Team coaching – a growing trend
Team coaching is on the rise and seen as a growing trend in organisations. This is not surprising given the ascendency of teams at work in recent years and the links between teams and organisational performance.
With this growing focus on teams at work, the means of supporting them has followed with the last Ridler Report telling us that 76% of organisations were expecting to see a rise in the use of team coaching in the last two years alone.
This trend is further evidenced by an increased spend on team coaching by organisations, with the total revenue for coaching services globally estimated to be $2.35bn, and a potential market size for team coaching of $26,437,500. With this size of commercial opportunity, it is not surprising that coaches are looking to move from the saturated, and over-provisioned, individual coaching market into the team development space to capitalise on this demand.
The creation and launch of teamGenie® is a planned part of this market movement. Other new entrants will likely follow with inevitable tensions between (over) supply of team coaches, (variable) quality standards and (similarly variable) pricing. Caveat emptor!
What is team coaching?
While market interest and growth potential both paint an encouraging picture, there is still widespread misunderstanding about what team coaching actually is. As far back as 2009, Prof. David Clutterbuck pointed out, ‘When people and organisations talk about team coaching, they may mean very different things’ and we are still not much clearer 10+ years on. While there have been a few texts published on team coaching in the past decade that appeal to practitioners, these are not research-driven or based on sound empirical studies. Given this, many of the claims made about team coaching frameworks and methods can only be seen as conjecture. With published team coaching research still to catch up, it is not surprising that the work of team coaching practitioners has moved ahead of the literature. This has led to team coaches being left largely to their own devices to determine what effective team coaching looks like. Practices therefore vary hugely along with claims about their efficacy for teams.
The lack of clarity about what team coaching is (and isn’t) is also unhelpful to organisations looking to support teams with their everyday challenges. For example, typical questions organisations are asking are:
- What is team coaching and how does it differ from group coaching and other interventions with teams such as facilitation and team building?
- Is team coaching a suitable approach given the issues a team is describing?
- When and under what circumstances should I suggest team coaching?
- What does a team coach actually do with a team in the room?
- How long does it take and what commitment does this entail for a team?
- What difference will it make and is the team ready?
Defining key terms (e.g. what is team coaching?) would be hugely helpful here. Sadly, an agreed classification of team coaching does not exist at present.
The role of the professional coaching bodies
More encouragingly, the professional coaching bodies are responding to this need. The International Coaching Federation (ICF) has just produced a team coaching competency model and the Association for Coaching (AC) and European Coaching and Mentoring Council are progressing in parallel, with the AC planning to launch a team coach accreditation scheme (led by teamGenie’s Declan Woods) later in 2021. This work will fill a badly needed gap and help educate organisations not only on what team coaching is but also what effective team coaching practice looks like. In turn, this should help firms make more informed decisions when selecting team coaches to support their teams.
The recently published article by Lucy Widdowson and colleagues, ‘Bridging the Team Coaching Competency Gap: A review of the literature’, covers many of the key debates around the underpinning knowledge and skills required to team coach and is a useful read. More practically, the team coaching competency framework, ‘Team Coaching Excellence, Understanding the Core Competencies’, produced by coach training provider Team Coaching Studio (TCS) is also well worth a read, particularly for practicing team coaches. This framework is central to TCS’ core team coach training programmes if you are looking to top up your training and find practical ways of integrating these skills and competencies into your approach to working with teams.
Team coaching versus other team interventions
Until the professional coaching bodies work brings more clarity to the field, ‘team coaching’ remains an umbrella concept covering a wide range of practices including team building, team facilitation, reflective practice groups and action learning sets and the like. These practices are all useful all be it some have little coaching in them.
An article by Rebecca Jones at Henley Business School and colleagues has made a valuable start in trying to understand the differences between these interventions with teams and is also a useful read whether you are a practitioner or buyer of team coaching services.
Team coaching is at a similar state of maturity to individual coaching over twenty years ago: still in its infancy, with lots of interest and potential, and a wide range of practices and approaches taking place under its purview as diverse as the practitioners that use them.
Through this article, we hope to have brought more clarity to, what can be, an often-unclear state of the (team) coaching market and to continuing to help you make sense of it as it evolves and matures in future editions of this post.
 ICF UK Team Coaching Working Party, unpublished, 2018