What does a team coach do?

21 September 2018
Caroline Sumners

As a relatively young discipline team coaching continues to endure a range of definitions. This lack of clarity is not helpful for clients trying to understand whether they need a team coach, or a coach trying to understand how they can best support teams.

When I start working with a team, I often run an exercise that helps them understand my role as their coach. I ask them to define a range of jobs: coach, facilitator, trainer, mentor and some others. It’s a simple exercise, but it helps unearth where each of these roles overlap and differ and – critically – it ensures that there’s an understanding in place of exactly what a coach does (and does not) do. After all, it’s no use to anybody if your role slowly unravels to become admin heavy, overly consultative or suddenly responsible for the day-to-day results of the team, something that should remain the role of the team leader.

To really help develop a successful team, the focus for the team coach must remain as it does for any other client and build on the core competencies of our profession, for example active listening, powerful questioning and direct communication. It’s this commitment that will clearly define the importance of team coaching, keep the coach focused on the right kind of activities and ultimately lead to successful outcomes.

Of course, while the competencies for coaching teams and individuals overlap, it’s important to recognise that teams are different from individuals in certain ways. To handle this, I have devised an additional set of competencies that have helped me out a lot when coaching teams: i) providing psychological safety and protection, ii) modelling effective relating, iii) stimulating reflection and iv) generating effective dialogue.

When combined, these competencies create an environment for the team to think more clearly, be more aware and form stronger relationships. And it’s all of this when taken together that will strengthen teamwork, increase focus and ultimately improve the team’s performance.