How to Coach for Collaboration | THE LEADERSHIP COACHING INNER CIRCLE™

How can you effectively tap into this potential and cultivate a thriving workforce?

In a survey of successful teams at Google, Google Human Resources found that in addition to psychological safety, effective teams have a shared belief that their work is personally meaningful and contributes to greater impact or change.


Moreover, the World Economic Forum recognizes collaboration as a vital social skill for the future.


In today’s knowledge-driven economy, where the value of human capital surpasses all other forms of capital, it reigns as the most precious asset organizations can possess.


In a world where work is no longer confined to traditional job roles or specific physical locations, the ability to work together seamlessly and leverage diverse perspectives is becoming increasingly important.


In this new era, it’s the ability to tap into the collective intelligence and unleash the potential of every individual that sets organizations apart. The power of human capital lies not only in what employees know but also in their ability to innovate, collaborate, and adapt to the ever-changing demands of the business landscape.


However, despite these insights, the reality is that productivity growth is declining in many organizations. McKinsey reports that labor productivity in the U.S. has only grown 1.4% since 2005, resulting in missed opportunities worth a staggering $10 trillion. This decline calls for a proactive response from business leaders to embrace change, drive transformation, and address workforce challenges.


I see organizations continuing to juggle a competitive talent landscape with an exhausted workforce, from quiet quitting to quiet hiring and quiet firing, and from the Great Resignation to the Great Conversation. Employees have many choices at their fingertips, giving them the edge in compensation negotiations, benefits, and geography. It’s still challenging for us to attract and retain top talent while managing the demands of a workforce that may feel overwhelmed and stretched thin.


As a forward-thinking leader or HR professional, you understand the significance of nurturing and harnessing this invaluable resource. You recognize that creating a culture that values and develops human capital is the key to sustainable growth, competitive advantage, and organizational resilience.


But how can you effectively tap into this potential and cultivate a thriving workforce? Moreover, how does coaching fit into all of this, and why should you care?


When employees find purpose in their tasks and see how their contributions make a real impact, their motivation and engagement soar, this sense of purpose strengthens the team’s identity and fosters a culture of collaboration.


By adopting essential principles of professional coaching, leaders and HR professionals, can create an environment of collaboration, purpose, and continuous development within their teams. Fostering collaboration and innovation. Rather than relying on top-down directives or micromanagement.


The Takeaway


HR professionals are pivotal in equipping managers with the essential coaching tools and frameworks. We act as catalysts, empowering, supporting, and training our managers to embrace coaching and infuse it into their leadership style–not forcing it.


By fostering a culture that recognizes every communication and interaction as an opportunity to model and lead the way, HR professionals create an atmosphere where managers can experience firsthand the transformative power of coaching.


You can use coaching approaches to set an example for collaborative team culture by: 


1. Shared Goals Can Unite Your Team and Strengthen Engagement


Coaching conversations use open questions to understand client values, motivations, and goals. Managers can use a similar approach to elicit team values.


You can take a coaching approach to explore team purpose by asking open questions, such as:


1. What do you find most fulfilling about the work we do as a team?

2. How do you see our team’s contributions making a meaningful impact on the organization or our stakeholders?

3. What values or principles do you think are important for our team to uphold in our work?

4. How can we align our individual goals and strengths to contribute to a shared team purpose?

5. In your opinion, what are the key outcomes or results that our team should strive to achieve?



Managers can initiate discussions about values and motivations during Quick Connects, team check-in meetings, or any of the Five Coaching Conversations that Drive Performance.


When team members are together, managers can use these conversations to explore where values overlap and how these values shape the work being done. 


2. Fostering Curiosity


By fostering curiosity, managers hold space for multiple perspectives. When managers practice curiosity, they invite their employees to share new ideas, propose alternative solutions, or offer fresh ways of considering a challenge.


Similarly, coaches practice curiosity to help clients examine underlying assumptions, take an outside perspective, or imagine new possibilities.


Managers who want to promote curiosity in their teams can ask open, non-leading questions that leave room for multiple answers. Asking team members to imagine an alternative perspective takes the conversation away from consensus and prioritizes creativity.


You can take a coaching approach to foster curiosity by asking open questions, such as:


1. What innovative ideas or approaches have you come across recently that could benefit our team or organization?

2. If you had unlimited resources and no constraints, what changes would you make to improve our team’s effectiveness?

3. How can we create a learning environment that encourages curiosity, experimentation, and continuous improvement?

4. If you were in the shoes of a customer/client, how would you perceive our products/services?

5. Imagine you are a competitor looking at our organization. What strengths and weaknesses would you identify?


3. Inviting team members to co-create solutions promotes team leadership and decision-making.


Coaching is a partnering relationship built on shared discovery. When managers partner with team members to collectively set goals or examine a challenge, they acknowledge the expertise and knowledge of their team members.


As a development strategy, when employees are engaged in decision-making conversations or co-create knowledge, it strengthens the employee’s confidence and individual capacity to work independently.


