Where’s the value in team coaching?

Apr 03, 2018
Team coaching helps develop trust, build resilience and foster adaptability, which could be why it’s becoming a go-to learning tool for organisations.
Cathie Marsh, one of the greatest British survey researchers, often said it was important  that researchers were detectives, not lawyers. In other words, in the great tradition established by Sherlock Holmes, Colombo and Nancy Drew, that they are fundamentally more concerned with discovering and understanding exactly what was going on in and around the subject they are researching than in approaching discoveries with a view to utilising them in defence of a preordained position.
To really understand the benefits of team coaching, we have taken on the role of detectives ourselves. We looked at the members of four teams who have gone through a series of interventions. Admittedly, our sample size wasn’t huge, but the quantitative survey in question has been part of a much larger piece of research around team coaching intervention programmes and, in that context, the results have been very useful.

The team effectiveness wheel

We start with a team effectiveness wheel diagnostic, which you can try out yourself at Eighty20Focus.com. The tool helps an individual team member to reflect on the effectiveness of the team as a whole when benchmarked against eight key measurements. 
These areas are clustered into three subgroupings, central to which is the standalone measurement of ‘core learning’. The first cluster focuses on developing a culture where a team learns from its own performance and multiple processes. It also intentionally consolidates those lessons for the next cycle of development, empowering a team to ‘raise its game’ to meet the increasingly complex challenges they may have to face. In the last issue, we wrote about the power in Peter Senge’s great question: what can we learn from what just happened? This comes into play in the first cluster.
The second cluster focuses on the team’s performance when carrying out the day job. It assesses the following at an individual team member level:
  • The individual’s level of understanding of the team’s purpose and the commission it has received from its various stakeholders;
  • The individual’s degree of clarity around team goals, objectives, protocols, organisational resources, and several other aspects of what has been called its “mission and team charter”;
  • The individual’s ability to co-create as they process and strategise with team colleagues to achieve their objective while ensuring that they collectively work together creatively and effectively; and
  • The individual’s connectivity through engagement across the wider organisation and beyond in order to transform stakeholder relationships. This impacts not only a team’s performance, but that of the wider organisation as well.  
The third cluster seeks to analyse the culture in which the team is working by benchmarking three factors: how aligned the team is to its wider organisational voice and priorities; where the trust levels sit, both internally within the team and between the team and its stakeholders; and the level of resilience and adaptability within the team in the felt experience of its members. 
These eight measurements represent the fruit of significant academic and practical research projects carried out across a wide spectrum of organisations and, we believe, combine to set the bar quite high when it comes to evaluating both team effectiveness itself and work done by coaches, consultants and other ‘interventionists’ seeking to help improve team performance. There may be other factors which organisations wish to consider, but it is our experience that most, if not all, of these can be contained within the eight measurements captured above.

The results

To find out the value of team coaching, we asked respondents to anonymously complete a questionnaire of 36 questions designed to help them identify the degree to which the team coaching intervention programme helped their team to improve its performance against each of the measures. While accepting that all answers were subjective in nature, and that one woman’s ‘significantly improved’ might mean the same as another man’s ‘somewhat improved’, we believe that the overall research is robust enough to give a good initial overview of participant-perceived value.
The results were certainly interesting. As you can see in the table above, they showed that the team coaching intervention programme was most helpful in developing trust, both internally among team members and externally between the team and the wider organisation. Team coaching was also perceived as being very useful in building team resilience and adaptability. 
From a work process perspective, the interventions have also been identified as being of use. The results showed a 63% to 65% improvement in team members’ understanding of the team’s objective and how best to go about achieving that objective. From a stakeholder perspective, this is a result that should translate positively into the bottom line. At the same time, achieving a 58% increase in understanding the need for, and ability to deliver on, positive engagements across the wider organisation shows that there is room for developing the interventions further.

Sustainable development

Perhaps of most encouragement was the 64% increase in the teams’ perceived ability to learn from themselves. This, as we alluded to in the February issue of Accountancy Ireland, is what creates long-term, sustainable effectiveness. When aligned with an increase in a team’s ability to trust itself and other colleagues in the organisation, while facilitating the development of deeper levels of team resilience and adaptability, this provides a strong ‘three-legged stool’ from which team members and stakeholders alike can create a strong, successful future.
Ian Mitchell and Siân Lumsden are co-founders of Eighty20Focus, a real-time executive coaching organisation.

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