Dessy Ohanians – Managing Director Certificate and Corporate Programmes, London School of Business and Finance, explores the benefits of team and individual coaching
A few year ago, I came across the question: “What is the difference between a team and a working group?” They both are made up of individuals with unique strengths and weaknesses, however, a team is different from any other group of people due to the fact that the individuals within a team are united by a shared goal and purpose. Teams go through the familiar cycle of ‘forming’, ‘storming’, ‘norming’ and ‘performing’ and, in the current business environment, these stages cycle faster than ever. Teams, just like individuals, need building and developing, motivating, training, mentoring, inspiring and coaching.
Historically, organisations have focused on increasing productivity through the individual employee. That is why 10 to 15 years ago the focus was predominantly on individual coaching, but statistics show that coaching teams are now increasingly widespread. Companies are realising that the cumulative effect of independent, agile and self-directed teams is of far greater impact on the bottom line compared to when coaching benefits the lone leader. Of course, that is a generalisation and there are exceptions.
The benefits of individual coaching are widely known and accepted, including building independent self- confidence and gaining skills for life. For the organisation, the benefits of individual coaching are demonstrated in reduced staff turnover, more engaged employees and improved productivity.
Team coaching brings benefits to the whole organisation, as well as individual members of those teams, which are distinct from those obtained from individual coaching. For one, team coaching is known to improve the interpersonal support skills of listening, questioning and feedback. One of the features of a successful team is deep trust between the team members and highly effective collaborative practices
These results cannot be achieved in isolation or through individual work, but only in the context of a team. From the point of view of the organisation, team coaching is proven to positively impact the bottom line. The benefits are also not limited to just financial measures. Coaching can foster a culture of continuous learning, help break down silos between different parts of the organisation, increase the teams’ functionality and maturity by helping teams evolve faster than they could have done on their own and stimulate the entrepreneurial mindset of the employees.
How to be successful
As the foundation for coaching is an open and honest conversation, not all teams are ready to be coached. Three factors contribute to a successful coaching relationship. In the first instance, the team must be willing to learn new behaviours and apply them daily. This must then be supported by the capacity to evolve and change. And finally, the glue that will hold this change together, in the long run, would be the team’s commitment to the process. There must be an urgency to the issues identified and serious consequences if nothing changes.
Some teams are not ready to be coached. Teams that are deeply dysfunctional or have serious problems to fix are not going to benefit from any coaching sessions given to them. Coaching needs to be viewed as a developmental strategy, aimed at helping teams reach a predefined strategic goal and improve their performance while working towards that goal.
Assessing and evaluating
There isn’t a standard formula that fits all teams all the time when it comes to the coaching process. As a general sequence of events, it is typical that the coaching process starts with a discovery and assessment session in order to establish a basic understanding of where the team is at and what are the challenges faced. The findings are communicated back to the team to agree on what isn’t working in the current situation and what needs to change. What follows, in most cases, is the creation of an action plan that will guide the coaching sessions in the following weeks and months. The duration of the coaching assignment depends on how long it would take the team to implement the new behaviours and reach the ultimate goal.
My own experience of coaching began in the form of group coaching. This is different from team coaching as we were not individuals bound by a common purpose or a goal. The benefits of team coaching can reach beyond the team, into other parts of the organisation or the personal lives of the team members. Studies have shown that organisations with coached teams have a culture that is 36% more collaborative, 32% lower staff turnover and 18% more likely to show an improved bottom line.
No progress can be made without a sincere evaluation of the team and individuals’ ethos. When a route is not working, continuing the same path can be more damaging than profitable. Evaluate with consideration for the individual and proceed with a method that suits the team and brings them to their collaborative best. The positive results for the individual, team and you will then be realised.
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