This new column by Georgina Woudstra seeks to stimulate thinking around the growing landscape of team coaching

In the 22 years since the International Coach Federation was founded, individual coaching has become robustly defined, grounded on a clear ethos and core coaching competencies.

Organisations around the world have created schools based on this grounding, often underpinning the process competencies of coaching with different psychological approaches.

So, individual coaching has reached maturity. However, team coaching is a relatively new, emerging field filled with untested assumptions. We know that the term ‘team coaching’ is increasingly used by coaches to mean anything from coaching a group of individuals (action-learning set format) to team workshops, team building, team facilitation, team consulting, coaching a team leader on leading their team and more.

Team performance researchers Hackman and Wageman (2005, p269) describe team coaching as “…direct interaction with a team intended to help members make coordinated and task-appropriate use of their collective resources in accomplishing the team’s work”.

Clutterbuck (2007) describes it as “helping the team improve performance, and the processes by which performance is achieved, through reflection and dialogue”.

Various other definitions are based on the assumption that team coaching is about performance. Whitmore’s seminal book Coaching for Performance (1992) shaped our early thinking in this respect. We have moved on to a broader definition of coaching based on varying philosophies about people and change, for example: coaching for awareness, learning, growth, development, solutions, change, transformation, meaning and purpose.

A contrasting view from Hawkins’ systemic team coaching is defined as “a process by which a team coach works with a whole team… in order to help them improve both their collective performance and how they work together, and also how they develop their collective leadership to more effectively engage with all their key stakeholder groups to jointly transform the wider business.” (p60)

My approach, ‘relational team coaching’, puts connectedness at the heart of teams.
In life, we learn, develop and grow in relationships; and relationships are the heart of team effectiveness. A relational approach is about the quality of relationships within the team, between team and the system and between coach and team. I believe that attending to the wider system is important. However, unless team members can maintain effective, productive relationships, then in my experience, data from the wider system causes the team to fracture as they cannot hold and process pressure from the system.

Many approaches seem far removed from the actual ethos of coaching, which is to honour the client as the expert in his or her life and work and to believe every client is creative, resourceful and whole. In the case of team coaching, the team becomes the ‘client’ and I believe the core principles of coaching still stand. It is the coach’s responsibility to:

  • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
  • Encourage client self-discovery
  • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
  • Hold the client responsible and accountable


Coaches must develop their own definition of team coaching congruent with their philosophical view of people and change. They can then develop a methodology and an authenticity and presence to withstand the rollercoaster that team coaching can be.

  • Next issue: the role of the team coach



  • J R Hackman & R Wageman, ‘A theory of team coaching’, in Academy of Management Review, 30(2), pp269-287, 2005
  • D Clutterbuck, Coaching the Team at Work, London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing, 2007
  • P Hawkins, Leadership Team Coaching: Developing Collective Transformational Leadership, London: Kogan Page, 2011


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