When today’s organizations face a complex problem or require a critical deliverable the solution is often to form work teams. The success of these critical teams is often the success of the organization. In an EY report in 2016 titled “The Power of many” they show statistics that executives claim to spend between 47% and 65% of their time in team activities. In Ken Blanchard’s research article “The critical role of teams”, he states  “Eighty-four percent of respondents in our survey said that their organization uses teams to handle special projects, while another 74% indicated that department teams and special teams handle innovations and improvements across the board.

70% of respondents in a study by the University of Phoenix cite being part of a dysfunctional team. (

A diverse team can outperform a top performing, homogenous group by up to 6 times. (HerdWisdom)

Poorly managed work groups are on average 50% less productive and 44% less profitable than well-managed groups. (Gallup)

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Since around 1998 the focus in executive development has been on executive coaching, which has proved incredibly valuable in improving the wellness and efficiency of the individual. Its weakness though is that most if not all executive coaching focuses on the individual and not the team or the system in which the individual operates.


Issues and Risks

  • Key deliverables for the company’s success are in the hands of a few teams.
  • Little training is provided for team leaders in the systemic nature of teams.
  • A lack of understanding of what a high performing team needs in order to operate. We see this in environments where some teams just seem to “click” and yet others fail or struggle.
  • Very few proven methodologies for managing, leading and coaching teams.

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When team coaching is done it is often focused on team building only, but research (Katzenabach and Smith 1993a, 1993b) suggests that team performance only improves if the coaching focuses on all the disciplines and not just on team relationships and dynamics.

Something we experience often is that because of lack of clarity on what a team is and how it performs, businesses spend time trying to turn groups of people into teams, where there is no need for such.

Coaches and HR Business Partners have a tendency to focus on improving the individual, with the belief that high functioning individuals automatically make high functioning teams.

The need for a team coach

From this we see the need in the market for the specialist team coach. A team coach would need the following in order to fulfill his role.


  1. An understanding and ability to work at the systemic level. It is not just the team and the individuals in the team but the broader system of stakeholders, organization, environment and clients that need to be addressed and incorporated into the team’s awareness.
  2. Training in the models and tools of teams and not just individual coaching skills.
  3. A coach with the ability to question and challenge all in the team including stakeholders etc. in a way that is neutral and non-biased. This is why an external coach offers a perspective that an internal person or team leader cannot.
  4. A long-term engagement. Working with a team and turning it into a team that really delivers for its stakeholders requires more than an off-site team build every now and then. A team coach works with a team over a period of time through its different phases, and in different ways.

The process

To start this well the coach needs to assess where the team is and what approach to take.


  • We start of with an interview of the coaching sponsor.
    • Is this a team?
    • What makes them a team?
    • Why do they exist and what do they have to deliver?
  • The sponsor and coach would then agree on and arrange interviews with the team leader, key stakeholders, team members and clients. We would agree upfront with the sponsor who these are and what format the interview would take such as a call, face to face or email.
  • We like the team members to take the TEAM CONNECT 360 assessment. Its purpose is to look at the connections between the team members, their stakeholders and their clients and measure where a team is delivering and where attention is needed. 
  • We would like to meet the team and get a sense from them around what they want to get out of the team coaching.
  • After this assessment CUI would put forth a proposal on what the intervention would look like and costing.

The success of any team is whether it delivers value to its stakeholders and thereby fulfills its purpose.

What the intervention could look like

CUI uses a systemic team coaching approach based on the five disciplines model developed by Professor Peter Hawkins after many years of academic research into team effectiveness.

It looks at 5 key areas.

  1. Commission-Why does this team exist? What is its mandate? What must it deliver? Who does it report to? What will it be measured on?


  2. Clarifying – What is the purpose of this team? What are our objectives? How do we deliver? Team contract? Roles and responsibilities?


  3. Co-Create– What are interpersonal and team dynamics? Do they serve the team? What is going on between the individuals? How can we improve that?


  4. Connecting– What do we need to communicate and with whom? Are we delivering to our clients?


  5. Learning – How do we learn and grow as a team? How do we keep getting better?


Using this model the Team coach will discuss with the team leader what interactions are needed and what form they might take.

Here is an example of what we can do

  • Attending team meetings and providing live feedback.
  • Observing the team or members of the team at work.
  • Interviews with stakeholders or surveys.
  • One on one coaching with the team leader or individuals. We generally recommend that if one member is coached all should be coached to prevent bias.Another outcome of the whole intervention is to get the team leader to the point where they in future could coach the team.


CUI will quote in two phases.

  • Phase 1 – after meeting the sponsor, we will quote on the assessment.
  • Phase 2- after the full assessment we will quote on the work to be done. We generally work on a six-month contract with an agreed number of hours per month with the team.


What makes CUI systemic team coaching work?

  • A sponsor who is committed to the team. (Generally it should not be the team leader.)
  • Access to all stakeholders.
  • A team willing to engage fully with the coach.

Our focus

  • High performing mission critical teams.  
  • Executive teams
  • Boards
  • Special Project teams.