A few days ago I was lucky to accompany a team that wants to increase its efficiency, as well as to increase the cohesion among its members. It is a vocational team with its work, very proactive and passionate about how to relate, and ready to climb one step further and thus continue to increase their contribution within the organization. This session made me think about the skills of the team coach, and how these are determinants to be able to channel the strength and commitment of the group with respect to their development.
People as ourselves who are dedicated to the development of people and teams are very aware, and so are our clients, that there is a big difference between training and coaching. Although the ultimate purpose of both is similar, developing the potential of the participants, the form or system through which it is carried out is very different. While training guides through the method and following a clear structure that provokes reflection and acquisition of concrete knowledge, coaching is an open process whose method is precisely the absence of a fixed structure of contents.
In a way, coaching accompanies development from the detachment of knowledge, assuming that this is not so much the key, as it is the way to discover it and put it into practice in the most appropriate way for each person or team. That is why the coach faces a process of coaching from a broader range than those, by definition, we identified in traditional training.
I remember a teacher that I had when I graduated from my coaching school whom explain to us that while a “junior” coach is uncomfortable and distressed because he is not sure where the coaching session is going, the “senior” coach does not only assumes it as something normal, but also enjoys it as a challenging and juicy part of the process. And this is because our client, whether individual or team, never knows the direction that is going to take their own process of reflection and discovery.
If in an individual coaching process this flexibility is key, it is even more so when we are talking about team coaching. The fact that different people are involved determines the type of intervention. Among the most relevant factors that determine the team coaching work, I would like to indicate the following:
- Different feelings of belonging to the team
- Different agendas for the achievement of objectives
- Different levels of recognition by the formal manager
- Existence of subgroups within the team
- The “relationship” (the “how“) is more determinant than the content or situation that is the object of the discrepancy (the “what“)
- Lack of commitment to follow the coaching process on the part of some team members, unlike what normally happens in individual coaching processes
- Responsibility for commitments and actions derived from the process may be diluted in the group
Team coach skills
It is for this reason that doing coaching to an individual, or making an intervention in a system (team), are two different things that we must keep in mind when doing the sessions. Thus, the team coach must consider, among others, some of the following relevant aspects:
- Prepare the session with intervention alternatives
Unlike a pure individual coaching, where there is no need to prepare the structure of the session, team coaching requires a specific preparation that includes the dynamics that the team will work to explore their concerns and goals.
These dynamics will be adequate only if the group is in a moment in which it wants to work something in concrete that can be approached by these dynamics. There is where the coach should have some intervention alternatives depending on what may happen during the session.
- Explain to team members how the coach will facilitate the session
Participants in team coaching are not really aware of the differences between training and a team coaching session. This is why it is good that in the alliance phase, or at the beginning of the first session, the methodology is shared with the attendees, explaining the need to “dance” to the team and be able to offer the space that its need it in each moment depending on what it’s trying to happen.
- Build good co-leadership in the coaching team
Coaching sessions with large teams require the participation of more than one coach. In these cases it is imperative to train a good team of coaches at the service of the client’s team. In these cases a “system” is the one that intervenes for the benefit of another “system”. The individual coach is relegated to the coach-team at the service of the client’s team.
Coaches must work very closely and in sync with the moment the team lives. For this, they will exchange roles, while piloting the dynamics, facilitate the reflection and go reading the emotional field.
In this case of large groups, or when it comes to environments or very complex moments for teams, the presence of a team of coaches is essential to maximize the impact of the intervention.
- Rely on team resources
Just as a trainer can be tempted to “convince” and indoctrinate the participants during the training session, through their formulas and recipes, a coach is always open to any direction or decision that the team takes. This one is the only responsible and knowledgeable of its next steps, since it is the one who knows its past better, the present that it lives, and the future it wishes to have.
And, therefore, the responsibility of the coach, or team of coaches, is to create the right space, to sustain and push the system, so that occurs what the team really needs.