Team Coaching – Launching a Fresh Approach for Our Time

As organisations build momentum towards some form of return to a physical working environment, the spotlight logically falls on teams and teamwork.  What will team work look like given that some team members may opt to work from home whilst still needing to work productively and collaboratively with their colleagues who have chosen to work in the office?  How will chance opportunities to collaborate, connect and create ideas happen?  How can teams capitalise on improving working relationships from a work and social perspective?  So many questions and yet so many potential opportunities to power up teamwork now and into the future.

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Team Coaching: What’s in a name?

In our last blog we introduced the idea of our Team Coaching model, based on design thinking principles that we have called DESIGN coaching.  In this next blog we want to examine the differences between Team Development, Team Building, Team Facilitation and Team Coaching.

When we started exploring the world of team coaching, we were confused.  We could see so many synergies amongst these team interventions and at first felt was it just a matter of semantics over what the intervention was called.  But we felt we had to stay true and authentic to our coaching roots particularly as when we are working in the coaching education arena, we take great care to help our students be clear about differences between coaching and mentoring or training or counselling or consulting or therapy.  So, it reminded us that we need to be clear about the differences between these various team interventions available to help teams work through issues about effectiveness, performance and productivity.

We experienced a few ‘false starts’ in our quest to understand these differences and heard different accounts ranging from – ‘team coaching is not intervening in any way and letting the team work it out for themselves’ end of the continuum to ‘you observe the team in action and then provide them with your views and action plan on what they need to work on’ end of the continuum.

Neither of these views resonated well with us so we turned to the ICF team coaching competencies and found them helpful, particularly as they compare and contrast the different interventions or modalities and assess them against criteria such timeframe, process, growth area, team dynamics, expert/ownership.  Here is the link to the ICF team coaching competencies:

Our DESIGN coaching model aligns with the ICF view of team coaching except for the timeframe.  We presume our timeframe to be shorter but are open to the needs of the team and would rather be guided by their needs and perspective.

In design thinking terms we are at the prototyping and testing stage of our model and will have more to say in future blogs on how the model is being applied in the real world of team coaching.  We would love to hear your experiences good / bad / ugly about team coaching and what specific challenges or opportunities you are currently facing.

Please feel free to get in touch to continue the conversation



Coaching by DESIGN A more creative approach to coaching?

Photo by Joyce Adams on Unsplash

Recently I listened to a webinar by McKinsey in which they shared their recent research into ‘Building Workforce Skills at Scale to Thrive During and After the Covid 19 Crisis’₁. A key message was the need for capability building and investment in talent on an unprecedented scale to move forward successfully in the new world. According to McKinsey, key skills needed include advanced cognitive skills and critical thinking. A range of strategies were identified to achieve this reskilling including ‘fast coaching’. These elements very much reflect our newly emerging approach to coaching.   Over the past year we have been designing, testing and promoting what we call DESIGN Coaching. Early results from our testing phase suggest that not only can DESIGN Coaching help to support the development of these skills, it is also a more flexible process with the potential to deliver tangible results within a less protracted timescale than some more traditional coaching approaches.


At Level 7 we know from our experience as practising coaches and our work in educating and training new coaches that there are core skills, models and philosophies that most coaches seek to adopt as a basis for their coaching careers. Whilst we appreciate the value of an eclectic approach as coaches mature in their practice, at the heart of coaching for many still remain core elements – e.g. robust and powerful questions and an underpinning model. As we observe the world emerging from Covid, we believe that there is value in adopting a less prescriptive but nevertheless robust coaching approach. An approach that is more flexible, in tune with a less predictable and structured working world and ultimately an approach that encourages and supports creative thinking.


As passionate advocates of both coaching and design thinking, it was only natural for us to look to these fields for our solution. So we decided to synthesise the principles of design thinking and coaching into an integrated process that at the same time encourages discovery and fun. If we can grow awareness, develop intuition and enhance creativity then we can ultimately help create change and transformation for individuals and also for those around them.  We believe that our DESIGN Coaching approach can achieve richer data collection, deeper insighting, and energise experimentation to address client and organisation coaching challenges.


Look out for our next blog in which we will explain the key elements of DESIGN coaching. Our testing phase is ongoing, so if you’d like to be part of it just drop us a line at

A Coaching Culture: Nice to Have but Hard to Get?


