When managers want to coach their own teams

When managers want to coach their own teams

photo of a rowing team on a river

One of the realities of the workplace today is that managers and leaders often want to try coaching their own teams. Liz Hall, editor of Coaching at Work and author of new book, Coach Your Team, argues that coaching and mentoring professionals can play a valuable role by supporting them to do a good job, especially when they help them draw on the resources of mindfulness and compassion.

In recent times, I’ve heard a number of horror stories from coaches and coaching sponsors about team coaching gone wrong, which is why I applaud the increasing professionalisation of team coaching.

As many of us are finding out, coaching a team is much more complicated than coaching an individual, and yes, lots can go awry. It’s important as a coach to have, among other things, a strong grasp of group/team dynamics, understand how teams function, and be in supervision with someone who understands team coaching. And at times it’s helpful to have two team coaches working in partnership with a team.

This all said, the reality is that many leaders and managers are going to want to coach their teams, just as they coach individual direct reports. I believe that as coaching and mentoring professionals, there’s much we can do through one-to-one coaching and mentoring, and by offering ‘leader as coach’ and ‘manager as coach’ training to support them to do a great job. With the caveat that they should call in the team coaching experts when things get tough!

In my latest book, Coach Your Team (Penguin, 2019), I highlight the value that team coaching can make in these challenging times, and in particular coaching combined with mindfulness and compassion, an approach I call Conscious Coaching. The evidence base for coaching, mindfulness and compassion is highly compelling in terms of each of their potential contributions, and drawing on all three is a powerful cocktail.

One leader, Iñigo Castillo, former CEO of manufacturing firm Renolit, shares in my book how his mindfulness practice, training as a coach, and participative leadership approach, helped him turn around Renolit Hispania from 2005-16. And law firm Pinsent Masons’ partner development coach Sophie Turner shares her belief that a mindful and coaching organisational culture are intertwined, and that this approach has delivered many benefits for partners, including restoring resilience.

So, how can we equip leaders to draw on a Conscious Coaching style with their team?

1. Start with self – encourage the leader to engage in one-to-one coaching, and to experiment with coaching by asking themselves typical coaching questions, such as: What worked well before? What will the impact be on the rest of the system? This will help them build self awareness and resilience, and become more familiar with a coaching style.

2. Mindfulness and compassion – encourage the leader to develop mindfulness and compassion for self and others, and to be better able to receive compassion. This will help them be more resilient, emotionally intelligent, focused and creative, and be impressive leaders-as-coaches.

3. Conscious Coaching mindset – encourage the leader to adopt a Conscious Coaching mindset – developing core attitudes of this approach, including:

• A ‘beginner’s mind’ of curiosity and openness
• A growth mindset, with commitment to learning and developing non-judging where possible
• Letting go
• Trust
• Patience
• Flexing into non-striving where possible and attending to being, not just doing
• Gratitude and appreciation
• Generosity, kindness and compassion
• Courage and turning towards difficulty, rather than burying one’s head in the sand
• Authenticity and integrity

4. Ripple out – support the leader to adopt a coaching-style approach with others, empowering and facilitating, asking rather than telling, and listening deeply. We can consider six levels of listening:

• Interrupting (which isn’t really listening!)
• Waiting for our turn to speak
• Giving advice
• Attentive listening
• Active listening
• Deep listening

The last of these, deep listening, involves listening with our body and our heart, as well as our ears. It requires us to be grounded, present and compassionate.

5. Relationships – support the leader to understand relationship dynamics and processes, such as parallel process.

6. Easy wins – help the leader have some easy wins when coaching the team, asking questions such as: What’s our purpose here? What do you think would work well? What has worked well in the past? What are you feeling about this initiative?

7. Systemic approach – help the leader take a systemic approach, accessing multiple perspectives, including that of Mother Earth.

8. Reaching out – ensure leaders are (at the very least) equipped to do no harm, and able to recognise when they’re out of their depth and need to reach out to fully fledged team coaches!

I believe adopting a Conscious Coaching approach is just what’s needed in these times, when we need greater resilience, courage, compassion and creativity.

Liz Hall is a coach (qualified to EMCC Senior Practitioner level), a certified mindfulness teacher, editor of Coaching at Work, and author of books including Mindful Coaching (Kogan Page, 2013) and Coach Your Team (Penguin, 2019).

Photo by Mitchell Luo on Unsplash