Georgina Woudstra feels blessed. The founder of Team Coaching Studio has been instrumental in getting team coaching recognised as a discipline by professional bodies. She credits her many successes in life to opportunities and synchronicities. Liz Hall reports


Practising the art of surrender is core to Georgina Woudstra’s, CEO and principal of team coach training business Team Coaching Studio (TCS), approach to work and the rest of her life.

“My life’s full of synchronicities and opportunities that I just say yes to and then see where they take me. I feel guided. I’m very blessed.” 

In addition to being a highly experienced and successful entrepreneur, one-to-one and team coach, Woudstra is a global advocate, leader and shaper in the field of team coaching, and a regular columnist and content curator on team coaching for Coaching at Work. She’s currently working on the next edition of her book, Mastering the Art of Team Coaching: A comprehensive guide to unleashing the power, purpose and potential in any team (1st edn, Team Coaching Studio Press, 2021). 

For years, Woudstra has been campaigning for professional bodies to recognise team coaching as a distinct discipline, requiring specific knowledge, skills and capabilities. She counts among her many achievements having had a noticeable impact in this endeavour. 

“It’s great there are now professional standards and professional backing for team coaching, and awareness of team coaching is being raised.” 

Woudstra’s over-arching philosophy of surrender has in part been inspired by Michael Singer’s The Surrender experiment (Harmony/Rodale, 2015), a book that “really speaks to me…. It’s a very powerful book for me.” 

This approach for her is about having the wisdom to go beyond mind chatter and resistance and follow the flow. She gives the example of how she resisted working with coaches, instead wanting to work with chief executives (much of her one-to-one coaching is still with this client group). She hadn’t resonated with a certain coaching approach to working with teams and was thinking, why should I have to [come up with an alternative]? It’s somebody else’s job. 

“But something deeper in me said this is your work to do.  

“Synchronicity played a hand. I was asked out of the blue to run a three-day team coach training programme for a bunch of in-house coaches in a really large organisation. And that was a fabulous catalyst because it really got me to think deeply.” 

Looking back, she now sees what she offered as “rudimentary but at the time, it was the best I could offer”. She put a lot into it, and it started to shape her thinking further. 

In time, she started to talk with the professional bodies, urging them to attend more to team coaching to fill the gap of guidance for team coaches.

“There were no competencies. All the training was focused on one-to-one coaching, and whilst great, it wasn’t enough for the complexity of working with the team. 

“So that became a big campaign for a long time. Until finally a couple of other people [came in] who were more adept than me at influencing boards and had more energy for doing all the literature reviews and papers and things.” 

Woudstra co-led a working party to campaign to the ICF Global to recognise team coaching as a separate discipline. 

“That bore fruit. The accreditation came out early last year [2023].” 

Woudstra took part in the first pilot scheme for the ICF accreditation the year before. In 2022, along with TCS senior director and international faculty lead, Allard de Jong, Woudstra became among the first coaches in the world to be awarded the ICF Advanced Certification in Team Coaching (ACTC).

The ICF and the Association for Coaching both now have team coaching competency frameworks, which Woudstra has heralded as potentially revolutionising team coaching (Woudstra & Jong, 2022).  

The ICF announced its team competency framework at the end of 2020.

The development of the AC’s was led by Declan Woods, a student at TCS’s first team coaching diploma and later faculty at TCS. So “unsurprisingly
[it was] very influenced by TCS’s team coaching competencies”.

Woudstra believes that the ICF’s team coaching competency framework in particular needs to touch more on working with the relational system.

“Whereas in one-to-one coaching, we can ask the individual what they want to work on, with a team, if we ask everyone, we’ll get lots of answers, and it’s not about how to get to the consensus as we might seek to do in management consultancy but about surfacing and working with the team’s process.

“The team may have a way of going from many to one…or it may spin around in circles just trying to agree the focus of the session. [The team’s response] gives clues about where the work is. It’s right in front of your eyes, you don’t need to run a diagnostic.

