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Team Coaching or Coaching Individuals Together – Semantics or Really Different?

I began offering team coaching in my practice almost 10 years ago. Turns out, I wasn’t really coaching the team. I was coaching and facilitating individuals in a leadership “team” together. Good news – they still made good progress toward their goal of flying in the same direction without their toxic relationships!

Even better news: from participating in Generative Team Coaching training through inviteChange last year, I learned the difference. Now I see a team as a single entity, so those individuals can work with each other’s strengths and untapped potential together, getting them further faster and more effectively.

What are some differences?

Using working agreements as an imperative foundation
Building trust: a vital key to success
Coaching the team as one unit instead of separate individuals

To unpack what happens in these distinctions, I’ll share about the team I’m most familiar with – our church choir, which I’ve been directing for the past 15 years.

The Importance of Working Agreements

Working agreements answer the question, “In what ways will we work together?” These behavior norms set the culture, expectations, and the team’s approach to accomplish what they need to deliver. In our choir, this means singers with good posture, minimal chatting during the service, and watching the director. That last one is the one least often kept – a common choir challenge! Hmmm, I think I’ll ask them if that is an agreement we need to change! Or… “What might work better for all of us to serve in the best way?”

Building Trust

I award “points” to choir members who correct me, as well as to those who handle my correction well! When they lead by example in their pitch, their energy, and their attention, our team is honoring our values and mission. Those things emerge from the palpable trust we have in each other.

“Psychological safety” is a term coined by Amy Edmondson, Harvard Business School professor, who (1999) identified that as being vital to building trust in teams, creating an atmosphere of openness and collaboration.

“Psychological safety isn’t about being nice,” she says. “It’s about giving candid feedback, openly admitting mistakes, and learning from each other.”1[i]

Coaching the Team as a Single Unit

When using a team coaching modality, the coach focuses on the “group field,” not individuals.

My best focus as I direct our choir is on the overall sound – its blend and harmony coming across as one voice. It’s extraordinary how connected we are in the group field.

When I make a mistake in the words or I lose my place, almost every time the singers slip up right along with me! If the teenage tenors show up with less energy than usual, that spreads very quickly to the other parts.

Since all of us together create the sound, I can invite the group to consider what we want to do differently. This respects our mutual responsibility to the shared purpose to communicate and lead the congregation. That plays to everyone's strength and invites the next opportunity to be better.

What’s Your Goal as Coach?

The business literature on working as a team instead of in silos has exploded over the past decade. If this is a goal you have as a coach or leader, consider inviteChange’s “Generative Team Coaching” to make the best impact on all stakeholders in your organization or practice. For more details, see https://www.invitechange.com/coach-certification/advanced-coach-development-programs/advanced-group-team-coaching/ and don’t delay – registration deadline is September 9; course begins September 23.

[i] HBR Ideacast, January 29, 2019.

Lyne Tumlinson, PCC

As coach, Lyne energetically acknowledges, listens to, and challenges clients. She provides a trusting space for safely sharing challenges along with wins, so that others discover passion and purpose, seeing previously unnoticed possibilities. With framework of dynamic goals and accountabilities, opening new perspectives, her clients lead the way to their own success. Trust in themselves grows as they realize her trust – knowing they are naturally creative, resourceful, and whole. Realizing value of diverse personalities, backgrounds, language, and views, positive impact is sensed at every level. Clients discover their authentic voice to bring their best self to life.
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