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Teaching Leaders to Coach Teams

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The best way to learn team coaching is to step outside your comfort zone and give it a go.

  1. Make it experiential

David Clutterbuck suggests that effective team coaches are comfortable with being uncomfortable. Peter Hawkins says that team coaches learn to become more confident and capable through watching others and giving it a go. There may be an adult development perspective lurking in here somewhere (10). If I am to be at ease working with complexity and uncertainty while others are watching, then I may need to think differently. If I am to operate from a ‘dialogic mindset’, noticing the multitude of perspectives held by those with whom I interact, then I may need to think differently again. All of which points to theories of adult development and factors that stimulate a shift from one way of thinking to another. Basically, I will only shift from one way of thinking to another when my current way of thinking is not serving me well. Which suggests that the best way to learn team coaching is to step outside your comfort zone and give it a go.

  1. Opportunities to reflect

Few external coaches would attempt to undertake team coaching without the help of a supervisor. In the coaching world, a supervisor is not someone who stands over the coach telling them if they are doing a good job. The team coach supervisor will certainly have experience coaching teams, but their primary function is to provide a reflective space in which the team coach is able to learn from their experiences.

  1. Time

Team coaching takes time to learn. Knowledge is important, but knowledge by itself won’t carry the developing coach through those sticky moments when everything is going wrong and people are looking to the coach to provide guidance on what to do next. To learn to become a better team coach requires giving it a go and reflecting on that experience. Teaching team coaching within an organisation may be best done with cohorts of leaders learning together over a period of time. Don’t just send people on a three-day course.

The challenge for organizations, seeking to facilitate the emergence of effective team coaching, is that coaching isn’t simply a skill. Coaching and team coaching entail working with people in a particular way. The effective coach is self-aware and commits to coaching based on a set of personal values and experiences. In this sense coaching is cultural, for if the leaders of an organization are operating from different values and belief-based systems, then leaders are unlikely to support and commend each other’s behaviours, and the people working in that organization are likely to become confused and uncertain as to how they are supposed to behave themselves.

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