by Dr. Krister Lowe and Dr. David Tate

(Note: a version of this post can also be viewed on LinkedIn here.)

In this post we highlight ten standout themes or lessons learned that emerged while reflecting on episodes 11 to 20 of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast—a weekly interview show that features leading organizational coaches who share their ideas and stories about coaching teams in companies and organizations. (To listen to a free podcast recording of our informal conversation reviewing these ten themes go to: iTunes, Stitcher Radio, or www.TeamCoachingZone.com/podcasts.)

Lesson #1 – Well-Developed Team Coaching Models

A common challenge that both new and experienced team coaches face is finding well-developed models and frameworks on team coaching. Many team coaches have developed their own home-grown approaches. This is wonderful and at the same time if the field is going to develop, replicable models and frameworks that are published and that can be shared are needed. Fortunately, episodes 11 to 20 of the podcast uncovered a number of clearly articulated and tested team coaching models and frameworks. Professor Peter Hawkins’ (Episode #19) work on the 5 disciplines of successful team practice (Commissioning, Clarifying, Co-Creating, Connecting and Core Learning) as well as the accompanying CID-CLEAR team coaching process model was one notable framework that stood out. Dr. Jacqueline Peters and Dr. Catherine Carr’s model as outlined in their book High Performance Team Coaching: A Comprehensive System for Leaders and Coaches (Episodes 12 & 13) with its 6 elements (Pre Assessment, Coaching for Team Design, Team Launch, Individual Coaching, Ongoing Team Coaching, Review Learning & Successes) was another notable standout. Jennifer Britton’s (Episode #11) 5 stage team coaching process (Contracting, Pre-Program, Offsite/Kick-off, Ongoing Coaching Conversations, Wrap-Up) as outlined in her book From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching provided yet another practical hands-on road map to the team coaching process. And Erin Hutchins introduced the Relationship Engine framework for team coaching that builds on CTI’s Co-Active model. It’s important to mention that back in Episode #009 DJ Mitsch, an early pioneer in team coaching, also discussed her well-developed and articulated team coaching model and approach, The Team Advantagethe Extraordinary Business Game. These models provide team coaches with a strong platform for guiding practice, for the supervision of team coaches, for scaling up team coaching in organizations and also ultimately for empirical testing and research.

Lesson #2 – The Team Coaching Continuum

Professor Peter Hawkins’ (Episode #19) continuum of team coaching provides a helpful way of organizing a number of team coaching activities. As outlined in his outstanding book Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership, the continuum moves developmentally from more internally focused team coaching activities to ones that are more externally focused. Team building –> Team Facilitation –> Team Performance Coaching –> Leadership Team Coaching –> Transformational Leadership Team Coaching –> Systemic Team Coaching. The continuum helps clarify the distinctions between these approaches to team coaching and also provides both team coaches as well as buyers of team coaching services with a menu of alternatives depending on their goals. The continuum also helps to outline the competencies necessary for effective coaching at each stage of development. A question often asked by people new to team coaching is: “How is team coaching different from team training, team training or team building?” The continuum provides a concrete way of answering that question.

Lesson #3 – Systemic Approaches to Team Coaching

If we had to pick one word that captures the spirit of episodes 11 to 20 it would be “systemic.” Two episodes, Episode #19: Systemic Team Coaching: Coaching the 5 Disciplines of Successful Team Practice with Professor Peter Hawkins and Episode #20: The Dreaming Nature of Systems: How Team, Executive and Business Coaches Can Work with What’s Emerging with Marita Fridjhon, focused on the systemic nature of team coaching. A quote by Peter Hawkins captured this nicely: “Bateson said we misunderstood Darwin. We think the unit of survival (of the fittest) is the individual, or the team, or organization, or nation or species. But it’s not any of those. It’s neither the unit of survival nor the unit of flourishing. Unit of survival is any one of those in dynamic co-creation with its ecological niche. We can’t talk about a high performing team or individual, we can only talk about a team that’s co-creating value with and for all its stakeholders in its ecological niche.” Marita Fridjhon’s episode highlighted important concepts such as the 3rd Entity, Relationship Systems Intelligence and “holonic shifts” as well as the “me, we and it” levels in coaching. Marita’s quote captures this even on an individual level: “The first system is self. If I ever thought that I was doing individual coaching, it’s always been a lie because it has always been multiple selves, multiple parts in me that meets up with multiple parts in you.”  Herb Stevenson’s episode on Gestalt approaches to coaching teams also touched on the systemic nature and dynamics of coaching teams. And David Tate’s session on managing multiple systems within family enterprises also brought a systemic perspective.  The systemic perspective brings the team’s context and relationship with that context into center of the team coaching arena.

