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Part 4 of the "Shape-Shifting" Series: A Behavioral Team Coaching Model

Melding Art & Science for Transformational Results

Welcome to Part 4 of my five-part monthly series on using the metaphor of “Shape-Shifting” to understand the fluid roles of a coach when working with teams. In the previous installments of my editorial series (Part 1Part 2Part 3), I shared the inspiration, journey, and key findings of an empirical research study I conducted in 2012; the first study of its kind exploring the science and practice of team coaching.

So, the next logical question, with respect to these experiences and insights, would be, “How can coaching professionals, as well as internal leaders/managers as coaches, apply the Shape-Shifting model to daily practice?” Which would then, of course, spawn an even more considerable question, “How can one do it PRACTICALLY?”

In my various roles as a mentor of Coach Practitioners through Leadership Strategies International, a Coach Educator teaching Evidence-Based Coaching at Fielding Graduate University and Group and Team Coaching at Royal Roads University, and Vice President of the Graduate School Alliance for Education in Coaching (GSAEC), I work to help co-create applied solutions to these questions almost daily. And it is always my intention to establish processes and cultivate practices that are grounded in foundational science yet uniquely conscious of each individual’s personal methods and practical application.

Here are three of several implications I found from research and practice. I hope you find them thought-provoking and useful when considering how to expand and develop a coach's capacity to coach in the context of teams.

1. The Impact of Using the “Shape-Shifting" Metaphor for Team Coaching

Metaphors powerfully shape, symbolize, contain, and explain our existence. Our metaphors create us as much as we make use of them. The Shape-Shifting conceptual framework for coaching teams provides a typology about role behaviors that could serve as a self-reflection and developmental assessment tool on the part of the coach, whether internal (manager as coach) or external coach. This level of reflection could lead to a new awareness about one’s skills, knowledge, and abilities, and may shed light on one’s personal and professional development and coaching practice. Coaches can use the Shape-Shifting framework as a lens to examine and innovate their own practice as they help teams better work together.

By using the Shape-Shifting framework to examine their practice, coach practitioners and leaders could gain a deeper understanding of their own effectiveness and development opportunities. For example, they may ask themselves:

◆ “Looking at the framework, what is more characteristic and what is less characteristic of my work with teams?”

◆ “How might the intentional and conscious use of shape-shifting help increase the effectiveness of my work with teams?”

◆ “How might this framework influence and expand my repertoire when working with a team?”

◆ “What are the implications for my further education and development of myself as a coach who works with teams?”

2. The Educator’s “Shape-Shifting” Edifice

Currently, students of coaching partake in education about coaching offered through university programs, and even training companies, and other avenues. Education historically focused on foundational knowledge, skills, and competencies required for effectively coaching individuals. And while the knowledge and skills base required to coach individuals serves as a critical foundation for coaching work teams, we’ve learned that additional knowledge, skills, and competencies are required to effectively coachwork teams.

If coaching helps individuals and teams attend to systemic and complex group factors, then there is a strong indication that educational institutions, training providers, and certifying bodies should ensure curriculum and standards that enable well-educated, trained and skilled coaches in key knowledge areas. These areas include knowledge such as team task and structure, group dynamics, and processes including dialogue, facilitation, stages of team development, and systems.

3. The Next (But Certainly Not Final) Frontier:

Part of the change I have witnessed in organizations across the globe is a transition to team-based and matrixes structures in order to take advantage of organization’s talent and gain competitive advantage. While teamwork has huge advantages, this transition brings with it a new set of challenges. Coaching itself serves as a potential means to create recognizable and long-lasting cultural change as well as improve individual, team, and organizational performance. The practice of team coaching has the potential to lead to beneficial outcomes for the teams, their organizations, and even the development of coaches themselves.

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