The Secret to Coaching Teams

This is a guest post by Kevin Stebbings. He is a coaching instructor with Creative Results Management and leads two ICF-approved teleclass series Group Coaching. Kevin is the author of What Do You Really, Really Want?

As a professional coach, I know how to coach well. But when I began coaching work teams, my coaching skills fell short. I discovered a fatal flaw: I listened to the wrong voice.

As a coach, my listening skills are highly trained and well practiced to focus in on the individual needs of a client. This approach worked well until I began coaching teams.

When I first began coaching teams, I focused on the individual needs of each team member. I tried to ensure that everyone had equal airtime. This approach didn’t work. Managing the multiple voices and agendas of team members was impossible.

I discovered that not all of the frameworks and mindsets of individual coaching translate to team coaching.

Perhaps you have tried coaching teams and haven’t seen the results you hoped for. Here’s the secret, you have to listen to the voice of the team!

Listen To The Voice of the Team

After attending team coaching training and researching team coaching, I discovered a new approach to teams and a new way of listening.

I changed my focus to listen to the voice of the team. I viewed the team as the client, not as a collection of individual clients. [Tweet “To coach a team, you must listen to the voice of the team, not just the team members.”]

Two helpful approaches that have impacted my coaching of teams:

  • Reminding myself, “The team is the client.” (Not an individual.)
  • Asking, “What is the voice of the team saying?” (Not the individual voices.)

What the Team Said…

My coaching approach shifted once I understood the importance of viewing the team from a systems perspective. I began hearing the voice of the team.

  • I heard the team say, “There is a lack of synchronized effort,” but the individuals each spoke to how much they contributed to the team.
  • Another team said, “Our outcomes are unclear,” when the team members were each satisfied with their assignments.

I laid this new layer of listening on top of my individual coaching skills. Like any new skill, it was difficult at first. It took practice and I made mistakes along the way. The end result though is a new level of listening and awareness that I did not experience from individual coaching alone.

As a coach, I am no longer drawn into the individual needs and conflicts of the team members. I am able to have a broader perspective that was much more helpful to the team.

My coaching is now more effective in serving the team to reach their goals and objectives. I hope you can discover the power of listening to the voice of the team!

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    Keith is President of Creative Results Management. He helps busy leaders multiply their impact. Keith is the author of several books including The COACH Model for Christian Leaders.

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