Team and Individual Coaching: vive la différence! Really?

Team Ind 210Both individual and team coaching enjoy a rich history. Despite its widespread popularity, coaching remains an enigma for leaders.  Despite its effectiveness for many, leaders remain hesitant to implement this tool. Further, adding to the confusion, even though many individuals and teams report an improvement in productivity, focus, and even life-changing breakthroughs, there are a lack of studies to help support these important claims. What’s the difference between team and individual coaching? How does a leader determine whether to implement individual or team coaching? In addition, how does a leader know if any coaching is worth the ROI?

The Differences

Research indicates differences in team and individual coaching. However, there are many similarities.

Purpose: Many sources suggest that a coach needs to help teams determine their purpose. Indeed, they do. Then taking that a step further, the purpose needs to be aligned with organizational goals. No surprise there. Individuals, too, need to find their purpose. Assuming they are in their right life’s work, profession, industry, job, etc., to fulfill that purpose, leadership must ensure that the talent of that individual and their tasks are aligned with organizational goals. The individual needs to ensure that they build a clear career path to fulfill that purpose to its highest level. A coach can help an individual with that as well.

Development: All of us are familiar with Bruce Tuckmans’s 1965 team forming storming, norming, performing model. This is a normal process for most every team. Further, this process goes through a recycling each time a team experiences change. Such changes could be team members entering and exiting, new leaders taking over, or retiring, projects ending, new projects beginning and so forth.

Do individuals go through such a process. In a sense yes. We must form our values, behaviors, and motivators. We must learn our skills and develop our talents. Our storming may be in those of us who wrestle with me/me conflicts. Parts of our us want to be assertive, aggressive, have fun, and meet new people. Another part of us, or that voice in our heads, says, “Whoa, slow down. Let’s analyze this”. Others may wrestle with the right thing to do. Norming for a team is when activities such as agreements, commitments, processes, working styles, roles, responsibilities are “perking along” and individuals experience these same activities as well on some level. During the performing stage strategies are clear, autonomy sets in, and the focus is on achieving goals.

Stakeholders: Teams need to be able to manage and appease their stakeholders, especially the executive who gave the green light for this team to exist. Individuals, especially those in career building mode, must have the same commitment to their stakeholders.


For teams, the focus is more on long-term results. It simply takes longer because of the complexity of a team’s makeup. Individuals too, can benefit from a long-term focus, but more often than not the reason for introducing coaching for an individual  tends to be for the idea of a performance issue, a behavioral issue, or performance a communication style that needs immediate attention.  

Interaction: OK, so the idea is that teams and individuals have a lot of similarities. However, one of the biggest differences is that interaction both within the team and the organizational dynamics for the team can be more complex than those of an individual. It takes a coach with the skills of a more systems thinking perspective to understand, recognize, and facilitate those dynamics.

The Project

Team projects are no doubt more complex, or at least more difficult, than a one-person project. For example, a one-person project might be to enter data for six customers, populate an excel sheet with the sales figures from a particular year, conduct 12 survey calls per day, or interview three job candidates and conduct orientation today.

Whereas a team may be charged with systemizing global delivery for a new product. Right away, we can determine that the word global can add a level of complexity beyond just people interaction. Technology will add another level, so will costs, scheduling, politics, legal, cultures, and stakeholders. When you think of scheduling for different time zones just in the United States, add in daylight savings, and then think about that on a global level, it can become complex or difficult in a hurry. The same with cultures on a global level. Phraseology, body language, and communication styles can add many complex angles. Think about politics on a global level…on second thought, let’s don’t even go there.

Team or Individual Coaching?

The short answer is both. Teams which do more storming than norming, or which are stuck may need a coach. On the other hand, teams are made up of individuals with goals, wants, and needs. An individual team member may also have some performance issues that individual coaching can address before the entire team becomes impacted.

Is Coaching Worth the ROI?

Often a person who is new to the public speaking industry will ask, “Should I include humor in my speech?” Those of us, with more speaking experience will quip back: “Only if you want to get paid!” If adding coaching to your toolkit is still a question, the same sentiment still applies with a slightly different twist.

Add coaching only if you want:

  • More productive teams and individuals
  • High performing teams
  • Less conflict
  • Better communication
  • And yes! More profits.

High performance teams are not built in a day. Building trust takes time. The “norming” and “performing” elements of Tuckman’s model are akin to putting on a live performance on stage. If you’ve ever been a member of even a small size troupe, you get the idea. The iceberg effect is alive and well. Let’s build your high-performance team and help each team member be a peak perform. Not so vive la différence! Let's get started.

Graphic Credit:

Coaching,, Leadership; Teambuilding