Managers who invite their teams to co-create solutions improve team engagement and confidence. These kinds of shared decision-making conversations also help team members feel greater ownership of their work and prepare them to navigate change.


However, leaders may find that engaging with employees to co-create solutions goes counter to workplace norms, where leaders are expected to have ALL the answers. As a product of this model, some employees may find it challenging to make decisions or fear they will make the ‘wrong’ choice.


When employees are invited into decision-making conversations with their manager, it encourages team members to prompt collaborative conversations with partners both within and outside of their team.


You can invite team members to co-create solutions by asking open questions, such as:


1. When facing conflicts or disagreements, how can we work together to find a resolution that satisfies everyone’s needs and concerns?

2. In what ways can we explore alternative perspectives to better understand the underlying reasons for the conflict?

3. How can we encourage open and honest communication to foster a collaborative environment for co-creating solutions amidst conflict?

4. What steps can we take to ensure that all team members have an equal opportunity to contribute their ideas and perspectives when resolving conflicts?

5. How can we leverage the diversity within our team to find creative and mutually beneficial solutions to the conflicts we encounter?

6. How can we work together to address this challenge and find a solution that benefits everyone involved?

7. What ideas do you have for improving our processes or systems, and how can we implement them collaboratively?

8. In what ways can we leverage the diverse skills and perspectives within our team to co-create innovative solutions?

9. What support or resources do you feel you need to actively contribute to co-creating solutions?

10. How can we create a safe and inclusive environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their ideas and participating in the co-creation process?



Acknowledging team and individual contributions further incentivizes collaboration.


Similar to one-on-one interactions between a manager and employee, teams thrive off a combination of recognition and appreciation. Harvard Business Review emphasizes the importance of combining recognition and appreciation for employee engagement because people like to be recognized for their achievements and need to feel appreciated for their inherent value as a person.


Coaching combines recognition and appreciation through acknowledgment – connecting a person’s attributes to their growth process and success. For example, coaches might celebrate client accomplishments by acknowledging how client strengths contribute to goal attainment.


In the workplace, managers can model this same approach by highlighting the team attributes that support successful work in addition to the role of collaboration in project completion.


When managers acknowledge their teams as a collective and as a sum of talented individuals, they model the importance of collaboration.


By fostering a culture of acknowledgment and recognition in team meetings, managers can lay the groundwork for effective collaboration. Encouraging team members to share how their colleagues’ unique talents and perspectives contribute to the collective effort strengthens trust and mutual respect within the team.


Building upon this foundation, it is crucial for organizations to take the next step and incorporate coach-specific training, including coaching models and frameworks, into supervisor and manager trainings. This holistic approach ensures that managers are equipped with the necessary skills to support their teams, empower individuals, and drive successful outcomes.


While it would be ideal to delve into all the details, covering everything in a single post would be impractical. Exploring all the details would require extensive time, potentially spanning hours and even days, if we were to delve into it thoroughly.


However, I can offer you a starting point to begin your journey.


I recommend starting by familiarizing yourself with a coaching model. There are so many different coaching styles and techniques out there that it’s hard to tell what works best for your employees.


The GROW model holds a special place in my heart as one of my favorite coaching models.


I am drawn to the GROW because it provides a robust structure that enables individuals to navigate their coaching journey with clarity and purpose. The GROW model facilitates profound personal and professional growth by emphasizing goal setting, examining the current reality, exploring various options, and establishing concrete action plans.


If you embrace the GROW Model, your coachees will LOVE you because it’s results-oriented. 


And you’ll feel supported, too, because you’ll know you’ve covered the key elements of a coaching session. Once you know and master this model by heart, you’ll NEVER lose focus in a coaching session again.

Now, it’s important to set realistic expectations when it comes to the impact of coaching on your organization. While coaching is a powerful tool for driving collaboration and improving team performance, it’s essential to recognize that it won’t magically solve all of your organizational problems. It’s not a quick fix or a cure-all solution for complex organizational challenges.


Coaching is not a magical solution for learning and development but a valuable resource that can enhance and enrich leaders’ growth. It’s a process that requires time, commitment, and active participation from C-suite leaders, HR professionals, managers, and employees alike.


It’s fascinating what research has uncovered about the impact of coaching skills on our teams and organizations, though. I recently came across this comprehensive white paper based on a mixed methods study, highlighting some pretty exciting findings. It turns out there’s a clear correlation between the frequency of using coaching skills among managers and leaders and a range of positive outcomes.


Organizations experienced significant improvements in areas like employee engagement, working alliance, and even a decrease in the intention to quit when coaching skills were consistently applied. It just goes to show how powerful and beneficial incorporating coaching techniques can be in our daily practices.



Remember, when managers place themselves outside the team structure, communication flows in one direction, limiting opportunities for team members to share concerns, options, or new perspectives.


Coaching approaches place leaders within their teams, inviting members to co-create solutions. These types of conversations also reinforce the value of collaboration in employee interactions.


Telling may convey information but listening transforms relationships.


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