscience perspective. We are picking up each other’s vibes all the time; the space in between.  Helping people listen to the team voice.
  • Peter Hawkins: Also important to mention the team’s stakeholders.  How does the team engage its critical stakeholders.  Need to catch that as well.  How do we organize the business ecosystem and not just the functions and team members.

Question #2: As you reflect on your decade(s) of experience in team coaching, what are some of the main lessons learned that have emerged for you about coaching teams in organizations?

  • Ruth Wageman: probably the most powerful lesson she has learned: teach people how to pay exquisite attention to beginnings.  Teams are complex systems–you can’t make them effective.  You can create conditions however that can increase the likelihood of effectiveness.  Developing people’s collective capacity to get off to a good start has been an important lesson.
  • Jennifer Britton: a lot of focus on the team leader outside of the team context. Looking at the team’s systemic context.  Getting the team to get comfortable with adaptation, with disruption, etc… short term getting them to gel as a team and in the medium and long term is more about helping the team get more external facing
  • DJ Mitsch: As team coaches we are all in with the team–not just supporting the team leader. Not all teams understand the idea of “systems.”  Looking at the life cycles and developmental stages of organizations.  What are the team’s agreements and chartering, getting clear on roles and supporting the team leader.  Helping the team leader build bridges with key stakeholders, seniors, elders.   Need to give language to the system.
  • Peter Hawkins: 2 things he likes to help teams focus on: looking future back and outside in.  Teams get some focused on today’s issues they are not looking at the future today.  Also bringing the team’s stakeholders inside the team (outside in)
  • Marita Fridjhon: How do we operationalize some of these concepts? Idea of “lands work”–stepping into the land’s of the stakeholders. Where are the place where we have failed in team coaching?  One place: we assumed that we knew what was going on?  We didn’t ask the question: what is trying to happen.  Systemic emergence: something is trying to happen.
  • Phil Sandhal: team coaching is a multi-disciplinary event.  When first started coaching teams he made the mistake of trying to coach each individual on the team. The team doesn’t care what you call it (consulting, facilitating, training, coaching)…all of those are for the benefit of the team.  The team doesn’t need to know what hat you have on.  Role of the team coach is to work oneself out of a job.  As team coaches we are listening much deeper…if we can help a team communicate differently and deeper then we have done the job of team coaching.
  • David Clutterbuck: one contracting piece is to agree that the goal is for the team coach to become unnecessary. For the team to learn how to do it themselves. A theme here about assumptions. When we look at the assumptions vs. the practice and the evidence we see gaps.  Example around goals. Another one, the 5 Dysfunctions (where is the evidence base or are they just observations?).  What about social loafing?  Some of the research David is doing have up to 60 people and are high performing.  In the context of the team, the systems and dynamics of the team are overturning social loafing theory.  As team coaches we should explore and test these assumptions.
  • DJ Mitsch: there is some confusion about coaching teams vs. coaching groups.  There are very few teams (other than family owned businesses) that are in it for the long haul–temporary nature of teams.
  • Phil Sandhal: the conversation around goals as a team is more interesting than the outcome of the goals conversation.  How are they talking, how are they making decisions, etc…this is what is under the goals conversation
  • Peter Hawkins: the team is not in it for the long haul but the team may continue to exist
  • Marita Fridjhon: if you look at it from the systems perspective. Goals need to be put in the context of the system.
  • Peter Hawkins: the team has a life that is more than the individuals.  The challenge creates the team not the team creates the mission.  The challenge is already out there in the world.
  • Ruth Wageman: the team may need to reconfigure based on the changing mission.
  • Marita Fridjhon: today the is the panelists team and also the moderating team; there is always more than one team and one system; one challenge for us as team coaches is that we are only looking at one part of the system. How do we hold the interdependence of the team and its context.

Question #3: What is possible for team coaching in the present and the future as an emerging discipline within the broader coaching field? What are the challenges and opportunities?

