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Coaching Teams Requires Additional Skills Compared to Coaching Individuals

Im going to share a conversation that my clients frequently initiate with me about the impact of executive coaching and leadership coaching services. Then Ill talk about the complexity of coaching a team compared to coaching an individual.    

My executive coaching clients often express how much coaching has benefited them through helping them honor their past contributions and thinking, challenge their present thinking and actions, and create their future direction and success.  

And then they ask, Can you coach my team too? Leaders in organizations use teams more than ever as a means to organize complex work and accomplish the goals of the organization. Teams also serve an important employee engagement structure. Shared sense of identity and pride, and a collaborative spirit that fosters the creation, advancement, refinement, and execution of innovative services and products. Yet leaders and individual team members often struggle with accomplishing team results.  Teams can be fraught with a lack of trust, power struggles, silo mentalities, lack of accountability, and poor leadership that zaps the teams potential to work and achieve its best performance  

Having helped teams work toward optimal performance for over 25 years, I know one thing for certain. Coaching a team is more complex than coaching individuals, and it requires an additional set of skills and competence compared to coaching individuals! 

In some ways this seems obvious: if an individual human is complex then a collection of many individuals as a whole system becomes even more complex. The complexity of coaching teams has a lot to do with interdependencies: real time exponential problems. When a single team member is struggling with their role, or several individuals struggle to communicate, the teams direction and productivity can deteriorate quickly. The result is not only frustrating for the team and its leader but also bad for business. Dysfunction in a team leads to a loss in productivity for their current project and lost opportunity costs for future work. 

With all the potential for competing needs and conflict, its no surprise: teams get messy!  

If you have every worked on or with a dysfunctional team you know what Im talking about. (One reason why Patrick Lencionis Five Dysfunctions of a Team has been a New York Times best seller! and why we incorporate The Five Behaviors of a Cohesive Team into our work with our clients!) 

When we start paying attention to the dynamics of the team and viewing it as a whole system, we can help the team do the same thing. When people start seeing how their actions are interdependent on each other for success, it opens a doorway to new conversations, a first step toward building trust and getting better results.  

Building and maintaining trust on a team are easier said than done. Coaching a team requires an additional set of competence, skills, and knowledge. A coach must be prepared to help the team leader, the team individuals, and the team as a whole. Its a challenge but the results are worth it for you, as a coach, and for the teams and organizations who will benefit from their skills.   

In my next blog, Ill talk about what additional knowledge and skills are needed to effectively coach a team compared to coaching individuals. In the meantime, I welcome your thoughts about what was stirred in you when you read this blog.                                                             


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