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Connecting My Past to My Present Focus: Team Coaching

When I joined Harvard’s Center for Workplace Development just over five years ago, I wondered how my years of organizational experience with nonprofits could benefit the bastion of higher education.

How might my passion for board development apply to this large, complex university environment?

I saw the link after auditing Professor Kimberlyn Leary’s class “Managing Teams” in 2019 (where I loved being a student again at the Harvard Kennedy School). I realized that, at their heart, nonprofit boards are teams. And while coaching leaders as individual contributors can be impactful, leaders need excellent teams to achieve their goals and actualize their visions.

I became determined to add a team component to the rich executive coaching offerings for administrative leaders at Harvard. Fortunately, since starting a new initiative is much easier with a teammate, I found a kindred spirit in my colleague Kristen Scott.

As the pandemic hit, Kristen and I began to communicate daily about this shared interest. We proposed a pilot team coaching program, which hit a nerve (teams were under seismic change in 2020). The feedback was enthusiastic, so we ultimately launched an annual team coaching program—now moving into its fourth year.

Looking back, my passion for team excellence goes back to my undergraduate days at Yale. I somehow landed in Professor Richard Hackman’s organizational development class, where the focus was self-managing teams. Little did I know I was learning from one of the leaders in the field and forming part of the foundation for my future career choices.

For decades, I’ve worked with many kinds of teams: health and safety committees and injured worker associations, resident leaders honing their voices to represent constituents, and nonprofit boards governing organizations on the front lines of social crises.

So while team coaching within higher education is my current focus, it is simply the most recent manifestation of my long-standing passion. The through line is my commitment to teams as powerful and meaningful organisms for accomplishing goals — and engines for change that perform best when both hearts and minds truly collaborate.

In 2024, I’ll be writing more about team coaching and organizational planning. Stay tuned and connect with me on LinkedIn to learn about new posts.


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