Teamwork and performance are sacrosanct in corporate and sports events. As a sportsperson and as a team member, we know that responsible factors of high-performing teams include aligning towards goals, remaining innovative, and adapting quickly to internal and external changes. Team coaching explores subsurface dynamics of individuals, subgroups that impact team performance. 

Team Coaching enlightens us on how individuals can and should move from ‘I’ to ‘We’, bring about more trust, connections and also addresses how to handle team dynamics in various scenarios.

Snehal Kole is the Founder and CEO of Evolve Biz Consulting. A professional with over 16 years of experience in business consulting, consultative selling and coaching, having trained over 25,000 professionals across sectors in the area of leadership, sales and behavioral skills. He is a certified facilitator in situational leadership, Situational Coaching, NLP & MBTI. Snehal is also a Strategic Advisor to Sourav Ganguly for his brand endorsements and engagements.

Nilesh Kulkarni is the first Indian to take a wicket in his first ball in test cricket. Nilesh represented India for 4 years and Mumbai for 17 years. Rashtriya Khel Protsahan Puraskar awardee by Govt. of India, Nilesh is an active member of Cricket Improvement Committee and Directorate of Sports and Youth Services, Mumbai and National Sports Education Board Committee, Delhi. Nilesh founded India’s first professional sports management institute to offer UG and PG programs in collaboration with Mumbai University. 

Marco Buschman is an internationally recognized Leadership Expert, Master Certified Team and Executive Coach, International Facilitator, Inspirational Speaker and Bestselling Author of the famous book, “The Connection Quotient.” He supported thousands of leaders and termed strategic issues and personal development. He is specialized in creating the best performance culture focusing on results and productivity combined with trust, respect and appreciation of differences.

Difference between coaching an individual and a team

This is the question that sounded silly to me because, at the end of the day, teams are a bunch of individuals only, but Marco Buschman’s response brought clarity to me. He says that both are different professions.

Individual coaching involves working with the person and all of its elements. Team coaching involves working with a system.

Few tend to do individual coaching in a team setup, which impacts trust. Working in an environment of a system is about making the people aware of how the system works, how everyone can work together, how each one can help others. It is more about how the coach interacts with the system. 

Nilesh Kulkarni explains with cricket analogy. A coach has a different place while the captain is the lead, who calls the shots (way of playing). A coach aligns the thoughts, designs strategies, prepares a complete plan of action which suits the players, comforts, and manages the players into their different situations. But in games like basketball, football, baseball, a coach takes the leadership role. He calls the shots, the captain executes them. The leadership role as a coach needs to define the ‘thin line’ – how to cross it; by performing or empowering. How the line is defined determines the role of a coach. 

Transition to the role of a Coach from Individual to Team

Mr. Nilesh was thankful to have Frank Tyson who played a great role in his life. He helped Mr. Nilesh excel and realize what needs to be done as a young cricketer. When he went from first-class cricket to international cricket, equipping him to take a back seat and excel though he was very well equipped with skills. Primarily, the requirements are empowerment, decision-making ability. 

What is a group and a team. What is the role of a leader?

The speakers emphasize the role of communication, and I couldn’t agree more with this point. Being a member of teams at various points, I think communication (from the leader to the team, between the team members) is the strongest link that can accelerate the team outcomes.

In the transformation to Team, the role of communication differs. Communication with a leader is different from communication with the team members. For a coach, the empowerment of team members determines the outcome of the entire process. Many people prefer to stay in a group without voicing opinions. Communicating to the senior authority, for empowerment to happen in the right way is the key to success. Unfortunately, people are afraid to share an opinion that is critically relevant at a particular moment. A way has to be found to make sure what we wish to communicate is done in the right manner. To me, I prefer to stay silent because of fear of failure, fear of getting looked down upon, fear of being judged (in the wrong way) and fear of being outcasted holds me back from putting my views forward. A leader who drives the team is answerable and accountable. This is what differentiates a group and a team from Mr. Nilesh’s perspective. 

Mr. Marco adds a leader must be open to accepting all the suggestions even if he has a completely opposite opinion. He has to build psychological safety among the members. A leader must be brave to take tough decisions. “The leader is as good as the team. If the team performs well, the leader to gets the credit for it” 

Coach Preparation for the Mega events (World cup, Olympics)

Since the panelists had such decorated coaches and players from the sports industry, I was looking for some insights on sports, fitness, mental toughness, etc. all that is shown in the biopics of great sportspersons (yes, I am a little filmy)

Behind the scenes, preparations are not always seen publicly. Olympics, for example, the preparation started 3 years ago. The coaches have a long sight. The preparation starts right after the previous event – Identifying the players, outstanding performers, building healthy relations in the team, training them. As part of the preparatory work for the recent Olympics, the hockey men and women team was confined for 15 months. They were kept away from their family, friends. They were all together by themselves isolated, the psychologists were assigned, members were assigned with individual members. Mr. Nilesh also believes that “the preparation must start right after the previous session is finished” because the time is very limited. 

Marco gives this a different spin and explains from a business perception. With respect to sports, 90% of the time is utilized for preparations for the final day. Similarly, in the business too, a lot of time should be used in working on the team, experimenting day by day. Every day has to create results. It is important not only to train people on technical skills, but they also need to develop personal skills to be even better. 

Marco dwells upon his book – Connection Quotient, where he explains relationship trust. There are 2 key elements-

  • Building trust
  • Integrity

In order to build trust in a relationship, understanding among all the members is very essential. Sharing similar interests also creates better relationship trust between individuals. In a team, everyone is right. Every person’s opinion is true, what matters is the perspective. While a person’s opinion may be contradictory, simply consider it. 

Role of a coach and time of appointment

Slowly the discussion drifted to the importance of a Coach for a team. The role of the coach depends on the goal of the team. Mr. Nilesh recollected a test series where Team India had lost with 36 runs, all out; Captain Virat Kohli came for fraternity league where 6-8 players were injured during the tenure of the test series. In the entire team of players, the only player who could play was one extra who was brought with the support staff. The rest of the players were injured and a few had to fly back to India. 

The coach kept the morale high. It was entirely a new team playing against an established Australian team. 

The performance they showcased relied on:  

  • Belief
  • Trust in their abilities
  • Accountability and Responsibility
  • Well Directed Practice

They became accountable for the right and the wrong step they took. The belief that was instilled by the coach was phenomenal as against the outcome of that series. This reflects the character.

“When a person believes in oneself, trusts the team, and is transparent within the team, the outcome would be phenomenal”.

Areas that coach focuses in Transformation, Performance, Reform stages

All of us, in the team, are in different stages. Independent of which stage one is in, the factor that matters the most is attitude. Results of research by Google on best-performing teams say ‘psychological safety is the primary aspect for obtaining the best results irrespective of whether the person has extraordinary capabilities. Nilesh adds, “Start accepting failures, that results in better outcomes”, while he recalls the popular quote of Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam, “Definition of FAIL is, First Attempt In Learning”. In the end, only two things happen – either we Succeed or Learn.