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Team Coaching: Applying Individual Coaching Techniques to Team Coaching | Heal The Divide Podinar

May 26, 2020

“The idea that you would stop a meeting and have [the team] observe themselves … is pretty shocking at first. It drives a sense of curiosity through self-observation that has the client want to experiment with what’s possible. What could we do? Then realize that they actually have their own solutions.”

~Alexander Caillet


What is team coaching and how does it compare with other areas of team development? Alison Whitmire of Learning in Action delves into the heart of the team coaching framework with her guest, Alexander Caillet, CEO of Corentus and faculty member of Georgetown University’s Institute for Transformational Leadership.

Caillet is “a true pioneer in this field of team coaching. He’s worked with more than 120 teams in over 30 countries for over the last 22 years,” observing and finding ways to create a framework to continue refining and improving the process.

Where Coaching Fits Into Team Development

Coaches and consultants work with teams in a variety of modalities. Caillet differentiates four of them by the professional’s involvement and the context of the interactions.

  • Team Consulting: A consultant gives advice, shares best practices, research and actually tells the team what they should or could do.
  • Team Facilitation: A facilitator guides the work session. They create the space, structure good methodologies and can take their client through a process to get an output.
  • Team Training: A trainer teaches a team a set of skills — or leads them through knowledge-building sessions, curricula, simulations, or role-plays.
  • Team Coaching: Alternatively, a coach observes a team as they do real work. As the team works, the coach quietly observes, gathers data and then feeds that data back to the team. The team hears the data and acts without the coach needing to fix, drive or manage the change for them.

‘Experimental’ Coaching

When asked if aspects of team coaching are like experimenting with new behavior, Caillet says “yes,” noting, “A lot of teams will tell you when you’re a team coach that they’ve never done something like this before.

“It’s almost like because we give them the permission to look, that they’re able to experiment themselves, and we call a method, or a tool, or way of working that they implement there, and they actually put into practice.”

He explains that coaching is more observational, with inquiry-based conversations. “We’re actually not using a methodology, but going with the flow of conversation.

“We coach the team. We listen. We ask questions, and we go with it, which means that by definition, there’s a lot of permutations here. For those folks who really love coaching, this is an exciting game. We call [team coaching] the X Games of coaching, like extreme sports, because it’s one thing to coach one (person). Coaching a conversation with eight people is a pretty amazing experience.”

Team and individual coaching share similar competencies, including presence and holding space as well as creating trust and intimacy.

Models for Team Coaching

“We look at three pieces when we do our work,” Caillet says. “First is the idea of being. The work is challenging, and you want to start with a clear state of mind.

“There’s quite a bit of work [for the coach] on centering and grounding, and that’s smack in the middle of the model. On the left side, that is what we call sensing. Sensing is our ability to in the moment gather data, capture data, and put it into a framework that allows us to then feed it back to the client.

“We do it using scripted charts, data charts. It really helps us to understand what we’re looking at. Finally, we jump in, and we make moves,” he says. The process cycles back and forth between sensing (on the left) and action (on the right), using an Outcomes, Patterns and Norms framework, acknowledging both current and desired states.

Caillet says that the team begins to employ the terms, noticing themselves what’s working and not working, asking questions like, “What are the other patterns we’d like to adopt? What would we like to do differently? … Are there new norms or ways of thinking we have to adapt to? If so, what are those? How will we implement those?”

Norms are stated values and intentional beliefs the team operates by to support their method of working together to achieve the desired result.

Follow along with an intriguing corporate case study that shows the model and framework in action, and explore additional details and context throughout the interview from audience questions.

Share your insights and team coaching experiences in the comments; we’d love to hear from you.


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Posted in: Coaching|Heal The Divide|Podinar Series

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