Helping organisations move from ‘individualistic’ to ‘communal’ thinking and learning

Coaching is a fantastic way of developing people. I’m glad to see that it is now common place in many organisations. The popularity of personal life-coaches is also an encouraging development.

However, I do think that individual coaching could, and does, inadvertently reinforce individualistic thinking.

I’d like to propose that a simple way of helping workplaces think and learn as a community of people, is to introduce “Team Team CoachingCoaching”. By this I don’t mean team building exercises, led by a Team Leader or consultant… but a facilitated team coaching exercise relating to realtime work issue/s.

As such, different kinds of coaching skills are needed.  For example, the Team Coach needs to be au fait with group dynamics such as facilitating multi-voiced conversations, including, questioning, collaborative inquiry, co-creation, listening, the uncovering of assumptions & elephants, and know how to help people suspend judgement in the interest of collective sense-making. It could also incorporate the ethical value of intentionally listening out for the wisdom of minority voices.

Another important Team Coach skill is that of noticing when there are circular conversations, particularly vicious circles – and how to help people break the loop in order to start a new, more virtuous or life-giving patterns of conversations.

According to Bojer, Roehl, Knuth and Magner, the Team Coach needs to be able to “stay present to what shows up in the moment”.  S/he “must not be caught up in a pre-determined structure and timetable that has to be followed at all cost”.

Their rule of thumb is to be “over prepared, under structured”. In their experience, it is this over preparation, coupled with maximum flexibility that is key to helping teams respond creatively as their process of thinking and learning unfolds in real time.

One great “by product” Team Coaching is that people will improve their relational skills in the process!

In my view, Team Coaching is a more than useful addition to the other collaborative learning/thinking methods such as “Communities of Practice”, “Future Search” and “Action Learning Sets”.

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