“As team coaches, we can then create awareness around, using ourselves and our presence as an instrument. We can say, ‘How is that for you?’ ‘How are you on making decisions when you have different ideas about something?’

“It’s important for team coaches to take a broad view. 

“If you think about an organisational chart, it’s a cluster of teams. And each team has an impact on other teams. If I’m a marketing team, and I’m running a marketing campaign, there’s no point in marketing something that isn’t ready for product development. It’s all interconnected. So we need that wider awareness of the context , and what the system exists for and how, as a team, we contribute towards that. 


Tripping up

“And then [exploring] power and authority… The moment you get beyond one person, there’s a system, and power exists in that system. Where do decisions get made, how does the river flow through the banks? That’s the role of power and authority, it channels energy in a common direction. How does that work in this unique system? In each different culture and team, it’s different. 

“If we’re not aware of our own relationship with power, we often try to mould the team in our own image. So many coaches love to take power away and get everybody’s voice in the room, make them all equal. But [what might be] out of awareness is that that’s not how power works in this particular client system. Our role isn’t to change the client in our own image but to work with their image of what they want to become in service of what’s really needed. We can get hooked into conflict and transparency, all those things that need more awareness-raising.

“Contact is really important. We know coaching relationships are about authenticity, presence, making good contact with clients, being emotionally available.” 

She says that often in practice, a coach will ask a question with a team. “And imagine there’s a small team of four people, so not a big, complex thing to manage. They’ll say, ‘Thank you, Jane. That’s a really interesting perspective.’ ‘John, what do you think about that?’ ‘I’d love to hear from you too, Jack.’

And then, ‘Oh, Liz, we haven’t heard from you yet. What are your thoughts on that?’ So it’s all happened through the ‘spoke’ of the coach. The point of contact in that example is between coach and individual clients, we’re still acting like we’re coaching one person.

Contact in team would be more along the lines, she says, of “ ‘You said something that seemed very powerful there, Liz, who would like to respond to Liz?’ ‘What’s your authentic response?’ ‘Could you say a bit more about that?’ ‘Who resonates with that?’ And then you’re building a subgroup. And then we might go, depending on [how psychologically safe] the container is, to ‘Who hears it differently?’ Speaking to that point of difference.

“So we’re getting the team in contact with each other, rather than with a flip chart, a theoretical concept, whizzy tool or with the coach in the hub. We’re taking them deeper into contact with the here and now experience, and the meaning that’s wanting to be made. And we can’t possibly know what that is [beforehand] so we can’t prescribe it upfront in an agenda to send out.”



Woudstra’s entrepreneurial streak showed up when she was very young.

 “I had a slightly unusual entrepreneurial nature. I don’t quite know where that came from.” 

She loved craft gifts and ended up first selling the candles she made to the local shop, and later selling the sweaters she’d designed and knitted.

“And then I’d find other people who could knit…and ended up with this load of knitters. I even got labels made up called Fluff and nonsense.”

Her first graduate education was in fashion design, her mother’s idea, given how creative Woudstra was.

“But I really didn’t enjoy it. The lights went out for me and it just became about producing fashion as part of a machine and lacked any purpose.”

However, she learned that she has a gift for foreseeing trends and societal patterns, which she still draws on today. And her interest in running businesses flourished. She became fascinated in the learning around business and the real-time practical application of that.”

After leaving a partnership in which she’d been involved in numerous facets of the business, she was “asked straight away by a former client if I could help fix his business, a gear cutting factory which was nosediving. How on earth he thought that I might have something to contribute, I don’t know. I didn’t know anything about engineering. But again, this is something in my nature [to jump into something new]. I said, ‘Yeah, I’d love to’.”

She learned rapidly about engineering and because she “felt out of my depth with the finances”, she put herself through night school doing accountancy exams. 

“I loved it because I was applying everything I was learning in the moment. And over the course of about two years, I was able to stabilise that business. So that taught me something about myself: I’m business-minded.”

