Business Bites: Coaching for productive, healthy teams Part 1

Nick Walsh FBDO
ABDO head of corporate development

In part one of this two-part article, let’s first consider what we mean by ‘team’.

Is your team seen as: a) A group of individuals who happen to have the same line manager? Or b) a group of individuals with the same goal? In the context of coaching, it is good to identify this at the beginning, as it may be easier to achieve your outcomes and achieve a common goal.

It is also important to consider if the team is:
• Established
• New
• Merged
• A team with a history or reputation
• A team that has experienced loss

What is coaching?

According to the Institute of Leadership and Management: “Coaching is a relational activity to help and support individuals to learn and develop, leading to enhanced performance and desirable results aligned to specified objectives and goals. Coaching is different to mentoring or counselling, though it does share some techniques with both, and is solutions-focused and results-orientated.

Leaders who coach their staff appropriately, individually or in teams, report effective results. It can be more time consuming in the short term than other methods of training, improving or developing your team members, but coaching pays dividends overall. It is acknowledged as one of the best ways to get improved performance from your team. When you as act as a coach to your team members, you are essentially having one or a series of conversations with them in which you encourage and help them to reflect on their performance and potential. The purpose of this is to maximise their productivity by increasing their general awareness, including about the range of choices (in thinking, attitude and actions) available to them in any situation, and expanding their sense of responsibility.

As a coaching manager, you are therefore responsible for keeping your team member focused on clearly-defined goals, facilitating their thinking, and delivering constructive feedback to build upon their strengths and skills and improve their performance.”

When we talk about coaching, we sometimes think only of consultants hired to help executives build their personal and professional skills.

The coaching covered in this article is ongoing and carried out by those inside the business. It is work that all managers should engage in with all their people, all of the time.

An effective coach-manager asks questions instead of providing answers, supports their employees instead of judging them, and facilitates their development instead of dictating what has to be done.


Before we look at areas of coaching, ask your team: “Do we communicate well?”

As a team, ask yourselves how good you are at:
• Checking in on how each other is feeling
• Celebrating progress towards team goals
• Giving and receiving feedback
• Saying thank you
• Having honest, respectful conversations
• Talking about difficult topics
• Listening to each other

Great communication within the team will set a solid foundation. Next, consider your team’s purpose, objectives and goals – then build self-awareness and appreciation of diversity.

What is the ‘team purpose’?

This may involve:
• Meaning: what is personally important to individuals and the team overall?
• Impact: what are you looking to achieve and is there a feeling that the work matters and is creating a positive change?
• Creating a team purpose statement. The simple structure for this could be: What are you here to do?; Who are you doing it for?; Why do they need it?; How will this create positive change or add value?

Be clear on team goals, roles and priorities. Who will do what, and by when? Emphasise that the team will need to depend on each other to achieve success. If there is a stakeholder such as a supplier, customer etc, who may be important in the context of the goals, roles and priorities, make sure that they are heard.

Cognitive diversity

Does your team have a good understanding of individual and team preferences plus the diversity within the team? In her article, ‘The benefits of cognitive diversity‘ (Forbes, November 2018),  Janine Schindler describes cognitive diversity as: “…the inclusion of people who have different ways of thinking, different viewpoints and different skill sets in a team or business.”

Schindler continues: “There is no doubt that people feel comfortable surrounding themselves with others who have business styles similar to their own. Unfortunately, when you get more of the same, what you end up with is … more of the same. Lack of innovation can lead to a slow, painful death in any business. First and foremost, teams, management and businesses as a whole must not stifle “different.” They need to encourage it, realising that there is a positive measurable correlation between teams who embrace cognitive diversity and teams who exhibit high performance levels.”