Team and Group Coaching – From Confusion to Clarity

Coaching has emerged in the last decade as a viable and sought after performance improvement and professional development option. More and more organizations are obtaining coaches as a way to address performance gaps that exist within their leaders and their teams. It is estimated from organizational development research that only one in five teams are considered high performing. This can be significant because of the amount of time and money wasted on teams whose performance is poor and unproductive.

Organizations are looking for fresh and innovative ways to develop their employees and unlock their potential. Helping them to learn rather than simply teaching them new concepts. Providing coaching for the teams and groups within an organization is both innovative and cost effective. It is a cutting-edge intervention to optimize performance and more and more organizations are exploring this option. Research conducted by International Coaching Federation indicates that companies are eager to expand coaching throughout its organization principally to accelerate performance.

So what exactly is team coaching and what’s the difference between team coaching and group coaching?

These two questions can be heard both within the coaching community and within organizations. Confusion exists and that is perfectly understandable given the newness of the methodology. This confusion is similar to the confusion that existed during the early days of individual coaching. As the coaching field has evolved and literature has been written, more and more people are beginning to understand the nuances of these methodologies.

Simply stated, team and group coaching happens at the intersection of the group dynamics and coaching. Where 2 or more people interact, dynamics are present. The skill and approach of the coach will determine how much the dynamics are integrated into the coaching experience. For me, I embrace the dynamics that are created by the team and/or the group and use them as the vehicle to evoke awareness and change.

Team and Group Coaching Defined

In team coaching, the principal entry of the coaching engagement is driven by the leader of an intact team or team lead (Barrett, 2006; Skiffington & Zeus, 2008). The coach focuses on the goal of the leader, not on the goals of each individual on the team. The purpose of the coaching engagement is generally on improving the effectiveness of the team as they work towards a common goal.

Although some similarities exist between team and group coaching, the purpose in group coaching is to engage each individual on their own respective goals by using the vehicle of group process. Leveraging the input of other members in the group, individual awareness can be increased (Corey, 1990; Forsyth, 2006; Lewin, 1951). This approach I refer to as the horizontal approach because group members are generally at the same “peer-like” level either within or without the organization. The coach acts as a facilitator of the group process (McGrath & Argote, 2003).

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Barrett, P.T. (2006). The effects of group coaching on executive health and team effectiveness. Dissertations Abstracts International (3227469).
Corey, G. (1990). Theory and practice of group counseling (3rd ed.). Monterey: Brook/Cole.
Forsyth, D. (2006). Introduction to group dynamics. United States: Thomson Wadsworth Publishing.
Lewin, K. (1951). Field theory in social science. New York: Harper.
Mc Grath, J., & Argote, L. (2003). Group processes in organizational contexts. In M. Hogg & S. Tindale, (Eds.,) Blackwell handbook of social psychology: Group processes (pp. 603-627). Malden, MA: Blackwell.
Skiffington, S., & Zeus, P. (2008). Behavioral coaching: How to build sustainable personal and organizational strength. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Companies.