The impossible team coaching

Last week I had a session with a few of our team coaching alumni. They had called for “first aid” — a kind of supervision session due to a team coaching process that they had started to engage with. As we always do, they had started with a lovely contracting with the manager of the team and then continued to do a “constructive rant” with the team. The constructive rant is a form of contracting with a team developed by John Brooker. Detailed instructions are here. Basically, the exercise leads to people identifying what they want “instead”, what their future should look like and it also gives them a chance to vent. Now this team could not agree on a common goal. The only one they could find was very general and not workable.

What to do? In our discussion, I became very curious — usually, a team has a common goal already, otherwise they would not be a team. A team is usually defined as any group of people organized to work together, both interdependently and cooperatively to accomplish a purpose or a goal. Why was this not the case here? (Ok, I usually don’t ask a lot of why questions, but I was really curious what was going on here).

It transpired that the team was actually 2 teams, or even worse 1 team and a group of individual contributors who happened to work for the same manager — so there was no interdependence, no need for cooperation and no joint purpose or goal. It literally does not make sense for them to be coached together!

Once we had understood that that was the situation, the solution became obvious — let’s not do a team coaching. We all learned something (i.e. that this is not a team). My alumni decided to recontract with the manager and ask about what kind of groupings for possible team coaching would make sense. Probably a team coaching for the team and a group coaching for the group. The team would identify what they want to do better together, the group would identify how they could be helpful to each other in their respective roles (for example through best practice sharing, group supervision, reflective teams etc.).

I was reminded of to important things:

  • there are usually really good reasons when things don’t work out as we team coaches planned
  • don’t assume anything when you start a team coaching — not even that it makes sense to do one 🙂

If you’d like to come to discuss your difficulties, challenges, learnings etc. or if you would like information about our team coaching course, please come to our free coaching meetup and exchange:

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