In many professional service teams it is not only the team leaders who coach. Other senior colleagues frequently supervise the work of trainees and less experienced people. Some coaches, or supervisors as they are called in some professions, do an excellent job. They have a talent for the task and deploy first-class skills. They may have learnt from their own experiences of having been coached. However, many of them are not naturals. It is part of the team leader’s job, in my view, to ensure that they receive some help with the skills needed. This may come from the team leader personally or from elsewhere. It doesn’t matter as long as it happens.
I am often struck by the wealth of talent and experience in a typical professional service team that is not shared with colleagues. There are time pressures, of course, which force professionals to concentrate on the coalface job. It is understandable. But it is not usually as simple as that. The belief that it is not really their job to help others is still surprisingly prevalent among some types of professional worker. Perhaps it is rooted in the historic preference, prevalent in some professions, for working alone, sticking to one’s expertise and keeping clients to oneself. Perhaps the idea of professional skills providing an individual competitive advantage is a contributory factor. Most professional service firms, these days, extol the virtues of teamwork. Part of good teamwork is sharing knowledge, skills and experience. A good way to promote this is to encourage team members to act as sounding boards for their colleagues and to provide help and guidance when requested. In other words, in an effective team, coaching is everybody’s business. In those firms that go beyond lip service, and make it happen, it is the team leaders who pave the way.