She started helping businesses which were too small to have a finance director, and took on others to assist.

However it was at a time when interest rates in the UK soared 15%, and many small businesses crashed. So she learnt how to pivot:

“Again, it was another thing I found about myself: I’m quite creative in those types of situations.” 

Woudstra got involved in developing accounting software, seeing an opportunity. Soon she’d persuaded Apple to partner with her, localising various accounting programmes for the UK for the Apple Mac, including Sage, a big package at the time.

“So this thing about partnership and strategic alliances was starting to come through [for me]…. It quickly became clear to me that it was much less about the technology and the issues of implementation and much more to do with people and change. So that took me to do a Master’s in Change Management. 


Getting into coaching 

Hearing about coaching while she was undertaking the Master’s “sparked a flame of curiosity in me”, which she  followed.

“ It was like, wow, it brought together so many things. In the background behind all the businesses I’ve been running, I’d also been having a deep, I suppose you could call it a spiritual, quest, not in a religious sense, but I just had this feeling there was more to the world that met the eye. This sort of synchronicity. 

“I’d been doing weird Californian style workshops with breathwork sessions in hot tubs and other things… But that was behind the scenes and never came into my world of work. And suddenly, I thought, gosh, all this learning, this sense of potential can all come together with coaching.” 

She trained as a coach with a now closed US coach training company, while still consulting, then sold her business and in 1993 she became a
full-time coach. She trained in Co-active Coaching and is a graduate of Corporate Coach University and participated in many other programmes, including with Timothy Galwey, committing herself to about 30 days of learning a year. “I just said that was the investment it would take to really pour heart and soul into this adventure.” 

Around 2000, Woudstra met de Jong on a course delivered by The Coaching Clinic. “Something about him just really captured my imagination. That sense of potential, that part of him that’s a big philosopher and dreamer. We had idea after idea. 

“We were very creative in ways of trying to generate interest in coaching.” 

One idea the pair made reality was the Society of Dreams, which they started around the same time as the AC was launched – Woudstra was one of the first few members of the AC. 

“The idea was that executive coaching was so inaccessible and expensive and there are so many human beings who have a dream and coaching should be democratised and available to everyone. 

“We were so experimental: we had ‘laser coaching circles’ – 10 minute coaching sessions – we had coaching demos from anyone who was brave enough to demo at the time, book authors talking about their books, all of that….but it fizzled out when the burden of managing it took over the joy of possibility.”

In another example of what Woudstra sees as synchronicity, she spoke at an early AC conference and met a fellow speaker who asked her to become his coach, and later became the MD of Penna’s coaching practice. She supported him with the business side, and invited Tulpa to take up the role of master coach to help build the cadre of coaches. “So we had this lovely opportunity to build what became a big coaching practice together… and I realised how much I loved working as part of a team, and the power of teams.” 

She also had her own practice, and found her ‘groove’ in coaching chief executives. “One of the profound things I remember was meeting these big people in big roles, sometimes well-known, sometimes running multimillion or billion-pound organisations, but showing up as equal. 

“There was something about my own presence. And the early experiences really taught me that if I can’t adjust my presence to being with them in partnership, then I’m not seen.” 

This means not only listening deeply, asking questions, probing, but also “challenging and bringing yourself fully into the equation, not dancing around the handbag”, she says.


Team coaching

Woudstra started team coaching around 2000, after a chief executive client asked her to work with his team. “It just happened organically like that.”

At this point, she was happy coaching one-to-one, and was still learning, including how to “be more challenging, how to bring more edge to the coaching”. Whereas when she first tried to coach teams, she realised she “didn’t know anything about team coaching”. There were no books on team coaching so she read about team facilitation and board governance. 

“I tried to piece something together and did probably what loads of people have done, like, ‘Let’s do Myers-Briggs so people get to know each other better’, or ‘Let’s talk about why we’re a team’, ‘let’s make some ground rules’, ‘Let’s develop a team charter.’ All conceptually really useful stuff….But what disappointed me was that it had absolutely minimal lasting impact unlike in my [other] coaching.”

