Phillip Cave Coaching Organizational Systems for Agility and Humanness

How do we coach across individuals, teams and systems to drive organizational change? Is it possible to be both an internal leader and an organizational coach at the same time? Do team coaches need to be subject matter experts in the content of what the teams are working on?

Join show host Dr. Krister Lowe and today’s featured guest Phillip Cave to explore these and other compelling topics on this week’s episode of the Team Coaching Zone Podcast. Phillip Cave is a Life and Organizational Fulfillment Coach and a Senior Manager at Accenture. He is a people and organizational transformation leader with more than 27 years of experience creating himself, technology startups and coaching organizations. His experience in software engineering, leadership and product management shifted to professional life coaching which results in cultural shifts in Fortune 50 companies.

Some themes explored in this episode include:

  • Phillip’s journey from photographer to software developer, to becoming a leader and manager of teams and people, to becoming an organizational coach.
  • Metaphor of a chiropractor: creating alignment across teams, leaders and organizations
  • Forces driving the shift to new forms of organizational design and effectiveness: 1) agile movement and 2) humanness
  • Coaching as a vehicle to help individuals and systems emerge
  • Engaging leaders around their willingness to lead transformation: both the “being” as well as the “doing” aspects
  • Coaching leaders to see themselves as part of the system and not apart from it
  • The Lean Change Canvas
  • Role of the coach to act as a mirror to help the organization “see itself”
  • Case example: building a new commerce platform over the course of 1 year with a team of 70 at Starbucks
  • Coaching the “team’s voice”
  • Being part of the leadership team as an internal director and organizational coach at the same time
  • Challenging teams to embody roles like “scrum master” as a function distributed across the team rather than as a job owned by one person
  • Team Performance Model: resource form coaching teams across the lifecycle
  • The emergence of the “Management Coach” job in companies
  • Learning how to be a catalyst of people
  • The merging of worlds: technology + learning and development
  • Coaching organizational design and effectiveness
  • Reflections on the future of organizational coaching and more

This is a great episode for coaches interested in understanding how organizational coaching is adapting in order to stay relevant in an era of disruptive organizational change. This is an episode you will surely not want to miss!

Resources Mentioned

Listen to the Podcast






Part 1 – Getting to know the Team Coach

  • Life and organizational fulfillment coach & senior manager at Accenture
  • People and organizational transformation leader
  • 27+ years creating himself, technology startups and coaching organization
  • Started in software engineering, leadership and product management – shifted to professional life coaching
  • Passion for being a catalyst for people and organizational awareness
  • Brings artist brain and science brain to his work
  • Experience in several companies including as a Director of organizational design and effectiveness at Starbucks, Director of leadership and organizational development at Solutions IQ, Organization transformation coach at Microsoft and more
  • Background in lean & agile

Part 2 – Approach to Team Coaching

  • Holistic view – It’s not just team, not just leadership, not just organizational design. It’s everything. His approach is allowing the organization to see themselves as a whole system
  • Responds to organizations by converging 1) agility 2) humanness with the new generation coming into the workforce who want something other than the 9-5 job
  • Teams want to deliver, the systemic aspect is what gets in the way of delivering
  • What matters when he coaches individuals and organizational systems 1) vision of what we want “out there” 2) what wants to happen in the here and now through the being in order to get there
    • What has to happen to the system in order to get to vision?
  • Pitched to clients as a leadership and organizational coach. He asks leader who are they willing to be, what are they willing to do, and how willing are they to be willing?
  • First builds relationship with leader – helps leaders see how they are part of the system, their impact, their responsibility as a voice to the system. Then uses a framework (such as lean). Finally, involves other stakeholder to help them articulate what is going on

Case Example: 70 person team at Starbucks –

  • Worked with HR as an internal coach to build roles and leadership team
  • Work included pre-planning, then he joined the leadership team, partnered with HR to analyze the team’s working agreement and assigned roles. What are the internal and external elements of the organization?
  • Challenged the team with a modified version of Scrum
  • His role was to “design job families”; analyzing organizational structure, the engineering pods, the engineering director, etc.
  • Role as organizational champion – holding the organization as creative, resourceful and whole.
  • Fluid process – Was designing, building, creating all at the same time. As they were building out engineering pods, also crafted engineering software.
  • He occupied fluid roles – was the voice in the room that reminded the team to pause, was in the role as HR intervention, coaching relationships, coaching teams, coaching individuals, providing mentorship, engaging several stakeholders, etc.

More on approach –

  • Though it’s helpful to know about industry content, he advises coaches to learn about people, “start with yourself.. be a catalyst of you, so you can be a catalyst for other people”
  • Passionate about embracing both the head and heart of technology organizations because of the soft skills that are needed
  • Views people and organizational effectiveness as being created through the mind and heart
  • Framework around understanding vision through dimensions of – leadership, organization, product/ delivery flow, delivery systems & practices.
  • Brakes the “why” down to actionable areas and places them into a change plan

Trends in the field –

  • Noticing trends of organizational effectiveness
  • Enlightened leaders are realizing they need to pause and ask – what does effectiveness mean for us? What are the human elements associated with why am I here?
  • Integrating the human element, creating an environment for humans to thrive in
  • Hopes that people will continue to see value of emotional intelligence
  • Curious about the legacy his generation will leave the new generation of leaders and hopes to help them understand the systems view

Part 3 – Closing / Parting Advice / Words of Wisdom

  • Phillip Encourages people to learn experientially – embody who they are as a leader
  • Currently writing a book “The Conversation Between Head and Heart, Getting Out of My Own Way” (working title – stay tuned!)
  • When leaders in organizations grasp the integration of “being” and “doing”, organizations will come alive
  • Encourages us to pause – look at who you are. What do you want to create in your life? What do you want right now? Be the author of your life and ask yourself what page are you on now?


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