With office staff continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future, you may ask whether it’s the right time to consider team coaching at the moment. Would it be better to wait until you can have an away day, or at least meet face to face in a large enough conference room?
At The Leadership Coaches, we believe that team coaching in the workplace can bring significant benefits, including when teams are physically apart and the workplace is virtual with all the challenges this brings. The organisational system in which a team operates is increasingly complex, wherever individuals work from.
In this blog, we are sharing an overview of an approach to systemic team coaching in the workplace based on Peter Hawkins’ work, how a team coach would approach working with a team and what outcomes you might expect.
What is Systemic Team Coaching?
Peter Hawkins is an international thought leader on systemic team coaching. He defines it as:
“a process of coaching the whole team, both when they are together and when they are apart, in order to help them improve both their collective performance and how they work together, and also how they develop their collective leadership to more effectively engage with all their key stakeholder groups to jointly transform the wider business.”
Systemic team coaching demands a wider perspective than team building events or strategy away-days, with the coach paying attention to the wider systemic context in which a team operates, stakeholders in and outside of the organisation as well as the dynamics at play within the team.
Team coaching in the workplace therefore develops a much broader meaning, looking at how a team can perform effectively in the complex and fast-changing systems that make up workplaces and how they can adapt and respond to challenges.
Why Does This Matter Right Now?
We know that leadership teams have been well and truly stretched over the past year. Depending on the sector, they have spent significant amounts of time in crisis mode, focusing on business continuity, restructuring, furlough schemes, staff absences and many other operational challenges. Leaders are working incredibly hard individually whilst often juggling family responsibilities in addition to 12 hour days spent in video meetings.
Many of those meetings focus on transactional tasks with transformational work being put on the back burner. There is little opportunity for informal interactions and “water cooler” chats.
Against this backdrop, it’s hard to find the time and space for strategic thinking, creative work and team effectiveness considerations.
Yet this is essential for leadership teams in order to move their business forward beyond the Covid pandemic.
What’s Involved In a Process of Team Coaching?
Team coaching provides an opportunity and reflective space for teams to focus on the work they need to do in order to effectively lead and transform their business or business area. A team coach can both support and challenge teams to focus on the work they and only they can do.
The stages of a team coaching process typically include:
Contract: achieve an initial understanding of the needs of the team and agree the inquiry approach with the sponsor of the work.
Inquiry / discovery / contract: with the whole team and with key stakeholders, inquire into the challenges the team faces, uncovering patterns and identifying areas of focus. Agree ways of working, focus and outcomes with the team.
Listen / explore / action: explore the agreed areas of focus, listening to the issues, dynamics at play both within the team and within the wider system. Work with the team to move to action, clarifying and rehearsing first steps.
Review: review progress and get feedback, agree next steps and continue this cycle to achieve the required outcomes.
The process typically includes team workshops and individual coaching of team members. With a focus on team coaching in the workplace, it is also likely to include observation of team interactions with a process for sharing feedback. Psychometric tools and coaching approaches can be used to raise awareness and support and challenge the team’s process.
All of this can be done virtually, and it can be done well. A team coach experienced at working remotely can help teams to find ways of developing their relationships and working creatively in ways that they might not have thought possible.
What Outcomes Are Possible?
The outcomes of a team coaching process are agreed in the early phase of the work, based on input from the team and some key stakeholders. Examples of outcomes we have seen in our work include:
Improved stakeholder relationships.
Clarity and alignment on strategic aims and initiatives.
Resolving conflict which could otherwise negatively impact the organisation.
Recognising and celebrating successes which might increase motivation and engagement.
A more positive “leadership shadow” of a cohesive and more effective leadership team.
Greater levels of empowerment in support of organisational effectiveness.
A “side effect” of virtual team coaching is that teams may learn new virtual meeting skills and techniques. Longer term, teams will take away ways of working which will serve them into the future, for example things like peer feedback or methods of reviewing team process.
Some Reflection Questions
Here are some questions for you to train your reflective muscle and maybe discuss with your team:
How are you managing the dilemma between working through the challenges of today in a reactive mode versus addressing the challenges of tomorrow proactively and strategically?
What opportunities are you taking within your team to review how you are working together?
How effective are your ways of working together as a team including your meetings?
If you would like to have a chat about team coaching in the workplace, why don’t you give us a call on 0800 345 7727. Also take a look at our other resources about teams here.
Blog written by Sabine Stanley, Associate with The Leadership Coaches.
Hawkins, Peter. Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership. Kgan Page: 2nd edition 2014.