“It was soul-destroying… filling time for people to get away and have fun but not delivering a really meaningful, transformative experience.”

She nearly gave up team coaching after her first few attempts.

“But every time I got asked, my mind would say no, and what came out of my mouth was yes…. There was a lot of resistance inside me but something bigger than that guiding me, I think, into, ‘This is your landscape, go forth, and learn.’

She did lots of journalling and reflection on how her interior conditions was affecting what she was doing. Then she had “a very interesting conversation” with a supervisor who helped her explore the difference between what she was doing in both contexts.  

“I had this huge epiphany where I realised I hadn’t been coaching in teams at all!”

Because she identified as a coach, she’d been calling what she’d been doing ‘coaching’.

She thought about what she did in one-to-one coaching conversations: “Taking time, deeply listening, reflecting back, creating meaning, following the clients flow of working”, “not telling them how they should be, not measuring them against a picture perfect and saying these are your gaps, and this is what you should close.”

She realised with teams, she’d stopped coaching. “And it had just happened out in my awareness. I’d shifted into a different role.

“So then I wanted to discover coaching in teams. It was really fuzzy at the time but I just knew what I had been doing wasn’t coaching.”

Attending a workshop on team coaching helped to gain clarity not only about what team coaching is and isn’t but also what she had to offer. She says, for some, the focus is more on ‘content’ [or the ‘what’] through running facilitated workshops asking, ‘What is your team purpose?’ and ‘What do stakeholders needs from you?’

“This is great if the desired outcome is getting to a clear purpose.

 “Our approach [however] is to locate the wisdom and agency in the client (ie, the team) and to support the team in developing effective ways of working together. 

“This differs from an approach which advocates for what a great team should be like and facilitates the team to achieve this.  

“Whilst the concepts may be excellent, in my experience  it’s harder to have a sustainable and transformational impact when the coach works more like an expert in the room as the team then see themselves more as workshop participants rather than owners of the agenda and the outcomes. 

“Our lens is more on ‘process’ in terms of developing the team’s capacity to collaborate: the ‘how’. When I get asked to coach a team, they usually say something like, ‘We need to work better together as one team’. This is sometimes about the ‘what’ but more often about the ‘how’. For example, the coach may ask a question like, ‘What is your purpose as a team?’ and may discover team members all have different views. 

“A facilitated approach might capture these [with] one team member to wordsmith it into a statement for the team. In this instance the facilitator is telling them which process they should use to get from many to one. Alternatively, a coach would use awareness, for example, ‘You have many great ideas about your purpose as a team; how will you align around a common or shared view?’ We might even add an experiment by asking, ‘Let’s try something. How about in the next 15 minutes you work out how you’re going to get some many ideas on your purpose to one shared view?’ After the experiment, the team can review what worked about how they worked together, fine-tune it, iterate if necessary and then expand this new capacity to become a ‘norm’ or a process they can use to align around an idea. This is great when the desired outcome is learning and growing capacity as a team.

 “Both approaches are valuable, it really depends on the intent.



Woudstra spent many years studying Transaction Analysis (TA).

“I think I did 750 hours of TA training and very little stayed with me. It brought so many tools to the table but so much of it is cognitive, and practitioners are doing the meaning making. 

“But the part I really love is the philosophical root of ‘I’m okay, you’re okay, they’re okay, we’re okay.’ Because if I hold that truly in my heart, I don’t judge. I don’t see the team as a problem to be fixed. I can show up, trust in the potential [being] there. We’ve just got to find and build a strong enough container, and find a way to make contact with that potential.” 

What also informs her work are “spiritual beliefs in the universal order of things, this kind of fundamental rebalancing of the order of systems when we stop trying to mould them, and [instead] allow them to reorganise in a way that is mostly to do with well being and right for the system.” 

Other approaches she’s delved into include constellations. 

