In-Situ Coaching vs. 1:1 Coaching

In-Situ Coaching vs. 1:1 Coaching: Which One Is Right for Your Team?

Written by on November 16, 2015

I recently worked with a team of high performers who were learning how to work together, and I broke one of the cardinal textbook rules of team coaching: I engaged in one-on-one coaching with each member of the team.

Team Trust Requires Transparency

Usually with team coaching, you work with the leader in one-on-one sessions, but you coach the rest of the team in-situ as a unit. When you’re trying to establish trust among a group, every step in the coaching process has to be as transparent as possible. The minute you close a door is the minute trust starts to erode. That’s the way human nature works. When we don’t know what’s going on, we tend to fill in the blanks on our own. And more often than not, the stories we make up are far more malignant than the truth. So to keep the trust flowing, we keep the process visible. Team members can only receive coaching as part of the group.

Coach Individually When it’s For the Good of the Group

But in this particular case, we chose to stray from the rules. The leader felt it was important for team members to have time to reflect with me on the nature of their individual roles within the team, and therefore we decided to schedule one-on-one sessions as well.

Independent sessions can be valuable when employees are used to working on their own and the concept of a team is foreign to them. If they don’t understand what’s expected of them or how the value they bring to the table differs from what someone else offers, an outside perspective can help provide clarity to their purpose. The better individual team members understand how and what they can contribute the better the team will be able to come together to accomplish a bigger goal.

Of course, there are a couple of caveats here. First of all, both the leader and the team members have to trust the coach and the process implicitly. They must believe that helping one individual will help the team, rather than undermine it or the leader. And secondly, all individual coaching sessions have to be constructive and contribute something meaningful to the team dynamic. If everyone is comfortable that both of these caveats can be met, then breaking a rule every now and then can be helpful, and even beneficial. But if you have even a moment of lingering doubt, it’s best to play by the rules, keep the doors open, and let the coaching take place in-situ.