Organizations worldwide have relied for years on team-based personnel structures to better solve complex issues and complete complex projects/tasks and achieve specific outcomes within and across organizations and business units.
Organizations, business leaders and personnel must learn to work effectively in today’s fast paced, highly volatile, complex and globalized business environment. Rapidly changing collaborative technologies, the shift from routine work to non-routine knowledge economies, the need to consider multi-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary approaches, along with the need for more nimble and adaptive business structures, have changed how we do business, our working environments and the way we work. In response, organizations worldwide have relied for years on team-based work structures to better solve complex issues and complete projects/tasks and achieve specific outcomes within and across organizations and business units.
This white paper uses a comprehensive and considered literature review to explore the concept of team coaching as it relates to supporting organizational teamwork in today’s complex and volatile business environment. The goals of this paper are to provide organizational leaders and business-coaching practitioners with an evidence-based guide to how and why team (business) coaching is important and to show how this model of practice can be used to support organizational team-oriented problem solving, complex-project/task completion and better achievement of organizational goals and outcomes.
Business organizations and business units often fail to realize the full potential of their teams because they apply outdated business management concepts and practices to evolving collective leadership processes and multi-disciplinary or trans-disciplinary issues.
Traditional business practices and problem solving, whether at the individual, work group or team level, is often hampered by personal, disciplinary and/or organizational culture boundaries that inhibit us from looking beyond our confines for new or better solutions. Many of the business issues we face today involve wicked problems that defy traditional solutions and can only be ameliorated or solved by collaborating with people who bring a diverse set of knowledge, skills and perspectives to the issue. Thus, we can no longer always rely on the wisdom of the people within one organization, let alone one discipline, to solve some of our more complex business issues.
Additionally, our traditional views of what teams are, what they need to operate and what supports them are no longer fit for purpose when considered against current business realities. Without knowing what the key drivers or essential and enabling elements for team successes are or how and when to apply them, business leaders will continue to make costly mistakes in terms of time, money, effort and the achievement of organizational goals and outcomes.
Research evidence has shown that successful teamwork within our complex and volatile global organizational environments depends on proper team design and structure, team launch and ongoing team coaching by qualified and competent team coaches—at the right points in time.
Academics and practitioners within fields such as, but not limited to, business, business coaching and organizational development have examined the successes and failures of teams within the business context for many years and have identified (1) team design and structure, (2) team launch and (3) ongoing team coaching as being the key drivers for improved team performance. Providing the foundation for this improved team performance are three essential and three enabling conditions respectively:
- Creating a “real” team
- Having a compelling purpose
- Ensuring that the right people are on the team
- Providing a solid team structure
- Creating a supportive context
- Providing team coaching at the right points in time
Lastly, qualified and competent team coaches have been shown to positively influence the success of team-based personnel systems and processes, and therefore play key roles within each of the business-team design, structure and support elements. Within this business context, the team coach has a dual focus: one that focuses on individual team members and allows them to discover how their personal characteristics, behaviors and perspectives impact the team and business processes; and one that focuses on the larger objectives and successes of the organization. It is this dual focus and discovery process that differentiates business coaching from other types of coaching. Thus, private and public organizations wishing to achieve successful team-based outcomes must consider incorporating qualified and competent team business coaches into all of their team-oriented work structures and processes.
Qualified and competent team coaches positively influence the success of teambased personnel systems and processes, and therefore play keys roles in supporting team-based personnel structures.
Full White Paper
Qualified and competent team coaches positively influence the success of team based personnel systems and processes, and therefore play keys roles in supporting team-based personnel structures.
Increased use of business coaching has created a greater need for accountability and clearer contracts.
In this white paper, we explore the limited research available on contracting—the setting up, use and monitoring of the business coaching relationship. We do not try to develop a standard coaching contract as that would be too constraining for the majority of business coaches—each contract must be customized to the client’s requirements. Instead we provide a list of factors that should be considered in developing an effective contract.
Poor contracting creates issues for all parties—business coaching contracts are much more than who, what, when and where.
What is contracting?
The business coaching interaction uses all the elements we associate with wholesome and effective human relationships such as dialog, reflection, enquiry and exploration of meaning. But this interaction takes place within a specific and unusual context—a learning conversation where the agenda for the interaction is determined by only one of the partners in the conversation. This mix of familiar and unique can lead to misunderstandings and dilemmas for both parties unless the implicit psychological contract that is operating is made explicit. The initial exploration of the terms of reference for the relationship and its continual monitoring are at the core of contracting.
Other disciplines and helping therapies such as counseling have a wealth of experience in the management of these areas. Our research identified good practice that recognizes clarity of mutual expectations as vital for a good working relationship. We describe three types of contracts that invariably operate in any helping arrangement:
Contract early using all three contract types—seek transparency for all—review the existing contract often.
The elements under each of these contracts are varied, and we have reviewed what communities of practice and professional associations have identified as critical. These groups include the International Coach Federation (ICF), the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and the Worldwide Association of Business Coaches (WABC). The Executive Coaching Forum, for example, provides a valuable service with the Executive Coaching Handbook where they have a competency model that describes the requirements of a coach, including a specific section on contracting. The complexity of this section illustrates the dynamic nature of the contract. One area of particular interest is clear accountability. Negotiating the coaching contract can be an ideal opportunity to engage the sponsor fully with setting the coaching goals and designing the evaluation criteria. Real sensitivities are, however, involved in such three-way contracts, and we suggest the use of a no-fault exit clause for both sides if it becomes clear that things are not working. Some practitioners have identified issues with the three-cornered contract specifically and even the four-cornered contract, where the line manager is not the direct manager of coaching.
In general, the business coach can effectively steer through the maze of who the client is in this relationship by maintaining transparency and appropriate ethics. For example, a mismatch between the career aims of the individual and the requirements of the organization is not unusual. The business coach must negotiate goals based on the common ground between these two perspectives and use the business coaching intervention as a method of bringing them together.
The WABC Professional Standards for Business Coaches are explicit in the need to hold the potential tension between organizational and client agendas: “I will put the client first while at the same time respecting the objectives of the client’s organization.”
The issue of confidentiality is particularly marked in this regard as sponsors/line managers often assume they will receive reports of the progress of the coaching. Clearly this is not at the business coach’s discretion and a contracting conversation must take place with the sponsor and the executive to agree on the frequency and extent of reporting.
Proper business coaching contracting protects all parties (e.g., client, business coach, organization)—efforts are rewarded.
We suggest including the following key elements in the business coaching contract. Additional elements are identified in the full paper.
- The duration, number, frequency and venue of sessions
- Fees, cancellation policy and the availability of the business coach both in person and for email/telephone discussions
- The business coach’s area of practice and the mechanism for onward referral. This is critical when the coach is able to competently provide more than one type of service (e.g., consulting, training, mentoring). A contract should be limited to one type of service unless the client requires a “master” or “broad” contract, in which case each service must be explicitly covered.
- Indication that the coach may be in professional supervision and will be discussing the intervention under the appropriate confidentiality agreement there
- A limitation of liability clause, information about the business coach’s professional indemnity insurance and a no-fault exit clause and process
- The goals of the business coaching, identifying the specific outputs and behavior changes required in a manner that is measurable and clear, including time, cost, quality and milestones
- The model of practice to be used, including its limitations and strengths. Identify if real-time coaching is expected and if observation of the client is required. Identify with whom any assessments will be undertaken and who will see the results.
Full White Paper
The evidence shows that a business coaching contract should be negotiated early in the relationship and revisited often.