Leadership Coaching Can Improve Team Performance

group of executives meeting
Topic(s): coaching, leadership, performance, teams
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2020)
Article: Team Leader Coaching Intervention: An Investigation of the Impact on Team Processes and Performance within a Surgical Context
Authors: M.T. Maynard, J.E. Mathieu, T.L. Rapp, L.L. Gilson, C. Kleiner
Reviewed by: Josie Anker

Many organizations utilize leadership coaching as an intervention to improve leader effectiveness. Leadership coaching has been linked to positive effects for leaders, such as increased self-awareness and relationship-building. It is often assumed that coaching leaders will have positive effects on team-level outcomes as well. Surprisingly, no research has directly investigated how coaching a team leader influences team-level processes and outcomes.

Team-level processes can be divided into transition, action, and interpersonal processes. Transition processes refer to things that happen before the team begins the task at hand, such as reflecting on past work or formulating a strategy. Action processes occur when the team is actively working towards their goal, and include things such as coordination and monitoring progress. Interpersonal processes can happen at any time, and include things like managing conflict and building confidence.


New research (Maynard et al., 2020) examines how providing coaching interventions to surgeons (team leaders) influences surgical team-level processes and outcomes. The researchers conducted a quasi-experiment in which they observed hundreds of surgeries. Midway through the observation period, half of the participating surgeons received a coaching intervention and half did not. 

The researchers found that teams led by surgeons who received coaching had higher quality team transition processes, compared to the teams led by surgeons who did not receive coaching. Transition processes, in turn, were associated with higher quality action and interpersonal processes. The increased quality of team processes contributed to better team-level outcomes in terms of fewer delays and distractions during surgery.


This research shows that coaching the leader of a team can have a positive impact on team-level processes and outcomes. Therefore, focusing coaching interventions on team leaders may serve as a more cost-effective and easily coordinated intervention than providing coaching to entire teams.

Maynard, M. T., Mathieu, J. E., Rapp, T. L., Gilson, L. L. & Kleiner, C. (2020). Team Leader Coaching Intervention: An Investigation of the Impact on Team Processes and Performance within a Surgical Context. Journal of Applied Psychology, advance online publication.