How does coaching support team working?
This was the question that my research sought to find out and which I will be presenting at the 7th Annual Coaching and Mentoring Research Conference on Thursday 20th January in Oxford.
The contribution that a team can make to an organisation’s goals can be far greater than that of individuals working independently. Team coaching is a powerful way of harnessing capabilities, increasing effectiveness, performance and productivity and the achievement of personal, team and organisational objectives.
As an experienced facilitator and coach, I have coached senior management and operational teams in a variety of settings and sectors. I chose to focus my research study within the context of the NHS because of the unique setting that it provides.
Within the NHS this is more pronounced as collaboration and team working is implicit as the delivery of health care is dependent upon individuals from different disciplines, departments and organisations to work together to provide integrated care to patients. Here individuals from different professional disciplines who have been have been trained to function both independently and autonomously within professional groupings, and who have their own identities, norms, stereotypes, and allegiances coming together to provide services. This way of working is different from other contexts such as business and industry.
The findings for my study are not limited to health care and are applicable to any organisation where teams operate.
Using a case study methodology, a multidisciplinary team within the NHS were asked to reflect on and describe their experiences of being coached in a team and how this process supported them in working as a team. A brief overview of my findings can be found below.
Coaching supports team working by:
Providing the opportunity, time and forum for dialogue and that meeting regularly over time enabled relationships to be built, tested and strengthened
Enabling focus and clarity of shared goals and with the knowledge that they were collectively working towards the same thing. Issues and departmental agendas were identified, objectives set and collectively worked out how they were going to achieve them, timescales and allocation of tasks
The coach was perceived as an external impartial practitioner who was objective and independent and this resulted in the team finding it easier to open up, to challenge each other and to surface uncomfortable issues. The coach facilitated the discussions, kept the momentum going, helped team members to tease out and explore issues and provided stretch and challenge
A safe space fostered a much deeper understanding and awareness of themselves and each other. Difficult issues surfaced as trust grew and past issues which were hindering team working were disclosed and this was seen as being cathartic and in helping the team to move forward
Seeing the beyond the professional and ‘understanding the human’ behind the mask. Deep understanding came from team members removing the protective barriers and exposing their vulnerabilities, feelings and concerns. Opening up and being honest about feelings and experiences brought the team closer together which resulted in shift in perceptions, being more at ease and able to challenge and confront each other
Understanding and appreciating each other disciplines. Able to see the bigger picture in it’s entirely as a completed jigsaw as opposed to their own piece. Understood each other strengths, weaknesses, styles of management and perspectives. With this understanding and appreciation of the wider system, came a shift in how the team perceived each other and their roles. Began to question current practices and explored how by changing ways of working and working together they could improve the service
Cascading and translating learning down to own teams. As were more informed about each other practices and ways of working and whereabouts, they were able to cascade this information/ knowledge to the rest of their teams. This helped to improve communication and joint working across the teams (each team member had their own teams). The team became role models as members within their own teams began to copy their behaviours and attitudes
Collaborative decision making: increased Interactions and discussion of topics that they would have dealt with individually thus getting different perspectives from the other disciplines. Safe in the knowledge that they are all working towards the same goals, that they want the same things and that the realtionship is built on trust , they have become better and quicker at decision making and hence things get done quicker
Improved communications and relationships: Face to face communications have increased together with dialogue between the team members with a respect for each others’ perspectives. Consciously aware that they need to collaborate and involve each other in matters that might have an impact on the department
Commitment and sustainability: there was agreed consensus that by working together they were able to achieve more for their own teams, the department and the organisation and that together they had a greater voice and influence. They have committed to continue meeting and have blocked out protected time to meet for several months ahead.
If you would like to discuss my findings in more detail or would like some more information please do get in touch.