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Team Coaching & Team Training: What's the difference, and how can they help you make change?

Last week I spent two days in London, on one of the days I was delivering training for a team, on the other I was coaching a (different) team. I was telling a friend this and she asked "What's the difference?", and it made me realise that the answer isn't always obvious to someone who isn't a coach.

Well first it's important to understand the difference between training and coaching. When you're training a team you're teaching skills, sharing knowledge about specific competencies, and then giving the team the chance to practice these new skills in a safe environment. So for example, last week the training included coaching skills, communication skills, time management skills and delegation skills. In this situation, the trainer is the expert, and is imparting knowledge. Everyone in the room is learning the same knowledge and skills and might practice them using exercises, including the dreaded role play ;-)

If you were to coach the individuals within that same team, that would look different. When you coach someone, you recognise that they are the expert, not you. They are the expert in who they are, their background, and what they believe and think. A coach is there to support that thinking, to raise awareness of blind spots or biases, to spot patterns in thinking, and to help overcome barriers to progress. So if we use time management or delegation skills as an example, you can be trained in time management and delegation skills and still struggle to manage your time or to delegate (!). A coach will help you to unlock the reasons why that is: What's stopping you? What's getting in the way? Once you've worked that out (and it might be for a reason you can't see on your own due to your own biases or self limiting beliefs), the coach can then help you to put an action plan in place to overcome these barriers.

When I'm training a team, I do often leverage my coaching skills, eliciting examples and raising awareness of how the skills apply to the people in the room. However everyone is learning the same skill, so this would be more akin to Group Coaching rather than Team Coaching. The difference with Team Coaching is that you're not coaching individuals, but rather the system that is the Team. You work in partnership with the Team to create a safe space for them to raise awareness of their Team's strengths, team dynamics, and opportunities for growth. Normally I will use a Team 360 survey, like the Creating the Team Edge 360, to get input from the team's stakeholders. This is invaluable for raising insights, and for supporting the team to decide where to start with the coaching. I can also leverage psychometrics such as Lumina Learning's Lumina Spark and its Team Wheel, which can uncover some hidden team dynamics due to personality. Coaching sessions typically involve relationship-building, reflective discussions, feedback, goal-setting, and action planning.

A Team Training session will typically be a one-off event, whereas a Team Coaching relationship will last over several sessions, providing accountability and enabling momentum towards progress. Team Coaching is particularly useful in situations when there's been a shift in the team dynamics. Maybe some roles have changed, maybe the organisation has had a restructure, or maybe it's a completely new team. Ultimately team coaching provides the safe space for a team to stop and think, reflect, discuss, and act intentionally, to be the high performing team they want to be.

If you look at the picture I used to illustrate this blog, the Team Training for a volleyball team will involve teaching them ball skills, defence skills etc. Team Coaching will involve them thinking about how they can best leverage each others' skills, work out the best ways of working with each other to reach their goals, build their relationships to help them anticipate each other's and the teams needs, and help them to perform their best based on who they are, uniquely, as a team.

Team Training and Team Coaching are therefore both really useful interventions, but are definitely not the same. What you need will depend on what your objectives are. If your team lacks specific skills or knowledge required to perform their tasks effectively, team training could be an appropriate solution. If your team is experiencing challenges in working together, or you want to improve teamwork, build trust, enhance collaboration, identify better ways of working, then Team Coaching might be more suitable.

This is illustrated by some of the feedback from the team I coached last week:

"Thanks Annabelle,

Was a really great session. Thank you for providing and facilitating a safe space for us to reflect and think together. Looking forward to our next session."

"Thanks so much for all you did for us yesterday I got so much out of our session and am hugely positive and optimistic for the team for the future. It was a fantastic day."

"Just echoing what others have said – it was a brilliant day. Some big and heavy stuff discussed, and yet somehow I feel lighter.

Thank you so much for your attentiveness and thoughtful questioning, and for creating such a safe and productive space. Looking forward to our next session already."

If you're interested to learn more about Coaching or Team Coaching, please don't hesitate to get in touch.

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