Team Coaching to Achieve High Functioning Teams

Talent wins games, but teamwork wins championships.” – Michael Jordan

Executive Coaching and the Emergence of Team Coaching

Not so long ago, the notion of executive coaching was limited to the “problem leader” or someone we needed to “fix”. Over time, this notion expanded to include coaching the leader with potential who just needed to work on his/her leadership style in order to realize their potential (still a “fix-it” mentality). Today’s executive coaching is rapidly evolving into proactively harnessing the power of leaders and teams to achieve success individually, but more importantly, to achieve success collectively as a team. Teams? Isn’t executive coaching focused on the individual? Yes, until just recently, executive coaching has been primarily geared towards the individual. Now, we are discovering the tremendous power of team coaching and developing coaching skills for team leaders for achieving high functioning teams and the kind of collaboration that is a prerequisite for business excellence in today’s rapidly changing landscape.

5 Reasons Team Coaching Demand is Increasing in Organizations:

  • Leadership turnover – 50% of all new leaders fail in their first 18 months
  • Work is more complex – doing more with fewer resources causes team stress
  • Organizational change – new product, new direction, new CEO, layoffs, consolidations, mergers
  • Global expansion – working with more and more people in different cultures
  • Poor business results

As organizations and the business landscape become more and more complex, cross-functional interaction and interdependence has increased the need for leaders who know how to work with and through others. However, we have seen first hand that leaders lack the skills needed to effectively collaborate. The most common culprits for this lack of collaboration are: split allegiance/functional silos; no incentive (structure of compensation/performance reviews); corporate culture; power struggles; leadership styles clashing; and different vision among cross-functional partners (see 2/7/13 blog “Why Collaborative Leaders are more Successful“).

So what is team coaching and why is it so effective in addressing these collaborative roadblocks? As with individual coaching, team coaching is the ongoing and iterative process of development to leverage self-discovery to achieve a desired state or outcome. From our perspective, team coaching is most effective when it builds upon a common foundation (DiSC or similar assessment) to raise individual and team self-awareness and FOCUS: who are “we” and what is our collective purpose? 

Then, we shed light on those behaviors that are contributing to the team success and which ones are standing in the way. What toxins exist on the team? What agreements will be made in terms of “rules of engagement” and how will team members treat one another, especially regarding conflict/disagreements? How do team members communicate more clearly and frequently with one another and support one another in order to execute with excellence? Finally, how do team members help each other to lead courageously in order to achieve their desired state or outcome? Our team coaching approach is predicated on our TQ model of team development:


As the team explores each of these areas (team profile, creating focus, relationships and agreements, communicating clearly and frequently, executing with excellence, leading courageously), they are forging Alignment, Commitment and Trust among team members which allows the team to ACT effectively in the face of ongoing business challenges and changes. 

For the real beauty and power of team coaching lies not only in the peer-to-peer accountability and the collective collaborative muscle that is created throughout the process, but also in the sustainability of the work with the team. The team becomes a self-managed system that is sustainable in and of itself, both self-monitoring and self-adjusting as it evolves into a high functioning team. The team is now able to quickly and nimbly assimilate and react to changes in the internal organizational environment and in the external business environment as well.  “None of us is as smart as all of us.” – Ken Blanchard

Team coaching is particularly effective in situations where leaders are facing a difficult internal or external challenge/change, where there is a lack of alignment, or where internal competition is overshadowing the need for collaboration (relationships are challenging and trust may be broken). It is also extremely valuable when used proactively in a situation where a team wants or needs to move from just “good” to “great.” So, where is your organization? Do you have a lack of alignment or collaboration that is hampering progress or success? Is your organization reacting quickly enough to changes in the competitive landscape? Are you ready to move from being merely “good enough” to being “truly great”?