A Guide to Coaching: One to One vs Team Coaching

September 17, 2021

Team Coaching vs one to one coaching

In today's VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous) world, companies are realizing that managers can’t and don’t have all the answers. Command and control leadership is not how organizations develop, innovate, or grow. 

Instead, firms are adopting a workplace coaching approach whereby managers develop employees, deliver continuous learning, improve team effectiveness, promote career development, build stronger relationships, and help their organizations grow. 

Ultimately, the role of the manager in today’s workplace is to coach team members, both one to one and collectively as a team.

While individual coaching is a well known and common practice within many businesses, another type of coaching that often gets neglected is team coaching. After all with organizations built on teamwork, these teams need to be coached collectively in order to operate effectively, thrive, and ultimately drive high performance outcomes.

In this article, we'll delve further into the importance of workplace coaching, comparing both group and individual coaching, while exploring the benefits of both. 

The importance of workplace coaching

Workplace coaching isn’t just for the C-suite. Adopting a coaching culture within your organization pays dividends across the whole business - for individual employees, for teams, for the organization as a whole, and your customers. 

From a significant uplift in employee engagement and improved performance at the organizational level, to more high performance teams, to individuals who have the confidence to seize the initiative because they feel psychologically safe

According to the International Coaching Federation:

  • 80% of people who receive coaching report increased self-confidence
  • 70% of people report improved work performance, relationships, and more effective communication skills
  • 86% of companies report that they recouped their investment on coaching

But in order to achieve this, organizations have to train their managers to be better leaders. Because behind every high performing team is a great manager

And having a manager who knows how to coach is a necessity, because they’re the ones who deliver the coaching at the end of the day.

Types of coaching in the workplace

In this section, we're going to compare one to one coaching (or individual coaching), with team coaching.

One to one coaching

What is one to one coaching?

One on one coaching is just what the name suggests. It’s a practice where an individual employee meets with their manager who helps them develop both professionally and personally. 

The manager provides situational advice, clarity and focus for goal setting, acts as a sounding board, and can help outline a career trajectory, to name but a few. 

And as mentioned above, one to one coaching isn’t the preserve of the top tier leadership. Everyone in an organization can benefit from one to one coaching. 

There’s a misconception that a coach should only be sought when there’s an obvious problem, however if you leave it until there’s an issue within your organization, you’ve left it too late. Plus, coaching isn’t just about fixing issues.

As Benjamin Franklin said: “Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

Best practices for one to one coaching
  • Determine frequency

While the meeting cadence will likely be left to the manager’s discretion, we believe one to one coaching meetings are best held weekly. 

  • Duration

Coaching doesn’t have to be a lengthy affair. 30 minutes once a week is more than enough time. However, when time's short, encourage managers to have a 15 minute check in and get straight to it. 

  • Set clear goals
From the outset, make sure managers and employees set clear goals. These give both the manager as coach and the employee the opportunity to work towards something tangible. Set goals early in the coaching relationship and use them to lay the foundation for future progress. 
  • Stop/start/carry on

This practice helps managers and team members review their performance and behaviors on a regular basis. It is a two-way process designed to create the opportunity for an honest, positive and proactive discussion.

Stop/start/carry on meeting agenda template: 

  • Discuss and review the behaviors and activities with which the manager wishes the team member to carry on. Why is it positive for the team or organization?
  • Discuss and review the behaviors and activities the manager wishes the team member to start demonstrating or doing. What will this contribute to the team or organization?
  • Review the behaviors and activities which the manager wishes the team member to stop. Why does this need to stop?
  • Repeat the 3 talking points above, reversing the role of the manager and the team member.
  • Follow up

Managers should wrap up every one to one coaching session by scheduling the next sesion and providing follow up on what was discussed. The team member needs to know what action is required, who is responsible for what, and that the manager is holding them accountable to achieve it.

Team coaching

Team coaching definition

Team coaching is a way of increasing the effectiveness and cohesiveness of workplace teams, developing them to become high performance teams. Team coaching improves morale, team stability, and increases team productivity to the organization’s benefit. 

There is a big gap between what individuals in a team can do work wise and what they actually do at work. Team coaching helps close this gap and improve team effectiveness by teaching team members skills to help them work better together - to build better relationships, to lead, to work better together, to innovate together, to be more attuned to one another’s needs. 

Team coaching also contributes towards an increase in psychological safety because it’s a great way for team members to share their thoughts, ideas and experiences in a ‘safe’ place. 

Group coaching vs individual coaching

While one to one coaching helps individual team members develop individually, both personally and professionally, group coaching brings all of these individuals together increasing their collective effectiveness and cohesiveness. 

Individual coaching helps individuals identify problems and their solutions, team coaching on the other hand helps the team identify problems and their solutions, together. 

Best practices for team coaching
  • Craft a team purpose

Have managers book an hour with their team. Everyone contributes ideas about what they do as a team, who they do it for, and why. 

They’ll use these group-sourced ideas to discuss and craft a single purpose statement that gives meaning to their collective work. They then develop a ritual to embed their team purpose into their day-to-day activity. 

This is a really important follow on step otherwise the purpose may remain just a "sentence" and not embedded in how they operate as a team. 

  • Agree team behaviors

Working together to define team behaviors improves trust, accountability and responsibility within a team. 

Have managers book an hour with their team. They all contribute ideas about the "worst ways we could behave as a team". Things like bad meeting habits, painful communication, things that bring them down or get in the way of the team's success. 

They then group those ideas into themes and flip them into positives: what are the ideal behaviors to make this team happy and productive? 

  • Set measurable goals 

Research shows that teams that write their goals down and check their progress against them accomplish significantly more than those who don’t. 

Before getting the team together to brainstorm goals, have each team member take a little time to reflect on the results the team might want to achieve. This makes the session even more productive.

  • Optimize meetings 

Meetings can be valuable and energizing if well designed. Or draining if poorly designed. 

Teams should regularly review and rethink whether their meetings are fit for purpose. This means meetings will constantly stay relevant and improve.

  • Reflect regularly

A team retrospective is a structured way of having a meaningful reflective conversation, to share, to listen, to be heard, and to discuss. 

For teams who constantly collaborate, retrospectives are best done every 2 weeks or so – just get into the habit. If they work together less frequently or intensely, they might want a longer retrospective even if it's only every 3 months.

Why train managers as coaches

The advantages of managers as coaches are innumerable. However, one huge point to note: don’t expect untrained managers to know how to coach. 

You have to train your managers to enable them to have coaching conversations. The ability to hold a coaching conversation is a skill that needs to be taught.

While there is no exact blueprint to have a coaching conversation, managers have to be able to actively listen and respond appropriately. They need to be able to not only hear what is being said, but understand what is not being said too. 

Managers need to be trained so they are equipped with the right skills, tools and knowledge and possess the management behaviors they need to succeed in their role as a coach. And the thing is, one off training won’t be enough. In order for managers to be effective coaches, they have to be able to put what they’ve learned into practice, everyday. 

You don’t need to hire outside trainers to train your managers to become coaches. A digital coaching solution, such as Saberr, helps develop managers so that they can better coach their teams.

We don’t just provide managers with the guidance, templates, exercises, learning etc, we help managers evolve from leader to coach by delivering on-the-job leadership training in the flow of work, using nudges to ensure learning sticks and that their teams develop the essential habits for effective teamwork.

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