Laura L. Hauser, Fielding's School of Human & Organizational Development
This study explored a relatively unexamined but emerging issue in practice and research: coaching work teams conducted by an external coach. It examined the role behaviors of external coaches and the influencers of those role behaviors when coaching a work team. A qualitative descriptive study was conducted using thematic analysis of interviews with eight experienced coaches located in the United States. Four role behaviors were identified: advisor, educator, catalyzer, and assimilator. Four influencers on these behaviors also were identified: coach background, client perceptions and readiness, coaching goals, and systemic context. The findings led to five conclusions: (a) External coaches who work with teams shape-shift role behaviors along both directive and dialogic continuums over time; (b) external coaches attempt to reduce role confusion about the emerging practice of coaching work teams by describing their role based on the coaches’ understanding of their clients’ experiences and perceptions of coaching; (c) coaching a work team is more complex than coaching individuals due to the systemic context; (d) the effect of working with a team’s larger organizational system is greater than coaching only one part of the system, thus, creating leverage; and (e) coaching work teams, compared to coaching individuals, requires a broader base of knowledge, skills, and experience, notably related to team performance, group dynamics, team development, and systems. This study contributes to the literature as the first empirical study about coaching in the context of work teams conducted by external coaches that culminated with the development of a new framework called Shape-Shifting: A Conceptual Framework for Coaching Work Teams. The framework can inform a range of constituents including researchers, organizational leaders, organization development consultants, coach psychologists, and educators. This study further contributes to the literature by pointing to distinctions between coaching individuals and coaching teams, and between coaching and facilitating a team. Lastly, this study proposes an expanded definition of team coaching inclusive of both internal (manager) and external coaches. These various findings and the shape-shifting framework may deepen understanding about the benefits, limitations, practices, and unresolved questions about coaching work teams.
Key Words: executive coaching, team coaching, group and team development, organization change and development, role behavior