There has been a surge of interest in UCD's Diploma in Team Coaching in recent years.
Pictured - Barry O'Sullivan & Aileen Gleeson, Faculty Leads, UCD Diploma in Team Coaching
There is growing recognition that the overall performance of organisations is directly related to how effectively teams within the organisation work. The very nature of teams is also changing with a shift from fixed hierarchical structures to more fluid transient arrangements where teams form and re-form to include members from different functions and departments depending on the task at hand or problem to be solved.
In this context, the team coach is becoming an ever-more important component of the coaching strategy of forward-thinking organisations. UCD's Professional Diploma in Team Coaching equips experienced coaches with the competence and confidence to provide a high-quality team coaching service, manage often-complex team dynamics, and deliver the high performing teams required by the organisation.
“Team coaching is still an emerging field,” says Faculty Lead Barry O’Sullivan. “The context for its emergence is important. There is a realisation that performance in organisations is more to do with how teams work effectively or not. The old concept of the hero leader or strong leader is fading. This has seen a shift in the focus of leadership development to helping teams work more effectively together. The aim is to have good management practices and good processes that will lead to high performance and more effective outcomes.”
According to Aileen Gleeson, fellow Faculty Lead on the programme, the nascent nature of the discipline can make it difficult to define. “This is an age-old question,” she says. “In some ways, it is almost easier to talk about what it isn’t. It’s not about training or instruction. It is about what makes a team more effective and high performing. What we look at on the programme is how a coach can help a team to reach the desired level of high performance. It’s about setting up a team in the right way to be successful.”
Through the course we review a variety of different approaches, she explains. “Team coaching is evolving and there are multiple ways of thinking. What is effectiveness, how do you define high performing. We work through these things on the diploma programme. As you would expect from UCD, the course has deep academic learning but also blends different theories and approaches with a very strong practical element. Participants learn about different models they can utilise in their team coaching practice, reflect on their presence as a team coach and gain insights into how the broader system impacts the functioning of the team.”
The course is aimed at people with experience of one-to-one coaching and who now want to work with teams. “It’s not a case of simply multiplying what you do as an executive coach for a team,” says Gleeson. “You need to understand the dynamics in the room. The team dynamic is more complex than the dynamic in one-to-one coaching. As a team coach it’s about creating the conditions where the whole can be greater than the sum of the individual parts of the team.”
The practical dimension of the programme is critically important in that respect. “We help people get under the hood of what it looks like and feels like to be a team coach and how they need to be as coaches in the room,” she adds. “The participants act as teams during the course and people get direct experience of being a team coach. It’s a very reflective environment, people get to think about their own team coaching practice and use that to hone their craft.”
The Faculty Leads also take part. “We work with the participants in a quasi-team format,” says O’Sullivan. “We help them understand the shared objectives, interdependencies, how people can work together better. Participants get to experience this as team members and coaches.”
There is also direct practical application to the workplace with participants being asked to identify a team within their own organisation, that they will coach throughout the programme. “This is a key element of the programme,” says O’Sullivan. “It’s a real team and a real workplace environment. Each participant starts off by deciding how they are going to engage with the team and over the nine months of the course build up the skills and develop their own approach to maximising its performance and effectiveness.”
It is not just about classroom exercises; reflection is a vitally important dimension. “People need to be able to carve out a little time to figure out why they are doing something and how they are doing it rather than just focusing on what they are doing and getting on with it,” O’Sullivan points out. “It needs to become a purposeful process. That’s where the coach comes in. Also, very often a team is made up of a group of people with very different ideas of why they are there and why they are doing things. There is no alignment between them. The coach’s role is to bring that alignment by raising awareness among the individual team members of why they are there and what their goals are and turning that into collective awareness. There is no single approach or right way to do this. There are always different choices and alternatives. The important thing is for the coach to be aware of them and to choose the right ones for each particular situation.”
The highly practical nature of the programme brings with it a high degree of flexibility and at times an almost improvisational quality. Gleeson notes “Team coaching at its best is very much about being responsive in the moment. With our clients we start with an agenda, and we react to what is coming up from the team in the moment and conversations flow from that. We don’t tell the team in the room what to do. It is up to the team to decide that. We are not consultants. Our role is to shine a light to help them find the best way forward and to slow things down and know when to intervene. And when we do intervene it is to bring a new lens to the way the team is looking at things or to highlight where voices in the room are not being heard or that things are being left unsaid On the course in UCD whilst we bring our awareness of processes and best practice and give the participants the space to have conversations about them, we equally model the emergent nature of team coaching. In our discussions and experiential work together, we allow space for noticing and working with dynamics and attending to our own ‘team process’.”
“Teams can sometimes find themselves challenged and in a bit of a mire,” O’Sullivan adds. “As team coaches we don’t show our clients the way out, we show them where they are. By the end of the programme participants will understand the thinking behind team coaching and the different models they can use for the effective practice of team coaching. They will be able to develop their own concept of how to approach team coaching. They will be empowered to employ models to develop their own way of doing it.”
Demand for the Diploma in Team Coaching is very strong. “This is not surprising,” says Gleeson. “Team coaching now is probably where executive coaching was 10 years ago. “It is great time to get on board and engaged with it.”