We are aware of a growing buzz amongst our clients and coaching students about the importance of creating a coaching culture in their organisations. Enhanced awareness of the value and role of coaching seems to lead to a perception that if more people are using coaching skills, having coaching conversations and showing the value added that comes from coaching then maybe a coaching culture will emerge. Aspirations would appear to be strong, but the evidence less so. In a 2014 study, the ICF found that despite most organisations recognizing the value of a ‘robust coaching programme’, only 13% of organisations participating in the research are classified as having a strong coaching culture’. (2014BuildingACoachingCultureReport.pdf)

So there appears to be a rhetoric and reality gap. In addition, there is also a pressing need for individuals and organisations to respond to the post Covid world.  The question that is often asked of us as learning and development experts is, ‘How can we help to create a coaching culture that is attuned to the needs of both the organisation and the wider world?’. This question reflects Hawkins (2014c) when he asks ‘Who or what does coaching serve?’ and advocates a systematic approach to working with that wider society. (


We very much support a systemic approach for coaching that supports the ‘new world’ of stakeholder and societal collaboration. But what do we mean by a ‘systemic’ approach? For us it is about identifying what needs to be done and how it can be achieved, incorporating individuals’ needs, motivations and feelings while also including the wider perspectives of multiple stakeholders involved in and benefiting from the coaching process.


We believe that a design thinking underpinning to that systemic approach can in turn support the development of a coaching culture that is human centred, iterative and inclusive.


We’ll be looking further at the practicalities of a design thinking approach to coaching in future blogs and also how design thinking can underpin a variety of other post Covid learning and development needs.


Photo by Joshua Rawson-Harris on Unsplash

January Optimism


Well, that was the festive season 2020. It was unlike any other I can recall and I have to confess I am not sad to move on albeit into a year with as many if not more challenges immediately ahead. So, today on my first day ‘back at work’ in my isolated office, I am looking for some positives…. from somewhere…. anywhere. One thing that has sustained me greatly through the period since March of last year has been walking around my local area every day: sometimes a quick half hour sprint around the neighbourhood, other times a longer more rural adventure as I am lucky enough to have countryside all around and easily accessible by foot.

This morning I walked around my local country park. A few days ago, it was covered with water as a result of heavy rainfall over many days. But today the waters were receding, the sheep were back and the sky was breaking into small patches of blue. However bleak this place had been it was recovering and refreshing itself, looking slightly battered but reassuringly familiar.  Maybe that is as much as we can expect for ourselves over the next few months, a slower recovery perhaps than my park, but the prospect of a refreshed world that might just feel ok.

On returning home to a coffee and a scan of the morning news, I found an article by Jay Rayner ( in which he looks forward optimistically to the future of the restaurant sector. We are all so familiar with the devastation that this sector has faced and is still enduring but Jay shares some really important reassuring comments that I think have relevance for all of us in business. He quotes a source who summed up his view of 2021 in the following way: “The first three months will be as bad as 2020. In the second three months, the cavalry are coming. The last six months are likely to be the best we’ve ever had.”  Jay believes there is a ‘pent-up appetite for fun’, certainly amongst those businesses that have managed to survive through the pandemic so far and ‘despite it all, there remains a willingness to try. That’s a cause for optimism’.

Gill and I set up Level Seven in 2008. Yes, during a recession…we were told it might not be such a good idea but we rode it out and in 2021 will celebrate 13 years in business. What has kept us going? Well, we have been eternally optimistic! We have had to be flexible and adapt to the needs of our market and our clients. We have had to be resilient and able to draw on sources of inspiration and strength. Most of all, and this picks up on one of Jay Rayner’s comments, we have had fun along the way. Looking into 2021, and with this in mind, we have created our own new Level Seven coaching model based on design thinking and focusing on the power of energy generation, creativity and excitement. We will share this in our next blog.

What kind of data?

what kind of data - online event workshop design thinking

Whichever problem-solving process you use, data plays an important role.  As we know only too well, there is a wealth of data that are willingly being shared to inform people about how decisions regarding the Coronavirus situation are being made.  But how valid are these data?  This article highlights the issue that over-reliance on technology, data and algorithms is not always helpful.


One comment from the article suggests a need for a range of data to support problem-solving and decision-making:


“Our argument is simply that this logic, and these ideas, should be dropped. Indeed, a succession of recent failures and fiascoes has only underlined the paucity of the intellectual thinking behind this agenda as well as its lack of emotional intelligence”.


Design Thinking begins with the need to collect valid and reliable data about the people who are experiencing the issue and the circumstances that they engage with the issue, hence the need for design thinkers to draw on their skills of empathy; a key element of the emotional intelligence concept.  Of course, currently it is difficult to immerse ourselves in the issues and situations of those people for whom we are trying to help but we are human beings after all and that is a good starting point.   Self and Other awareness as well as empathic imagination could also help.  However, design thinking is an inclusive, collaborative and co-creative process so with these strategies in mind any solution that is generated can be tested out in the early stages through prototypes.


Our event on 8 December creates a space for all the above to be experienced.  We are using the context of reigniting individual passion and purpose, so why not come and give it a try – you might re-discover something joyful as well as learn about design thinking?