Lesson #4 – Leveraging Polarities or Energy Systems in Team Coaching

Cliff Kayser’s episode (#017) on Leveraging Polarities to Drive Leadership and Team Coaching also presented a unique meta-level system’s perspective on polarities as powerful energy systems within teams. Polarities or interdependent pairs (e.g. individual and team; process and task; autocratic and participatory, etc…) are always present in all systems. Coaches can help leaders and teams identify the key polarities at play and to view them “not as problems that can be resolved but rather as energy systems that can be leveraged to drive growth and change.” They are dilemmas that don’t go away but rather that contain energy waiting to be harnessed to drive change. Polarity thinking can help teams and team coaches avoid falling into the trap of false dichotomies and help teams respond in more sophisticated and complex ways to their adaptive challenges.  As Barry Johnson, a founder and seminal figure in the polarity field says in his book Polarity Management: Identifying and Managing Unsolvable Problems: “For every complex problem there is a simple solution, and its wrong.” The polarity map characterized by an infinity loop layered on top of four quadrants–that Cliff discusses on the episode–can be a powerful diagnostic tool for team coaches and for helping team’s map out the polarities they are struggling with.  (Note: A Copy of the polarity map can be downloaded under the “Downloads tab” at http://www.teamcoachingzone.com/resources/).

Lesson #5 – Building and Designing High Performing Relationships

A few episodes focused on the critical role that team member relationships play in the team coaching process. Dr. Jacqueline Peters (Episode #012) noted that the science of what drives successful relationships with couples overlaps with the science of what drives successful teams as well as successful customer relationships. Consequently she identified the High Performance Relationship System – A Five Building Block System to help team members develop high performance relationships. The five building blocks include: Safety, Purpose, Structure, Camaraderie and Repair. Understanding the 5 building blocks can help teams understand the complexity of the relationship dynamics at play in the group; can help team members become more objective and to not take issues personally; and can help foster a shift in focus from “I” to “We.” Dr. Peters has a forthcoming book on The High Performance Relationship system. This will be yet another great resource for team coaches. Erin Hutchins’ episode (#014) on The Relationship Engine: Designing the Alliance in Team Coaching also emphasized the critical role of relationships in the team coaching process. The Relationship Engine builds on CTI’s Co-Active Coaching model and focuses on four elements that provide a context of safety and trust in teams: Take Responsibility; Choose; Align; and Commit. Designing a strong alliance with the team up front in coaching really can help build a holding environment, container or vehicle for the team coaching engagement and thereby stave off implosion by the team due to misalignment in the relationships. Jennifer Porter (Episode #016) made a memorable comment about how the relationships aspects and focal areas of coaching often get a lot of attention because its fun and as she said “juicy.” She also spoke about balancing this relationship focus with some strong practical tools. Her episode revealed some great gems such as having behaviorally based operating principles to guide team member interactions, linking up team metrics to the operating principles and also elucidated a powerful technique for sharing diagnostic interview data with a team in a fishbowl type of format. Being a high performing team requires being excellent at both relationships a well as in task areas.

Lesson #6 – Differentiating Group Coaching from Team Coaching

Jennifer Britton’s episode (#011) provided an important distinction between coaching a group (e.g. a cohort of high potential leaders) vs. coaching an intact team. She likened the two as “related siblings” but as two different sub-disciplines within the coaching profession. In group coaching the focus tends to be on each individual’s goals and development while in team coaching the team’s goal and mission tends to be the focus. Other important distinctions between the two types of coaching include: the role of leadership; the role of relationships; the life cycle of the group/team; and what’s at stake. Her book From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching provides an excellent in-depth resource on both types of coaching. In team coaching we are really trying to coach the collective intelligence or mind of the group. In other words, when a team has become more than the sum of its parts, when synergy is happening or when a team is “in the zone or in flow,” that is really an indicator that a real team exists.  This provides a stark contrast to group coaching which tends to focus more on the individual’s development in the context of a group and not on creating the conditions for what Marita Fridjhon calls the 3rd Entity to arise. 

Lesson #7 – Team Coaching Training Programs

Episodes #11 – 20 revealed a number of established ICF accredited team coaching training programs. Only one such program (The Team Advantage Program discussed by D.J. Mitsch in Episode #009) emerged during the first ten episodes. Three additional programs were mentioned in episodes 11 to 20 including Jennifer’ Britton’s online as well as face-to-face group and team coaching certification training programs, Peter Hawkins’ Systemic Team Coaching Certificate and Certification training programs, and Marita Fridjhon’s Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) Certification Program. These well-developed and tested team coaching programs provide would-be team coaches with robust opportunities to get trained as a team coach. They also offer supervision options to help support the journey to becoming a team coach. Jennifer Britton’s book From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching and Peter Hawkins book Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership provide valuable sections on what it takes to become a team coach including the necessary competencies to do so.  Herb Stevenson (Episode #018) also discussed a team coaching training program that he has in development and that will be released soon.   As more people invest in getting trained as a team coach, this will likely have a direct effect on the credibility of the field and also on the quality and impact of team coaching interventions in organizations.

