Why do we need team coaching?

17 October 2018
Caroline Sumners

The most ambitious organisations have long seen executive coaching and individual coaching programmes help their high performing staff drive the business to greater heights. So, what do ambitious organisations do when they want to further develop staff (or seek marginal gains over their competition)? They take the next step and turn to team coaching.

To understand the deeper value of team coaching however, we first need clarity on what exactly makes a team. I find Katzenback & Smith’s definition helpful here:

A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals, and approach for which they are mutually accountable.” – Katzenback & Smith, 1993

This definition is very much a ‘go to’ meaning of what we mean by a team used across the industry and it’s the one that I’ve found makes sense to teams themselves. It usefully breaks down each element of team work so that we can clearly see i) the disciplines any high performing team needs to master and ii) the make-up of the kinds of teams that are normally successful.

It calls for a ‘small number’ because larger groups can struggle to interact effectively. In my experience the ideal size of senior leadership team is five to eight members. ‘Complementary skills’ notes the need to create a balanced group representing all key perspectives. Finally, a ‘common purpose’ is vital too. The best leadership teams identify the role they play in the organisation’s overall strategy and therefore the role everyone has to play within the team. Moreover, the most effective teams ensure this purpose is specific, measurable and compelling to ensure full enthusiasm and accountability across the team.

And it’s this third point that really highlights the need for team coaching.

Teams that succeed do so because they are best able to commit to and pursue their ‘common purpose’. Indeed, it is the ability of a team to hold themselves to account that makes a mere collection of people into a team. And it is team coaching – encouraging team members to contribute beyond commenting, reviewing and deciding as well as supporting them in agreeing how progress is tracked and continuing membership will be earned – that solidifies that group into a team capable of making a real difference in their organisation.