October 24, 2019

A guide to coaching: one to one vs team coaching

“Coaching is about connecting with people, inspiring them to do their best, and helping them to grow.” Ed Batista, executive coach and instructor at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

For both teams and individuals coaching will help with learning, growth and improving performance.

Individual coaching is well known and common practice within many businesses, particularly with members of the executive team. The International Coaching Federation estimates that there are 53,300 coaches worldwide and the market is growing. Forbes predict that over the next decade working with a coach will become the norm.

Team coaching isn’t as broadly adopted, however like one to one coaching it is on the rise. Teams are where most work gets done in organisations today so, if coaching is about inspiring people to do their best, that increasingly means helping people to excel as a unified and focused team.

This week we explore team vs one to one coaching. Where and when they should be applied and how they complement or clash. We look at how they help in achieving organisational goals and how you can get started with digital or manager lead coaching.

One to one Coaching

One to one coaching is designed to help people create change in themselves. Usually this means improving a skill or capability in order to achieve a personal objective. In many organisations employees are encouraged to set personal objectives in line with the company goals, so one to one coaching should have a positive impact on business performance.

However, as work becomes more collaborative it’s more important to work alongside or even rely upon our teammates to reach our own goals. So how can we adapt one to one coaching to help us reach our goals while considering the importance of collaboration?

Know yourself

One to one coaching can help improve self awareness as well as skills, and with greater self awareness comes better collaboration.

Self awareness

Coaches will prompt their clients to reflect more often and experiment with changes in their own behaviours. A good place to start is to think about how how your personality and values affect your work. Anyone who’s taken a personality test has probably taken some time at the end of the test to consider if it’s a true reflection of themselves but often that’s the extent of how the tests are used. Spending some time digesting and translating psychometrics into a ‘personal profile’ can help both you and your teammates understand how you work alone and with others.

Self management

From here you can start to adapt the way you work to reach your personal goals and to increase your own engagement. Do you use your strengths every day at work? Are you clear about your personal goals? How do you deal with stress and how can you minimise stressful situations?

Social awareness

Take an interest in the people around you. As we mentioned earlier we often depend on others to get our jobs done and hit our goals. Therefore one to one coaching doesn’t mean just focusing on the individual.To improve the way we work means considering the people around us, what influences them at wok and how we can adapt our own working styles to reduce conflict.

Know your team

Team coaching is about the team creating collective change. It takes the growth and learning one step further than one to one coaching. So rather than individuals improving their skills and social awareness to achieve their own goals, the team are coached to work together to achieve a shared goal. Team coaching involves everyone in the team, including the leader, so there’s collective accountability and shared benefit for everyone in the team.

It’s more complex than individual coaching but likely to have a bigger impact. Even if the whole team are receiving individual coaching they will be working at different paces and focussing on different goals, therefore there’s often an imbalance between those in the team pushing for better team performance and those solely focussed on their own goals.

This isn’t to say that team members would be letting the team down by focussing on their own goals, individuals should absolutely have their own aims that motivate and drive them. But alongside this teams should share a common goal to ensure company growth, which in turn means reward for individual and team performance.

How team coaching works

Team coaching helps people understand how to work better with others. This is either by understanding relationships in the team to reduce conflict, focussing on how people interact and communicate, or helping teams to clarify a shared purpose, goals and roles.

We’ve spent hundreds of hours researching the best approach to team coaching, reviewing academic research, books, talking to coaches and teams and have concluded that the best team coaching involves a combination of all three of the approaches above.

Beyond this we’ve also spent time understanding the best approach for digital or manager lead team coaching.

The essentials for digital coaching

We recommend every self or digitally coached team starts with relationships, behaviours, goals and purpose. This complements the one to one coaching approach — having better self awareness helps facilitate more productive conversations about how you behave as a team. Start with sharing the personal profile mentioned above to create deeper relationships and a basis of trust in the team. Then look at how you work as a team day to day, small things like agreeing whether it’s ok to turn up to meetings late or committing to letting people speak frankly without holding back. A ‘behaviours’ exercise that works well is to agree what you as a team would consider the worst five behaviours to be and commit to exhibiting the opposite — this creates a shared culture or a charter unique to your team.

Next the team need to understand and agree on what they’re working towards before they get to work. Defining goals and purpose are the best way to do this. An agreed set of goals and a shared purpose can help reduce conflict and in teams with strong trust they should feel free to challenge themselves and each other by asking “is what I’m/you’re doing today going to help us achieve our goals” if the answer is no then everyone in the team should be supportive in re-prioritising.

Encourage reflection

Similarly to one to one coaching, team coaches also encourage reflection. This is includes discussing how you’re working as a team and regularly revisiting your purpose and goals. The cadence of reflection will vary from team to team with many agile teams meeting every day to discuss their work and reflecting every fortnight on their goals and progress. This might not fit into every teams schedule but taking time out every week to make some notes on how you’re working as a team and gathering together to feed that back on a monthly basis is a good minimum starting point.

Building this habit of reflection is simple in principle but hard in practise, especially with mounting to-do lists. Which is why we built CoachBot, a digital coach that prompts teams to reflect regularly and provides an online dashboard to store reflection notes. When there’s enough notes for a productive meeting CoachBot will then suggest to the team that it’s time to get together for a team retrospective.

Link to the organisation

One to one and team coaching both benefit the company as a whole. With highly skilled employees and more focussed teams, organisations are more likely to reach their goals and retain their staff. Easy ways to link one to one coaching to organisational goals are to consider how your individual values link to the organisational purpose. Think about why you joined the organisation or pick a couple of organisational values that align with your own to become more connected to the wider organisation.

For teams, it’s about linking team goals to organisational goals. Many organisation impose top down goals on teams based on the overall company strategy, if teams can translate these goals into their own language they become much more motivating.

In conclusion, the most successful companies combine individual and team coaching. Could you ever imagine a great football coach that exclusively focussed coaching either the individual or the team? If you said to Alex Ferguson or Bill Belichick “It’s OK to talk to the team as a whole but don’t ever have a one to one with a player” what do you think the reaction would have been? Sometimes you need to put your arm around someone that needs a confidence boost. On the flip-side it’s ludicrous to say “you can coach individuals one on one but don’t ever coach the team as a whole”.

Learn more about CoachBot here.

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