 Lesson #8 – Coaching Family Enterprise Teams and Systems

David Tate’s episode (#015) focused on coaching one ubiquitous type of team—family enterprise teams and systems. Family businesses are responsible for generating 78% of all new jobs and for generating 65% of all wages paid in the United States. Teams in such enterprises can be faced with unique opportunities as well as challenges that differentiate them from other types of teams (See our blog post “Teams in Family Enterprise Systems: Crouching Tigers & Hidden Dragons” here for a brief discussion of these challenges and opportunities). David’s podcast highlights three subsystems that need to be managed when coaching family business teams: the management system, the ownership system and the family system. We hope future episodes of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast will highlight coaching teams in specific industries and functional areas well as different types of teams such as virtual teams.  David’s episode provides a great start in providing thinking in one niche area.

 Lesson #9 – Sandbox Clients, Co-Team Coaching & Supervision

Jennifer Porter’s episode (#016) From C-Suite Executive to Leadership and Team Coach touched on the importance for team coaches of finding “sandbox” clients where they can gain practice and experience team coaching in lower risk settings . Co-team coaching also was mentioned in her episode as important for team coaches to seriously consider, as it can really can help both new as well as experienced team coaches manage the complex dynamics of working with a team. In addition, the importance of supervision was noted in a number of episodes and it was suggested that this might be even more important than supervision in one-to-one coaching settings given the increase in complexity when moving from one to many.  Finding experienced team coaches who can supervise new team coaches was explored and a number of names were offered in this regard (e.g. Jennifer Porter Episode #016; Dr. Catherine Carr Episode #013, Jennifer Britton Episode #011, Dr. Peter Hawkins Episode #19, Marita Fridjhon Episode #020).

Lesson #10 – The Wild West of Team Coaching

We end this recap of episodes 11 to 20 with an overarching theme that has been recurrent since the start of the podcast back in January of this year: team coaching is still in an emerging and early stage of development. It’s a bit of the “Wild West” which brings with it both excitement as well a lack of formal standards and guidelines. However in these ten episodes we can see some solid order and structures being forged out of the chaos. Jennifer Britton’s work (Episode #011) on best practices in team coaching is one seminal work in this area while the work of Dr. Peter Hawkins (Episode #019), Dr. Jacqueline Peters & Dr. Catherine Carr (Episodes #12 & 13), and Marita Fridjhon (Episode #020) all point to the emergence of formalized courses of instruction and models that are now readily available to team coaches. Along with DJ Mitsch’s Team Advantage (Episode #009) program, new and experienced team coaches can find guidance, books, models, training programs, mentorship, supervision, community and more.  So while team coaching may still feel like the wild west, those days may be numbered.

In summary, it’s an exciting time in the field of team coaching and it’s exciting to learn from many of the early pioneers who have helped set a foundation and course for future scholars and practitioners in this area.  For readers who wish to dig deeper, the Resources page at the Team Coaching Zone website http://www.teamcoachingzone.com/resources/ provides lots of additional information on team coaching including white papers, downloadable PDFs of many of the models discussed in this post, white papers, short videos and more.

We look forward to continuing to release new episodes of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast on a weekly basis. Episodes come out every Thursday and can be listened to for free on iTunesStitcher Radio, or at www.TeamCoachingZone.com/podcasts. Also be sure to check out our free monthly webinar hangouts on team coaching http://www.teamcoachingzone.com/webinars/, our group on LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Team-Coaching-Zone-8227188/about and subscribe to our newsletter.

We hoped you enjoyed reviewing these summary themes and lessons learned. We will be back after the next ten episodes to provide another similar summary. We welcome your comments and feedback which you can direct to krister@teamcoachingzone.com and to david@tate-consulting.com. Until then remember to stay in the team coaching zone!

 About the Bloggers

Dr. David Tate is a Principal at the Tate Consulting Group, a Licensed Clinical Psychologist, Executive Coach and Organizational Consultant as well an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Yale University and an Author. Learn more about David at: http://www.tate-consulting.com

Dr. Krister Lowe is an Organizational Psychologist, a Leadership and Team Coach and the Host of The Team Coaching Zone Podcast as well as an Adjunct Professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs. Learn more about Krister at: http://www.TeamCoachingZone.com

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