Coaching teams

In this article Mark Greenfield, our MD, outlines some methods and benefits of using coaching as part of your leadership style to manage teams, ensuring that they are fully functioning, effective and self-motivating.


Coaching to improve Trust and Relationships in Teams

  • Good team coaches connect with everyone in the team – moving beyond the superficial to understand individual strengths and weaknesses. For your team to respond well to you as a coach, they must trust you especially as you’re asking them to be introspective, and open or ‘vulnerable’ enough to discuss how they can maximise their potential.
  • A good way to gain trust is to demonstrate that you are actively listening. This means really concentrating on what is being said, and actively stating that you understand their perspective, by playing back what you have heard. Empathy, eye contact and making the environment comfortable for the team member is crucial.
  • Share something not many people know about you? Where did you grow up? What was your first job?  How can people get the best out of me?  Disclosure, whilst slightly uncomfortable at first is a cornerstone to build trust.


Coaching for Motivation and Team Resilience

  • In ‘The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership’ (Kouzes and Posner; The Leadership Challenge; 3rd Ed 2002; Jossey-Bass), Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner describe Enabling Others to Act, and Encouraging the Heart as critical to empowering individuals to find their own motivations.
  • Enabling Others to Act means using the word ‘We’ rather than ‘I’ and adopting a collaborative approach, focusing on the means not the ends. Collaboration is the master skill that enable teams, alliances and partnerships to ‘self-manage’ and function effectively. It means developing cooperative relationships with those you work with, actively listening to diverse points of view, promoting cooperative goals and above all, taking time to build trust.
  • Encouraging the Heart is in my experience, the most difficult team coaching behaviour to sustain, as it is often sacrificed when the pressure is on the team, and the organisation is challenged. It means recognising individual and team contributions by showing appreciation for extra effort and performance and praising people for a job well done


Coaching to encourage Accountability

  • Accountability in teams means the willingness of team members to remind one another when they are not living up to the agreed performance standards and behaviours of the group. This shouldn’t always require the participation of the team leader, and in high-performing teams the team coach’s role is often to encourage direct, peer-to-peer accountability. This is based on the principle that peer pressure and the desire not to let a colleague down will motivate a team member more than any concern over sanctions or rebuke.
  • How do we encourage teams where people hold one another accountable? The key is coaching team members to be comfortable in giving each other appreciative and critical   This can often be encouraged by helping people to realise that when they fail to provide peers with constructive feedback, they are letting them down personally.
  • One way of encouraging a culture of peer-to-peer accountability is to carry out a simple Team Effectiveness Exercise as described by Lencioni in ‘Overcoming the Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Field Guide (2005, Jossey-Bass). This should only be used with teams that have worked together for at least a few months and where there is a degree of trust. During a timeout or away day, ask everyone on the team to write down the answers to two simple questions about every member of the team, excluding themselves:

‘What is the single most important behavioural characteristic or quality demonstrated by this person that contributes to the strength of the team?’, and ‘What is the single most important behavioural characteristic or quality demonstrated by this person that can sometimes derail the team?’

The team coach then starts with the leader and asks each team member to read out their positive qualities about the leader, then their constructive feedback about their potential ‘derailing’ qualities.  This provides direct, honest and unequivocal feedback, and the same process is then repeated for each team member.  The outcome is a sharing of positive qualities and development opportunities in a short period of time and can be motivating, constructive and cathartic … and often all at the same time!


Coaching for Team Performance

As a Team Coach, your top priority may be to facilitate the team to improve their performance.  Key interventions that work in addition to the enabling and encouraging behaviours described earlier include:

  • Provide frequent, regular feedback and recognition. Annual performance reviews don’t give team members all the encouragement they need. At least once a week, team coaches should give their team members informal feedback about areas they need to work on, and recognition for things they’re doing well.
  • Align employee behaviours to long-term business objectives of the organisation. All teams are trying to achieve something greater than themselves and reach big, long-term goals by working together.

Great managers understand that and use this overarching goal to motivate people and get the best performance by ensuring every team member can see how their performance contributes to the overall growth of the organisation.

  • Give team members autonomy and room for personal growth. Managers often struggle with this, but autonomy is one of the most valuable things you can give employees. Don’t micromanage your team by telling them how to do things; allow them the freedom to make mistakes that can help them learn and grow.



If you want to see the full version of this article then take a look at our book 100+ Top Tips on Managing Your Coaching Needs.