Why team coaching competencies?
Team coaching can help teams work more effectively to achieve their collective purpose and deliver strategic objectives. Teams at this high level of performance achieved on average 22.8% higher economic return, according to Price and Toye’s (2017) research of 3000 teams.
Over the past two years, there have been significant developments in setting much-needed standards for team coaches. Here we look at one approach, ‘team coaching competencies development’ by the global International Coaching Federation (ICF). This started, in 2018, with a desk-top research review of over 100 pieces of team coaching literature. This involved initially representatives from the three professional coaching bodies, ICF, European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) and Association for Coaching (AC) . And culminated with the publication of a peer-reviewed article in the International Journal of Evidence-Based Coaching and Mentoring (Widdowson et al (2020)).
From this foundational literature review, the ICF undertook a comprehensive, evidence-based research project. This included workshops with subject matter experts. Also there were semi-structured interviews, a global survey and competency model workshops. These determined which knowledge, skills, abilities and other characteristics were vital for team coaches. As a result, in November 2020, the ICF launched their team coach competencies giving clear guidance on what was needed to be a team coach.
What are the themes of team coaching competencies?
There was no agreed framework for team coaching competencies at the time of the literature review. So Drake’s (2009) framework of coach mastery offered a valuable lens for team coach competencies. He suggested that coaching mastery can be mapped into four domains of knowledge: foundational, professional, self, and contextual. Let’s explore each of these briefly:
This includes various theories, models and guidelines based on research and education. Research suggests that the team coach needs to know about areas as far ranging as the stages of team development, group dynamics and team psychology. To name but a few.
Such knowledge is about the ‘doing’ of coaching and the essential coaching skills required. Although limited, the literature suggests that a team coach needs to possess well-developed individual coaching skills and competencies (ICF, 2019) before embarking on team coaching. Other team coaching competencies to think about for team coaching can include: contracting with all main stakeholders and team members, identifying team issues, facilitation and designing team coaching programmes
Self-knowledge relates to the awareness, maturity, wisdom and ‘way of being’ of the team coach. There’s been extensive research and importance placed on the ‘way of being’ of the team coach. This originates from the work of Rogers (1975). He proposed that being relates to a person’s ability to build empathy and a relationship with another person. This happens when a coach is secure enough to focus on the other person, almost putting their agenda to one side. A team coach’s way of being can be further developed through reflection and coaching supervision. The literature indicates that the high maturity and mastery level of the coach entering into team coaching is important. In addition the team coach should have experience working with and in groups and teams.
This refers to subject matter expertise – understanding how organisations work and systemic thinking. The importance of the team coach not losing sight of the broader picture is stressed in the developing literature on systemic team coaching. Also seeing the team as part of a network of relationships. A team coach further needs to understand the business context and how the team’s work fits into the organisation’s agenda.
In summary, the literature suggests that an effective and competent team coach will draw on a range of different team coaching competencies. And use these in an integrated way when working with teams.
Drake D B (2009) Evidence is a verb: a relational approach to knowledge and mastery in coaching. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 7(1), 1-12.
ICF (International Coaching Federation) (2019) Updated ICF Core Competency Model October 2019. https://coachfederation.org/app/uploads/2019/11/ICFCompetencyModel_Oct2019.pdf
Price C & Toye S (2017) Accelerating Performance: How Organizations Can Mobilize, Execute, and Transform with Agility. John Wiley & Sons.
Rogers C R (1975) Empathic: An unappreciated way of being. The counselling psychologist, 5(2), 2-10.
Widdowson L J, Rochester L, Barbour P J & Hullinger A M (2020) Bridging the Team Coaching Competency Gap: A review of the literature. International Journal of Evidence Based Coaching and Mentoring, 2020, Vol. 19 (2).
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