Developing from an Individual Coach to a Team Coach: What challenges have you observed or experienced?

Highly developed individual coaching skills are a crucial requirement for coaches to make the transition from one on one or group coach to a team coach. I have collected a few insights based on our experience in over 5 years of team coaching education with Transcend, our partner Professor David Clutterbuck (CMI International) and the Global Team Coaching Institute (GTCI). 

At this moment in time, through the reach and professional excellence of WBECS the GTCI is exposing thousands of coaches to the wonders of team coaching. Team Coaching Pioneers David Clutterbuck, Peter Hawkins and Ruth Wageman have combined to create an expansive global Gateway program.

Every coach has a slightly different challenge, different things to unlearn, different ways of coaching that may need repurposing for team coaching effectiveness. 

My hope is to begin a learning conversation, please feel free to comment and add your thoughts and experience. If you are in the midst of learning team coaching, then you may be best suited to reflect and share on your experience. 

Here are two of the challenges that I have observed as I help coaches to transition from one on one to team coach:

  • Team coaching is different, really different – the more we learn about it the more distinct it becomes

It sounds simple and yet it is an early and often difficult step. Our ego is might just be at play when we say to ourselves and others, “It’s basically the same thing. You are just working with more people.” One person does not equal one team. Yes, the competencies and capabilities of skillful individual coaches are transferable and necessary to team coaching. And a lot is different – very different. Team coaching is a completely different paradigm.

  • Team are not individuals – the focus of team coaching is on the team.

This is a subtle shift that we are observing as we work with learning team coaches practicum’s on the GTCI Gateway program. As my Assistant Faculty Partner Paul Tran observed, “it seems to be about the use of the word ‘you’.”

In English “you” can mean the individual or more than one individual. A coach asks, “What does success look like, for you?”

Is this “you”= you the team or “you” = you the leader/team member

The shift sounds simple and yet is not easy as we are composing questions in our mind. These are all variations of a similar question. Each variation is likely to generate a different answer.

  • What would team success look like? 
  • What does team success look like, for you (team leader, team member, team)?
  • What would success look like for the team?
  • What would team success look like, for your stakeholders? Customers? Your customers' customers?

Professional individual coaches are often very good at co-creating high levels of ownership, accountability, and responsibility. Helping their clients to navigate to focus on areas they are in control of and responsible for. In the team context, the wider and significantly more complex outcomes for the team, are not within the control of any one individual. Outcomes are interdependent on the team leader, individual team members, the team itself, and the systems the team interacts with and how the team interacts with those systems.

When we are coaching the team through the team leader then we need to become increasingly skillful and keeping the team and its systems in view. Making clear shifts in our mindsets and then the use of language is vital to team coaching.

I have listed two challenges of many that I have observed, what are you experiencing? 

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