While there are similarities in skills and tools, there are many differences when coaching teams vs individuals. When dealing with a team, you don’t necessarily use the same techniques or approaches as with an individual. So, in today’s blog, we’ll break down 7 of these differences as well as 3 similarities.
If you’d rather watch a video than read, you can check out my Youtube video on this topic:
Differences in coaching teams vs individuals
#1: Collaboration focus
When coaching teams, you emphasize teamwork, communication, and interdependencies within the team. You are trying to help the team see themselves as a unit. In a unit, you bring your strengths and weaknesses and these will balance out between team members.
When you coach individuals, you are focusing on personal growth. You are amplifying all the strengths and use those to close the gaps in their weaknesses.
#2: Collective goals
In team coaching, you need to help the team align on shared objectives and a common vision. If there is one person who is not on board, this wont work. What we understand as quality, the required result to deliver, needs to be understood and agreed upon. It can sometimes be a struggle to help everyone see eye to eye, but you are trying to equalize the understanding of the goals.
Goal setting is also a part of individual coaching, but it is much easier in the sense that the goal objective is owned by the individual in the coaching session.
#3: Facilitation skills
Related to the first two, when coaching you must use facilitation techniques to manage group dynamics and encourage collaboration. Facilitation is when you intervene in group settings to make sure that everyone is being heard, understood, and that dialog is being created. You can also try to offer a structure of how the meeting will take place.
As a facilitator you can guarantee that if there’s a decision that needs to be made, it will be made; if there’s information to be shared it will be shared and understood. That sort of thing.
#4: Process improvement
Process improvement relates to how the team will be performing their work. The focus is on team processes, such as agile practices, to enhance efficiency. When we talk about continuous improvement in the context of teams, we are talking about improving how they work together and create an environment around themselves that allows for even more improvement.
Talking about effectiveness can be a subject for one-on-one coaching in regards to personal effectiveness, but it is a must for team coaching.
#5: Conflict resolution
When coaching teams, you need to be able to address conflicts and challenges within the team to foster a harmonious working environment. When working in a group environment, you will see conflict as it occurs and it can be anything from diverging opinions to full on disagreements in a disrespectful manner. There are important conflict resolution skills that are required to work with teams.
In individual coaching, you can only see conflict situations through the eyes of that one person being coached. Usually we focus on that one person and what they can do because we are not in the situation with them.
#6: Performance metrics
Team-level metrics and outcomes should be used to evaluate success when coaching teams. Because we are talking about several people operating as a unit, the team needs to agree on what they want to measure and definitions of that measure. (Check out my post on metrics!) Because there are so many opinions at play, we need to be more focused on objective measures and stay grounded in the data when determining team progress and effectiveness.
Performance metrics when coaching individuals has more to do with where the individual wants to grow and whether or not they are getting there. Although you can try to make these goals into measurable outcomes, a lot of this has to do with personal growth which can be hard to measure with numbers.
#7: Specific timing
With teams, there are specific great moments for coaching, such as when reaching milestones, down time, or team formation. It’s never advisable to coach when teams are in the middle of a game.
This differs with coaching individuals where coaching can really happen at any time so long as the coachee wants it and is willing.
Similarities in coaching teams vs individuals
#1: The approach
Whether coaching an individual or a group, your approach won’t change. Personally, I use agile, systemic coaching, and solution focused coaching. This is my style that works whether I’m coaching one or one hundred people. How you create the space for your coachee/s doesn’t need to change.
#2: The willingness to work with the coach
The willingness of the coachee/s to do the work is required in group and individual coaching. They need to agree that this is a good thing and they can see the problem to be solved. You can’t persuade people to do coaching. Even if there is some resistance at first, there has to be willingness and trust.
#3: The essential coaching skills
In both cases, effective communication, active listening, empathy, and adaptability are essential coaching skills. They are foundational. You need to be able to create a space of trust, ask powerful and relevant questions, and let the coachee/s be in the driver’s seat.
The relationship is going to develop in a similar way whether you are coaching one or a whole team. The first coaching session might be awkward while you are still learning about each other, but give it time and it will come to feel at ease.
If you are interested in learning about how to coach for team development and success, check out my Agile Coaching Program! It’s a month-long course of learning by doing! We have recently amped up the conflict navigation, team development, and agile principles in practice areas of the course so it is truly better than ever. In addition, we are proud partners with ICAgile so you will receive a highly recognized certification upon completion that will set you up well for a career as an agile coach.