posted 27 Jun 2007 in Volume 10 Issue 9
Coaching the Team at Work
Authors: David Clutterbuck
Publisher: Nicholas Brealey
Review by Gary Pyke
Coaching has, in many respects, come to be regarded as a universal panacea to many organisational challenges. But how much do we know about how coaching works and to what extent it can impact on organisational improvement and learning? To some, coaching represents the opportunity simply to have a nice chat; to others, an opportunity to reflect, learn and plan next actions. So if coaching is to work within teams how must it operate?
In Coaching the Team at Work, David Clutterbuck tries to close the gap between academic literature on both team learning and team coaching, and the practical experience of managers and workplace coaches. In closing this gap he discusses in detail:
- What is coaching?
- Defining the team;
- Coaching the team;
- Coaching the learning team;
- Managing team coaching;
- The self-coaching team.
This means that we follow a logical progression through the book discussing each area in detail and a process through which we might want to work if we are to use team coaching.
However, in the process the book fails to convey immediately the knowledge to use team coaching at work, or to be able to apply the knowledge that is presented in the book quickly to the benefit of your organisation.
From a pragmatic point of view the book only really starts on page 149. At this point we are presented with the definition of six types of team based upon stable or changing tasks on one axis and stable or changing membership on the other. The six teams being defined as:
- The stable team stable tasks and stable membership;
- The cabin crew stable tasks but changing teams;
- The virtual team can be stable or changing tasks and or stable or changing membership;
- The hit team changing tasks but stable membership;
- The development alliance increasingly changing tasks but stable membership;
- The evolutionary team changing tasks and changing membership.
At this point the book does come into its own and defines how the teams should operate, how they achieve learning and the behaviours that drive or are a barrier to improved performance. Included within this are stories that illustrate how the theories have been applied in reality, along with useful coaching questions if you are dealing with these types of teams as a coach or as a manager using coaching as a key skill.
So if you can identify the type of team that you have, you can establish the goals of the team, the type of coaching that will be most beneficial, the learning that will be engendered and the coaching questions that will have maximum impact.
Finally, the issue of team self sufficiency and sustainability is broached and it is to its credit that it defines the two final questions that should form the part of any coaching arrangement:
- What is your vision of the ideal handover to the team?
- What do you need to do to realise that vision?
- This recognises that the coach cannot go on forever or that, at times, the coach cannot be with the team all the time.
This book highlights one of the issues with knowledge management. In accumulating the knowledge contained in this book, it is written for an audience of knowledge professionals. But it misses the point that contained within are processes, questions and information that any reasonable manager could use.
Yet unless you can slog it out to page 149 and beyond you wont reach those critical sections that can be applied and make a difference to an organisation. We can always argue that it is difficult for a manager who has a vested interest in an outcome to be a coach. But should that stop a manager becoming a better manager if they can be given the skills and knowledge that will enable them to improve their own performance?
So is this a good book? It is certainly a worthwhile read, but will it help you be a better coach or better manager? If you are a theorist, then yes this is perhaps a book for you. However, if you want to read, assimilate knowledge and apply ideas quickly then perhaps you need to look elsewhere first.
Gary Pyke is a learning and development consultant for Lorien Training, as well as a published author. He can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.