What is a Community of Practice & Why Should I Join One?
Published on Apr 26, 2019 by Michelle Chambers
Do you find many leaders of teams who are not aware of “team coaching” and the value it has in creating high performing teams?
Are you operating a team coaching practice and wondering how others manage the “business aspects” of it?
Are you curious to know what resources are out there that could support you in your team coaching work?
Do you like to collaborate with others? Are you looking for case studies and stores to share with clients?
Do you believe that there is more power in being part of a system that acting alone?
Then read on to discover the benefits of belonging and actively engaging in a Community of Practice (CoP).
What Is a Community of Practice?
Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and who interact regularly to learn how to do it better.
It is much more than a network. It is defined by a shared domain of interest and a spirit of shared practice.
Members value one another and learn from one another through joint activities and discussions.
The purpose of a Community of Practice is to provide a forum for practitioners to share tips and best practices, ask questions of their colleagues and provide support for each other.
Most importantly, members can develop an ample repertoire of resources via their shared experiences, stories, tools and ways of addressing recurring problems.
A community of practice involves learning as a social system.
Communities of practice are important as a professional learning strategy because they have the potential to capture and share existing knowledge.
This sharing of knowledge helps participants improve their practice by providing a forum to identify solutions to common problems and a process to collect and evaluate best practices.
How often have you heard that “people” are an organization's resource?
What if you belong to an organization of 1 or 2? How do you define a Community of Practice within that context?
The Three Dimensions of a Community of Practice
In his pioneering work on Communities of Practice, Etienne Wegner-Trayner, Ph.D. notes that “Despite the fact that knowledge is critical, we still have little understanding of how to create and leverage it in practice.”
He points out that “Traditional knowledge management approaches attempt to capture existing knowledge within formal systems such as databases.”
An example through Team Coaching International would be the Community Forum or the Digital Library within our Team Coaching University (TCU).
Here you can access articles, tools, sample brochures, proposal templates etc. All of which are very useful.
However, “systematically addressing the kind of dynamic ‘knowing’ that makes a difference in practice” Wegner-Trayner states that “requires the participation of people who are fully engaged in the process of creating, refining, communicating and using knowledge.”
According to Wegner-Trayner, “Communities of practice are everywhere! We all belong to a number of them – at work; at home; at school; some have a name and some don’t.”
“We are core members of some and belong to others more peripherally,” Wegner-Trayner observes.
“Members of a community are informally bound by what they do together, from participating in virtual meetings and webinars to solving problems and challenges together.”
To that end, Wegner-Trayner outlines a Community of Practice as follows:
What it is about: the joint purpose of the Community of Practice as understood and continually negotiated by its members.
How it functions: the relationships of mutual engagement that bind members of the Community of Practice together into a social entity
What capabilities it has produced: the shared repertoire of communal resources within the Community of Practice.
“Communities of practice also move through various stages of development characterized by different levels of interaction among the members and different kinds of activities.”
Activities Community of Practice Members Engage In
Problem Solving: Work on design and brainstorm together
Requests for Information: Marketing, CRM’s, coaching forms
Seeking Experience: Has anyone dealt with a client in this situation?
Discussing Developments: What do you think of the new developments/models in team coaching?
Coordination and Synergy: Can we combine our resources/ideas to benefit the client?
Documentation of Projects: Everyone here has faced this problem – let's develop a written process to solve it.
Visits (Face to Face or Virtual): Can we come and see your program. We are in the process of establishing one.
Communities of Practice are Needed Now More Than Ever
With so many organizations experiencing disruption and transformational change in this day and age, the power of the team is increasing.
Hierarchical organizational models aren’t just being turned upside down- they’re being deconstructed from the inside out.
Organizations are reinventing themselves to operate as networks of teams to keep pace with the challenges of an ever-changing and unpredictable world.
Who will support all of these teams? Who will ensure that they are high performing? Team leaders with the assistance and support of team coaches of course!!
Why Participate in a Community of Practice for Team Coaches?
With the increasing need for high performing teams, the demand for support is increasing as well.
Team coaches can engage with teams to enable them to become higher performing and contribute to business results.
Our impact will be more limited if we just operate as small organizational units without the clear benefits of cultivating communities of practice.
Imagine what we could do to change organizations around the world if we modeled what we preached around areas such as communication, alignment, diversity & inclusion for example?
What if we collaborated together to support one another more effectively by sharing tacit knowledge, ideas, and resources?
What if those who led organizations knew how team coaching could contribute to organizational development in the same way that executive or leadership coaching can?
Picture a world with such a strong community of practice for team coaching, that we actually “lifted each other up” and enabled one another to serve more clients sooner and more effectively? What a world that would be!
Some potential ideas that I’ve shared and heard from other team coaches include:
- Sharing of business development leads to an increase in team coaching opportunities
- Sharing of tools and resources to support teams
- Identification of articles and whitepapers on team coaching
- Sharing of presentation topics/outlines for conferences
- Inclusion of “team coaching” as a conference track at leadership conferences
- Development of team coaching competencies for ICF
- Mentoring support for less experienced team coaches
- Sharing of challenges and ideas for overcoming them
- Assistance in managing the “business aspects” of team coaching (e.g. marketing, web sites, CRM’s, etc.)
- Greater awareness from leaders of teams to the benefit of team coaching
- Securing buy-in from senior leadership to adopt team coaching as a key leadership intervention to achieve business goals
- Identification of other team coaches to co-coach with
- Tips and strategies on doing virtual team coaching
- Adoption of “coach bots” and use of other technology
TCI’s Contribution to Community
Here at TCI, we support team coaches with several variations of community by offering the following:
- TCI Alumni Community of Practice (please contact us if you're a TCI graduate and would like to participate).
- Monthly Insights Webinars on various Team Performance Indicators
- A LinkedIn Communication vehicle for team coaches
- A digital library and online learning through our community forum within our Team Coaching University courses.
In addition to that, many of our cohort groups from Accelerated Learning sessions often form an informal community of practice to support one another.
We Invite You to Join our Community of Practice
If you are a graduate of any of TCI's courses, we invite you to join our Community of Practice. The question then becomes:
- What are you doing to contribute to a Community of Practice for Team Coaches?
- What do you value and need from a community?
- What would make you feel more comfortable in participating within the Community?
- What are your ideas for the future purpose of a community of practice?
Please send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.