Team Coaching Works Brilliantly: 7 Practices to Coach Using Entire Teams

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By Rodney Jackson, Executive Coach, PCC Certified, International Coach Federation

Updated October 21, 2021

How do you accelerate the growth of your high potential leaders and your current executives? Consider the results you will achieve through a team coaching process called Cohort Coaching.

In Cohort Coaching, we bring in groups of leaders – usually 6-7 – who agree to meet from 4-6 times per year.  If you currently have places where silos are entrenched and leaders act more like adversaries, Cohort Coaching can significantly increase collaboration and mutual problem solving. These confidential sessions encourage leaders to take some risks, and trust naturally evolve during these intensive sessions.

Cohort Coaching participants expose real issues and quickly discover that others have similar challenges.  The sometimes lonely role of leadership becomes a bit less lonely.  Between sessions, participants collaborate more and seek each other’s input and feedback.  As a result, they naturally grow, and shared learning takes place across the company.

Based on our own research and experience, below you will find Seven Best Practices of Cohort Coaching, designed to accelerate development and significantly increase collaboration across your organization.

Seven Best Practices for Successful Cohort Coaching

#1 Select the Right Group and Commit the Time
Identify a group of high potentials or current senior leaders to commit to at least 4 days per year; one day per quarter, for nothing but Cohort Coaching with the same group all year. (If you can get 6 days a year, even better.). Reserve the entire day, yet we find that with a group of 6-7 this can be done in about 5 hours.  We know how valuable time is for your more senior leaders, but the return on investment will be significant.

#2 Use a Qualified Coach to Facilitate Dialogue
Don’t minimize this. Self-facilitating is like going to a family therapy session where Mom or Dad facilitates a session and they are “part of the system”; it’s difficult to remain neutral and objective.  An effective third-party coach will establish a great process, maintain ground rules, ensure confidentiality, and move the team toward deeper discussions and relevant action plans.

#3 Use the No Advice Rule
During the session, you allow for NO ADVICE.  Yes, that is correct. No advice during the coaching session. (For those tempted to stop reading now, keep reading and wait for #4).  Here is why. Coaching is about building self-reliant problem solvers, and our research clearly shows that when you ask people what they want less of, they say less advice.  With less advice and more inquiry, you build self-confidence and skill in the leader being coached. Coaching requires some patience to help individuals go deeper into their own reservoir of knowledge and deep thinking.  Here is a ground rule I use during a group session; if one gives advice, he or she owes the person being coached $20 for the advice given.  It can get expensive, but usually stops the behavior quite quickly!

#4 Cheat a Little on the No Advice Rule
O.K. So I don’t fully honor the “no advice” rule.  I actually take Marshall Goldsmith’s “advice”” (a great mentor to those of us in the coaching profession) by allowing for “feedforward” at the end.  With feedforward, each person writes one and only one concrete suggestion on an index card, in a brief 1-2 sentence format. It has to be specific and actionable, and related to the topic the person discussed during the coaching session.  The person being coached can’t argue or debate the feed-forward, and can only ask a clarifying question if needed and say a simple “thank you”.  That’s it – no discussion allowed.  The action the person being coached takes is up to that person alone.

#5 Stay Away from Operational and General HR Issues.
This may sound a bit odd, but here is my experience.  It is so easy for the one being coached to derail the proces to a less risky and less vulnerable place, and turn attention to another employee or a tactical problem that could be addressed without a coach.  What you really want here is for your leaders to go deeper to challenge their thinking patterns that no longer serve them, and get through the resistances that keep them from truly “moving to the next level”.  The good coach will keep asking questions, such as, “What part do you play in this drama?”, and , “How do you contribute to the issue by your own actions.”

#6 Make Good Use of Data to Guide Your Process 
Use assessment instruments, such as 360-Feedback, Temperament Assessments (i.e., DiSC), Emotional Intelligence Assessments, or various culture or engagement surveys as data to determine the specific skill strengths and gaps that need be developed.  Building this into your cohort process, and providing a few one-on-one sessions to process some of the data, is often quite useful.

#7 Where Appropriate, Insert Topics for Further Development
In some cases, it is useful to “add-on” some specific training or development discussions. For example, several groups we work with have a history of avoiding conflict, while others can’t think strategically or delegate.  Whatever the relevant need, we often have leaders do a bit of pre-work, such as watching a YouTube clip or reading a book or reprint.   We take some time before the Cohort Coaching (often 1-2 hours) and engage in discussion and application.

We are reserving time specifically for new Cohorts.  Call me for a free discussion about this.

Contact us, or leave your comments by text or email at: 858.414.2660 or

All The Best,

Coach Rodney


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