How is Team Coaching different from Group Coaching?


“What is the difference between Team Coaching and Group Coaching?”

HR Directors and professionals, like many students of our courses, get often confused by this subtle difference. This confusion may imply the loss of a significant opportunity to chose the right approach for the right people.

I want to briefly highlight this difference, and why this difference matters, hoping to shed some light about how to chose the most effective methodology.

Team Coaching defined

In general, we define Team Coaching as the art of facilitating and challenging a real team to maximize its performance and enjoyment in service of meaningful organizational goals.

Team Coaching is the art of facilitating and challenging a real team to maximize its performance and enjoyment in service of meaningful organizational goals.

According to John Katzenbach and Douglas Smith, a real team is “a small group of people with complementary skills who are committed to a common purpose, performance goals and approach for which they are mutually accountable” (1993, The Wisdom of Teams: Creating the High-performance Organisation, Harvard Business School, Boston).

In Team Coaching, the client is a real team, including the team leader and each one of their direct reports. They work together for common goals against which the whole team’s performance is evaluated. Individuals in a team are therefore interdependent.

In Team Coaching, the client is a real team.

Often real teams stumble at operating as high performing teams because of problems such as:

  • are unclear goals, or targets which are not compelling or not well-aligned with the wider organizational strategy and culture
  • team decision processes are unclear or obsolete
  • the team lacks effective communication guidelines and team facilitation routines
  • the team is missing a coordinated stakeholders management strategy
  • there is insufficient trust among the team members, resulting in a poor capacity of handling difficult conversations – as well as an increased level of unnecessary anxiety, stress and discomfort of the working environment.

Stumbling blocks like these can create a dramatic impact on business performance, especially when they involve boards or directive teams managing entire businesses, functions or divisions.

Team Coaches work overtime with teams by supporting them to increase awareness of the current patterns, and by challenging its members to leverage on their resources, strengths and life-giving forces to enhance team processes, relationships and performance.

Group Coaching Defined

Group Coaching is a facilitative process that leverages the experience of a group of individuals which may or not work together.

Group Coaching is a facilitative process that leverages the resources and knowledge of a group of individuals working on a common theme but having different individual performance goals.

Unlike in Team Coaching, in Group Coaching, individuals do not need to achieve common objectives for which they are interdependent, but have in common just a theme or competency all of them want to develop.

HRs often use Group Coaching as a cost-effective alternative to one to one coaching when organizations want to develop a larger number of middle managers or professional while using a reflective, empowering and bespoke approach.

Unlike traditional training, a Group Coach does not ‘teach’ or ‘lecture’ about models or theories or tools, but partners with the group in building the process and in creating an effective thinking environment. In order to achieve this, Group Coaches use different methodologies such as plenary coaching, structured questions sets, activities of buddy work, peer-consultation sets, learning diaries, discussion of critical cases etc.

Choosing the right approach

We use Team Coaching and Group Coaching not only with different targets but also in different situations and with different aims.

We implement Team Coaching when we want individuals of the same team to collaborate in order to boost team performance. It is therefore often useful when a team needs to:

  • Establish a compelling vision and strategy
  • Articulate its values and mission, translating them into coherent team practices
  • Enhance climate and trust during a turbulent moment
  • Re-establish an effective working contract when new team members enter the team
  • Enable hidden conflicts to emerge and manage them more safely and productively
  • Drive forward challenging change initiatives through clear action plans involving inter-dependent actions and the management of a complex stakeholders system.

We need Group Coaching when we want individuals from different teams or departments to share challenges and best practices in service of transversal developmental goals. Typical examples are:

  • supporting cultural change while enabling middle managers to own a new competency model or to develop a specific competency
  • developing talents by giving them a chance to integrate knowledge in behaviors after a more traditional training or management programmes
  • engaging groups of managers facing similar challenges to share solutions and best practices and to embed new behaviors.

As a final note: not all Team Coaches are also good Group Coaches, and the other way around. I usually advise HR professionals to verify upfront the approach of the coach they are about to engage, for example by asking how they would articulate the difference between Group and Team Coaching or what have been their previous experiences in these fields.

The key for successful coaching interventions lies in striking the ideal mix between right target, aims, approach and coach.

The key for successful coaching interventions lies in striking the ideal mix between right target, right aims, right approach and naturally right coach

Original article by Andrea Cardillo PhD, PCC – Managing Partner at TPC Leadership, Italy

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