  • David Clutterbuck: What is team coaching? Is it part of normal coaching? Is it a separate or related discipline. We need to find a natural home for team coaching.  How do you equip 1-to-1 coaches to be effective team coaches? What are the competencies? Can we make it affordable for all teams and not just top teams? How do we enable teams and organizations to do this? How do we supervise people to do this? Are there special skills for the supervisors? Concerned about formulaic approaches to team coaching. Need to value the individuality of teams.
  • Jennifer Britton: we need a blend of approaches. Sustainability? How do we do this in a virtual and global business environment. Constant interweave between groups and teams and the various competencies required.
  • Marita Fridjhon: within a company where they have been working for 4 to 5 year and have trained cohorts there has been a culture shift.  How do we become obsolete? How do we equip the changing culture to retain and be a coaching culture? Is there is supervision? How and when will externals be used on an ongoing basis.
  • Peter Hawkins: the more we can hand over the coaching to the teams; the horizon will be in inter team coaching and on tomorrow’s leadership.  How will leadership change in the next 20 years? There will be a decrease in hiring but a greater amount of partnerships across organizations and systems.  The more we can make ourselves obsolete with teams there is a whole world waiting for us out there.
  • DJ Mitsch: every team has a team leader. Wherever we coaching individual executives we can embed coaching skills and a coaching culture in teams.
  • Peter Hawkins: how to supervise team leaders to coach their own teams.
  • DJ Mitsch: what is supervision in different cultures? Is that the term.  Team leaders will reach out to team coaches for help.
  • Ruth Wageman: a diversity in the intellectual origins of the discipline of team coaching. Spending team with a group of people who are studying the science of team/group science.  Need interdisciplinary exchange in order to create great problem-solving. How do we develop coaching teams? Collaborations.  Very little dialogue between the researchers/scholars and the practitioners.
  • Phil Sandhal: human beings are wried to be in community and they aren’t very good at it.  Team coaching provides an opportunity to help a microcosm to learn together, change together.  What we are doing with one team has effects beyond just the team?

Q&A with Audience

  • Audience questions:
    • “My journey to team coaching came from doing it without knowing it or calling it that.  How do we know that team coaching is working? What happens after we are gone? What are the leading and lagging indicators?
    • “Search for team coaching on Google yields about 9000 hits, is the term team coaching the best term or is it new and needs time to become more common?”
    • “The conversation is both inspiring and confusing.  It’s similar to the conversations we were having in the 90’s about one-to-one coaching.  Seems like some of the fundamentals need to be fleshed out and explored more.”
    • “Understanding the complexity of team coaching, when I’m brought in as an executive coach I don’t know enough about team coaching. I would love to hear about the programs that one can get trained in.”
  • Panelists responses:
    • Phil Sandhal: How do we know it is working is a good question.  There are a couple of ways to address that question: In Phil’s work with the Team Diagnostic they measure 14 factors before and after the team coaching to measure change. Beyond that what is the outcome and ROI.  There is a lot of work to do to begin measuring that. We need some guidelines. We can have the team decide on success measures up front. The process they are engaging in is as important as they goals and outcomes.  What they learn away is really important.
    • Peter Hawkins: having a 360 feedback on the team in the beginning and the end as well as what they define as success.  We need to go further than that. Is the team creating more value for its stakeholder groupings?  And yes we are where individual coaching was 20-30 years ago.  We are in a creative space that we have to do through.  We shouldn’t try to tie it down too soon.  Who are the clients? If it is group coaching it is the individuals.  If it is team coaching it is the team.  If it is systemic team coaching it is the stakeholders.
    • David Clutterbuck: there are 3 layers in evaluating team coaching.  1) self awareness of the team within and as part of larger system; 2) what actually changes in behaviors; 3) what capacity has the team now created for itself.   Focus on those at the beginning. The complexity of team coaching: every team coaching conversation and session is an experiment and contract with the team to experiment in the sessions and to contract with them around that.
    • DJ Mitsch: in coaching we help people find language.  Helping people simplify complexity through language.  If we can help the team look at something meaningful and put it into a stretch goal (e.g. eradicate a disease state) then let the team take full ownership of it and “find a therapy in two years” and then get the coaches to come in and see how they are getting to work.  There is little bandwidth and a lot of noise out there in organizations.
    • Jennifer Britton: it really is about simplicity.  Embrace the chaos. We have to come back to our coaching competencies and skills. Trust your client…we don’t need to know the answers.
    • Marita Fridjhon: In answer toe the question “who is the client?” In team coaching the client is the team and not the individuals within it.  What is the entity or the system? What does it want? Example of putting a chair in the space and inviting people to speak on behalf of “the team”.
  • Closing comments: Teams have become an organization’s primary vehicle of learning. They aren’t going away and will continue to be central in the future.

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