Team Coaching: What Is Team Coaching?


My name is Sari van Poelje. I’m the Director of Intact Academy, where I train coaches and consultants in 12 different countries in eight different programs. I’ve been doing that for 35 years. It’s one of the passions in my life, to help coaches and consultants develop so that they can help other people. 


One of the things I do in Intact Academy is to train team coaches. Team coaches are a little bit of a different animal than life coaches or executive coaches. In individual coaching, like executive coaching, you coach in a one on one relationship. Where one is the helper and the other person receives help. In team coaching, what we’re looking for is to create sustainable results and ongoing development in a whole team. Nowadays, team coaching is focused on creating teams that can innovate well and for that, I refer you to where I talk about my consultancy work. 


Team coaching is different from coaching in a group. In coaching in a group, you coach the individuals who have come to a group based on a shared interest. They contract for learning and development one on one with the group coach.


However, in team coaching, the client is the team as an entity, with all the multiple individuals that are in it. That gives a different perspective on how to coach because ultimately in team coaching the team or the system is more important than the individuals. This has a whole lot of consequences for the way you look, the way you diagnose and for the way you intervene. 


My preoccupation when I do team coaching is how can I make the team function better as an entity. That means my contract is multi-layered. Usually, there is a contract between myself and the leader and the members of the team, and usually also a bigger power because I coach teams within organizations.


My interventions are focused on getting the team to perform better as a whole. That means that I need to have a triple focus. The first focus is intra-psychic. Like in individual coaching, you need to have a good sense of yourself as a coach. You are your own compass. If you’re the instrument of change, and your compass isn’t completely pointing North, then it’s hard to coach because you might take things personally, or you might interpret things in a way that suits your life story, but aren’t focused on the reality of the client.


So, “can I get my own household in order so that I’m not hooked every time when I coach?”.


The second focus in team coaching is interpersonal. Are you able to actively listen, ask powerful questions, support, challenge enough, hold that individual in their development? Learning about how to make trusted, safe and challenging relationships is the second domain of coaching, which is very similar to individual coaching. 


The third domain, the systemic domain, is particular to team coaching. There you have to be able to see the individuals but also the team as a whole. You have to hear what people say and honor that. But also, hear it as a symptom of what’s going on in the team. That kind of listening, both internally to the person and to the system, is what I call the triple focus that’s needed in team coaching. 


You could also speak about a fourth focus, but that’s when you are working with an organization, a team of teams. Then the focus is, what is the interrelationship between the teams in the system? Are they each contributing to the strategy and purpose? Do they realize they’re interdependent – the output of one is the input for the other? Are those handover points managed well? 


So for me, if you want to be a team coach, you need some personal development. You need to develop your skills in individual coaching. You need to develop your skills in looking at the system and intervening for the system as an entity.


The question is, could you be a good team coach or not?

Published On: maart 11th, 2021By

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