No matter the industry or company type, effective teamwork is crucial to the success of a business. Organizations gather individuals with unique learning and communication styles to work toward achieving common goals. But trying to motivate a collection of people with different perspectives and interests can be challenging.
Team coaching addresses this problem. A team coach enters the workplace and helps teams collaborate and stay on track.
This article discusses what team coaching is, why it’s valuable, and how you can excel at this coaching specialty.
The rise of team coaching
Valuing employee interests and work-life balance has become increasingly common in recent years. Employers now realize that happy employees offer increased productivity and influential social proof that their company is worth working at.
A popular way to help employees achieve their goals and enjoy their work is with a coaching management style. Business leaders are either implementing coaching techniques themselves or hiring coaches to work with their employees. This can be done in several ways, like executive leadership coaching for a C-suite member, a specialized coaching program for an underperforming individual, or team coaching for an entire department.
What is team coaching?
Team coaches guide groups of people that share a common purpose, such as completing a large project or learning a new tool. They’ll focus on the individuals within the team and the group as a whole, figuring out how everyone is motivated most effectively and working to improve overall team development.
Here are a few common goals team coaches may help their clients with:
- Identifying communication shortfalls and offering alternative methods
- Teaching teams about useful performance strategies and tactics
- Working with individuals that may slow the group down
- Leveraging people’s strengths to address others’ weaknesses
- Working with team leaders to ensure management best practices are honored
Benefits of team coaching
Team coaching is invaluable, as these professionals act as neutral parties that can help facilitate a company’s processes. Here’s how coaches improve team performance:
- Increase team effectiveness: When multiple people work toward the same goal, progress should happen more quickly. But that’s only true if everyone understands their roles and responsibilities and aren’t stepping on each other’s toes. Professional coaches help each team member understand their objectives and what they bring to the table. They look out for areas of improvement and offer suggestions to streamline the workflow and amp up productivity.
- Decrease communication conflicts: A glaring weakness of inefficient teams is communication misunderstandings. A team coach watches for communication conflicts, offering ways for individuals and team segments to improve their skills. For example, they might notice that two team members often get into disagreements over Slack. They can evaluate each person’s communication style (direct, indirect, timid, aggressive, etc.) and offer suggestions to help each member understand and work with their teammate’s style better.
- Promote the exchange of thoughts and ideas between team members: Team coaches facilitate conversations that may not have occurred otherwise. They’re unbiased outsiders asking thoughtful questions to nudge a team in the right direction. Team coaches will often organize brainstorming exercises and team-building workshops to get ideas flowing and prompt even the shyest team members to share their thoughts.
- Prevent conflict from undermining productivity: A coach can teach conflict management skills to individuals or the entire team to help them avoid disputes that may slow down a project. This will also improve employee satisfaction, increasing an organization’s retention rate and contributing to a positive company culture.
- Implement a team-based approach: A team is only as strong as its weakest player. It's in everybody’s best interest to ensure that all members have the resources and support needed to perform their best. A team coach will approach both individual and group coaching with the whole picture in mind: getting everyone to understand the value of teamwork and prepare to achieve shared goals.
How to excel at team coaching
Now that we understand why team coaching matters, it’s time to become a pro. Here are seven useful team coaching strategies worth practicing:
- Know every team member: The best way to improve an entire team is by focusing on improving each part. Even though we’re assisting a group of people, each individual needs support to feel prepared to change. The team strengthens as everyone develops individually.
- Set clear and realistic goals: Effective goals are achievable and measurable. Each team member must have a clear understanding of their responsibilities. They also need to feel like these tasks are possible. Otherwise, they’ll feel defeated before they even begin.
- Encourage communication and feedback: You can only solve what you know needs fixing. Ask open-ended questions to provoke honest, detailed answers, and use this information to tweak action items and roadmaps. Create a feedback cadence for everyone involved. This includes giving and receiving feedback between yourself and the team, the team members internally, and individuals with their higher-ups.
- Define specific roles for each team member: Once you thoroughly understand the team dynamic and each individual’s strengths and weaknesses, assign specific roles to each member. This helps each individual see how they contribute to the overall project and improves focus.
- Focus on collaboration: This ties into the team-based approach mentioned earlier. While each member is assigned a role and specific responsibilities, they must feel they have an entire team of capable individuals on their side. Encourage team members to see their employees as valuable resources. You can do this by setting up brainstorming sessions and social hours or asking that every new idea be run by the entire team for input.
- Build a strong relationship based on mutual trust: The only way these individuals will trust your advice and expertise is if you create a good rapport with them. We recommend approaching coaching sessions with transparency and honesty, perhaps sharing anecdotes about teams you’ve worked on before where things didn’t go so well and why you think that is. Ask for feedback from them often and receive it thankfully. Remaining humble throughout the coaching process will help build trust between you and your clients.
- Be practical and empathetic about inter-team disputes: The office is often competitive and stressful, so tensions are bound to flare up occasionally. When conflicts occur, promote accountability, problem-solving, and reconciliation. Steer clear of pointing fingers or picking sides, as this only escalates hostilities.
Being adaptable and responsive can never hurt when coaching a team. You’re asking this group to do the same, so you should lead by example.
Prepare to adjust strategies and approaches to fit team competencies and goals. Set up more formal check-ins during important parts of the coaching process — likely the beginning, middle, and end of a project. Make yourself available via email or a business phone, taking work-life balance into account and only checking once you’re prepared to work.
A great way to be responsive while protecting your free time is with a customer relationship management (CRM) system. Practice allows you to communicate directly with clients. It also stores important documents like client intake forms and coaching proposal templates, so you can easily refer to this information during in-person or virtual conversations. Try it today.