Are you sure it’s team coaching you are buying?

If you are considering supporting your senior teams, I hope this article will help you in your decision-making process by giving you a general overview of the market and what is on offer. I shall also help you understand why it is so important that you should be clear on what you and your teams really need and the pitfalls of making the wrong decisions.  

Caveat emptor

To be clear, I am not commenting about the relative merits of any particular approach to helping senior teams, simply trying to clarify for those interested in purchasing team coaching specifically, what you should be aware of, to help ensure you make the best decision for your situation. It is too big an investment to get wrong and buyers’ remorse leaves such a bitter taste that I would like to help you avoid it. 

Current market

Robust data about the degree to which organisations in the UK are turning to team coaching to support senior teams is hard to ascertain. Coaching as an industry has grown globally to in excess of $6bn pa and some of that will doubtless include team coaching revenue. Anecdotally, I can share that Team Coaching is the area, along with scalable coaching solutions, that has grown most significantly post-Covid. Recent discussions with clients and coaching colleagues, suggest that as we emerged from various lockdowns and people returned to the office, team coaching was a way to re-connect and re-align around new work priorities. Recently, the focus of team coaching has shifted and is more commonly requested as a result of key transformations across business, including changes to target operating models, M&A activity or when senior leaders turnover and they feel a ‘team refresh’ is in order. 

If you were seeking to source team coaching today however, the picture you are faced with is muddled. If you search for “Team Coaching suppliers in the UK” you get over 10 million general results. It reminds me of what happened when coaching exploded from relative obscurity back in the early 2000s to now. As it became more commonplace for organisations to deploy coaching to support their senior leaders, the industry became even more opaque than it already was and increasingly splintered and sub-categorised. This latter phenomenon was, I suspect, largely a way for coaches, to stake out some unique marketing ground than particularly helpful for buyers of coaching. Whilst there are growing distinctions between team coaching approaches the bigger challenge for purchasers, is to decide between team coaching and other team-centred interventions. 

What is team coaching?

Team coaching, like coaching, is often, and reasonably, misunderstood. As a form of support for teams, it is not the same as team away days, team development or team bonding sessions (whatever they are!) It is a unique process of helping a team gain clarity on what it needs/wants and is required to deliver for the organisation, along with gaining clarity about how to achieve those impacts, through working more effectively within, across and beyond the team. Team coaches help facilitate that process. Whilst team coaching is distinct from other perhaps longer-established team interventions, it can deliver many similar impacts, along with many more. 

So, once you have decided that you want team coaching, wouldn’t it be great if it was simply a case of selecting a provider? Sadly, that it is not that simple. You may want team coaching but you may end up with Team Mentoring and they are distinct in their approach and the impacts they help deliver. Set out below are some areas to help you explore those differences and make more informed decisions when the time comes. 

Team Coaching in disguise

If the provider has a framework within which they do their work, great. If the process is prescriptive and you are told that to follow it will lead to higher performance, better impacts, happier team members etc. then that’s also a positive. But the latter approach probably means you are actually buying team mentoring rather than team coaching. 

Let’s explore why and how that may have come about with what is a fairly common occurrence in this space: 

The team coaching supplier you are considering once led a senior and high-performing team in a large organisation. She was lauded by her CEO as a leader who aligned teams and delivered key targets and she could do that in a predictable way. As a result,  she was often dropped in to ‘sort out’ under-performing teams or teams with huge agendas and little time. Following her transition to the supplier side of the fence, she has codified her approach and can provide a roadmap to help teams deliver high performance. That’s what you would be buying in the case of someone with a tight process around what your teams should be doing from meeting #1 to month #12 (or 18!) 

You are often buying the experience of a former leader who has a well-tested model of what it takes to become a high performing team. That person is going to lead you and your team, through the process of getting to high performance. They are your team mentor and it is their map you follow. And if that is what you are looking for, that is the way you should go. It can be highly effective, especially for more junior teams with little experience of what to do. A path laid out by the mentor, who leads the team through that process over (typically) a 12 month project, can be exactly what is required. 

Team Coaching – experience and impacts

The alternative is if you want a senior team to define and take full ownership for the progress it makes and to take accountability of their individual and collective development from day one, then you should seek out team coaching. 

Here are three key differences to help you determine between team coaching and team mentoring: 

1. Team coaching develops lasting capabilities both for individual members of the team and the collective, as a direct result of less prescription and less directive input from the coaching team. Team members are encouraged to step into new ways of working and leading within the team as defined by the team. These new skills help not only the team undertaking the work but the functional teams many senior leaders call ‘home.’ 

2. Team coaching shifts the ‘power’ from the supplier’s team to your team and it does so overtly and quickly. It is your team that will be working together every day and when a team mentor is not around, how much work gets done? Maybe not much, as the team await the next input session from the mentor. With a team coaching approach, the team has the reins from Day One. The results, short and longer-term, are down to the team. Ownership of results and progress are with the team not the mentor’s system. This makes team coaching more transforming, in the sense that changes which occur last well beyond the life of the coaching. 

3. Finally, similar to individual coaches, team coaches should be seeking to do themselves out of a job. There is no need to be working with a team for 12 to 18 months because, unlike the team mentor, the coach has nothing to ‘download.’ They help the team get to a point of clarity, understanding and alignment, whilst also developing skills and ways of working that the team feel would be helpful in the drive to deliver key impacts. Whilst team mentoring does help teams get to high performance, team coaching helps teams become high performing. 

In summary, selecting how to help your senior teams is less clear than it could and should be. There are many reasons for that and I hope that this short post has helped remove some of that uncertainty. My aim is not to point you to one ‘type’ of help for your teams – the whole purpose is to help you appreciate more clearly what is available to you and the differences you will get as a result of your decision, both in terms of approach and impacts. 

We enable your organisation to achieve individual and collective transformation goals quickly and confidently, whether you require support for senior leaders, executive teams, or large cohorts of mission critical managers.

When you want to know more just click here to contact us and we’ll get straight back to you.

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