“This didn’t quite resonate. I love the mystery of it but I find it can be more about the drama of the moment than [have] sustainable impact. And the team isn’t likely to do it for themselves. In team coaching, I really like to work with deepening team members’ contact with each other, with their way of communicating. This is more likely to stay and have a lasting impact. And it’s fun. I’m really interested in the team transforming themselves as a relationship system.” 

She’s fan of the Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching (ORSC) model, which she studied. “I’d say the approach is much more facilitated, very coach- and exercise-led. My real interest is [around] how we contribute but not take over the space. But I love ORSC’s thinking about relational systems. 


Team Coaching Studio

“As a faculty we really keep working to simplify, to get ourselves out of the way without dumbing down – in fact, deepening what’s possible. I’m going to keep our [programme] groups small. 

“[In the programmes] we have a mix of people from all over the world. We love diversity – there’s no one right way and [with diversity] we avoid entropy.

“I’m very proud that we’ve got a community of about 1,000 coaches around the world, continually meeting up to engage and shape the field of team coaching. Even more than the faculty lead events, I love that somebody will post on the community [asking for support] and someone will [respond]…It’s complex work; we need all the support we can get.” 

While it was hard work to get the community going, it’s now much more self-supporting, she says.

One of the other things she’s proud of is that TCS has “some beautiful relationships with other schools, other people who are involved in some way and shaping team coaching in a broad sense, coaching beyond the individual.

“[People like] Bennett Bratt, whose work I love. He has a beautiful brilliant book called The Team Discovered (BMI Publishing, 2020)… and Dorothy Siminovitch from the Gestalt Center for Coaching. There are so many people like that we’re in regular dialogue with. They may even, from the outside, be seen as competitors but providing they’re willing to set down the arms of competition, we invite them in and introduce them to our community. We hold onto this idea that together we’re better – if we stop trying to win people and audiences but work together to further a higher purpose. 


What next?

“When you think about how many millions of organisations there are in the world…[that’s] a lot of teams…[And] all the research I’ve encountered says that at best 20% of teams are effective. But it’s actually more like 10%. [I] think about that massive loss of productivity and potential performance, let alone the human cost of being part of a system that’s not really functioning and what dies inside of people when that happens. Or toxic teams which can really do lasting dramatic damage. There’s a madness to it. 

“What organisations have done to address [all this] so far is one-to-one coaching… I think with my one-to-one clients 80-90% of what they bring is [to do with] other people like team members or the board. I’m often thinking wouldn’t this conversation be so much better if the implicated people were involved in it? Rather than one person trying to do the work of the group or the team or [through] leadership programmes which are run offsite in business schools or awayday environments. They’re organised into modules around leadership of self, of the organisation or, if you’re lucky, of teams. But [on these programmes], it’s not the team that’s a unit of learning, it’s a cohort of leaders in a different context. But then somehow the hero leaders are meant to transport that education back into their team. It’s unfair and unrealistic. 

“And people are promoted into the role of team leader without any support around what that takes. So I think over the next decade, organisations will wake up to this.”  



Woudstra says, “I’m somebody who feels I’ve had a very fortunate, very blessed life because I’ve had so many amazing experiences and opportunities and work with incredible people. I’ll be 61 soon and I feel that this is the decade to really harness all of that and make it as useful as I can. 

“I really do believe in the surrender to what the universe is wanting to bring forth, [what’s] beyond [what] any one of us can control or understand. And at times, that’s hard. [For example], we’re trying to move house at the moment. And I’ve noticed the part of me that wants it to happen now, that wants to control it. 

“I’d love to continue to learn how to surrender and engage with life but in a way that’s not wrestling with these things but enjoying the journey. That, I think, will be a lesson for my life… I think the universe will keep throwing me opportunities to do that. And that’s enough. 

“I love music, cooking, yoga, film, theatre and generally living well. I love my cocker spaniel. I’ve got a wonderful husband, daughter and two stepsons. There’s really nothing I wish to be different, other than my own impatience and hubris at times!