Coaching: It’s a team game pt2

Tom Marsden concludes his piece on the importance of team coaching.

Different types of teams

It’s also true that no two teams are the same. The area in which the team needs to focus at any one time will depend upon the specific context. Therefore, it’s critical in any field to understand the different nature of the team.

One thing to recognise is the difference between ‘true teams’ and ‘teams of individuals.’ In sports, true teams might include the likes of rugby, football and basketball. Teams of individuals might include a running or swimming squad or a boxing camp. At work, true teams might include a leadership group that defines a strategy or a product team that builds a product together.

Teams of individuals might include researchers, salespeople or service staff that share a common manager. The key difference is the depth of the collaboration. In true teams much of the work gets done together. Members are dependent on each other to complete their work. Teams of individuals are more independent and success is easier to judge individually.

Team coaching needs to adapt to both contexts.

The most effective coaching blends individual and team coaching

However, the best coaches leverage both individual and team coaching. Team coaching is focused on clarifying collective purpose and how the unit will operate together. Individual coaching is focused on developing the awareness of each individual so that they deliver on their area of responsibility.

In true teams much of the work gets done together. Members are dependent on each other to complete their work.

Alex Ferguson was one of the most successful football managers in history. Many attribute his extraordinary success to his ability to coach both team and individual. Team-based attacking and defensive drills, a chat with David Beckham about balancing his football and media duties or advising Ryan Giggs how to maintain his career. 

Clive Woodward has also acknowledged the benefits of a dual focus. “Great teams are made up of great individuals.” He explained that the way he harnessed Johnny Wilkinson’s talent was to encourage his drive to be better. Sometimes the individual may not be the greatest technically. 

Shane Battier was twice voted ‘team player of the year’ in the NBA. He readily acknowledged he wasn’t the largest, quickest or most skilful, but he made excellent use of the coach’s pre-match reports and this enabled him to read the game better than others.

One trend is that individual contributors are increasingly recognising the ‘team behind’ them. The team behind individuals like Anthony Joshua or Mo Farah is more visible. In research, scientists are working less in isolation. Nobel prizes, for example, are increasingly being awarded to teams rather than individuals. Salespeople are needing to collaborate to close a deal.

The mix provided of team and individual coaching will depend whether you are coaching a true team or a team of individuals. The tendency is to focus on individual one on ones only. This is a good start, but it will not deliver the best results.

These days, we need to coach the team too.

You can read part one of this feature here.


About the author

Tom Marsden is CEO at Saberr.




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