Author Archives: David Webster

Adapt Part 3: The Joy and Pain of Teams

Adapt Part 3: The Joy and Pain of Teams. The third in our Adapt series offering practical insight and guidance to senior leaders and their teams as we all seek to understand how to adapt to a time of unprecedented global change and now, readjustment. In this video we expand on the opportunities leader have to create ever more effective teams as organisations emerge from the Covid crisis and establish new patters of ‘teamship’.


Emerging from Covid-19

‘Emerging from Covid-19’: An interactive, free, Adapt ‘share and learn’ seminar (Postponed from June 2020)

This is the next in our ‘Adapt’ series offering practical insight and guidance to senior leaders and their teams as we all seek to understand how to adapt at a time of unprecedented global change.

In this free interactive session, we’ll be facilitating a discussion drawing on your own experiences and then sharing our own insights from 20 years of supporting global leadership teams in times of change. We shall be posing the following questions:

  1. What have you and your teams done that’s really worked in your organisation?
  2. What are the key lessons for ‘teamship’ at this time?
  3. What are your top tips for other leaders going through a similar journey?

Pick a date: Postponed – new dates TBC

Come and Join Us!

Covid Session 1 poster

Adapt Part 2: Slow Down to Speed Up

Adapt Part 2: Slow down to speed up.  The second in our series offering practical insight and guidance to senior leaders and their teams as we all seek to understand how to adapt to a time of unprecedented global change. In this video we recommend that senior leaders and their teams slow down long enough to improve alignment and the quality of their decision making in their quest to become truly Adaptable Teams.


Adapt Part 1: WTF?

Adapt Part 1: WTF? The first in a series offering practical insight and guidance to senior leaders and their teams as we all seek to understand how to adapt to a time of unprecedented global change. In this video we address the central question: ‘WTF…is going on?’ This assists us in grounding our initial response as leaders.


How to be trustworthy

Trust: The stuff of great leadership teams

Trust: The stuff of great leadership teams

It was 12 noon on the first morning of our two days together. My colleague and I invited the Executive Team to consider the qualities and behaviours that would help their conversations be successful in their work together. The stakes were high – complex expectations from multiple stakeholders, and tough delivery targets. In this workshop, there was an opportunity to ‘clear the decks’ and refocus. Here, they could ‘slow down to speed up’.

Running somewhat against accepted development wisdom, we had waited until later in the first morning to hold this conversation. Waiting helps the team start to understand the rules they need. Our experience is that even in the first two hours, they will have become much more aware of what they need from each other to feel sufficiently safe in order to talk and progress. So as with others teams before, instead of ‘going through the motions’ the conversation moved to trust – what it meant to them, how you build it, whether it was present in their team. They were striking at the nub of what often causes teams to flounder – a lack of trust.

So what is trust? How can one be trustworthy in a leadership team?

Although studied quite a bit by academics, the literature can appear fractured on what trust is, how it can be built and how it can contribute to sustainable performance. Yet there are common threads that are useful to us, and some clear messages on how to be trustworthy as a member of a team.

What is trust?

I would define trust as a belief, present in a relationship, that another is:

  • Dependable – that they will keep promises
  • Competent – that they have the skill and experience required
  • Discrete – that they will not betray confidences
  • Caring – that they genuinely care for you and your interests

An example: My recent visit to Accident & Emergency (A&E)

I was recently treated by a doctor for a broken nose, which I sustained in a Tae Kwon Do sparring session. Let’s look at the doctor who treated me, and how she built trust with me, which enabled her to do her job.

  • Dependability: I arrive in A&E (or the ER if reading this in the US) with the broken nose. I am seen by the doctor. The break means that I need specialist attention, and the doctor says that she will need to check on a consultant’s availability to perform a procedure. She returns five minutes later with details of where to go and who to ask for. She has won on dependability – not only was she a doctor in A&E who could diagnose the condition, and not only did she return, but she came back with specific instructions as she said she would.
  • Competence: The doctor displays medical competence: she diagnoses my condition quickly by herself and importantly says that she was unable to perform the important procedure but that it was necessary; she also says ‘you need it done within the next few hours’. I do not yet trust her to perform quadruple bypass surgery on me, but I absolutely trust her judgment on my nose.
  • Discretion: As she works, she asks about my family, my interest in sparring, about my work as a psychologist and why I like it. In turn, I ask similar questions of her. The more I share, the more I feel comfortable with her prodding and talking. I share because she asks questions in a way that makes me feel I have choice in what I share. I feel confident that she will not gossip. The initial gap between us begins to close and as a result, she can work; and I can get my diagnosis.
  • Care: By her actions, she shows she genuinely does care – beyond just doing her job, and despite the pressures in such an environment.

How might you build trust in a team, therefore?

From the example above, here are some ideas:


  • Describe in a clear way what you will do and when you will do it by.
  • Be clear about what you will not do – this may be more difficult but just as important.
  • Be realistic and ensure you can and do deliver – this displays beyond doubt that you can be trusted.


  • Share the skills and experiences you can bring, and be honest about tasks you know or sense are beyond you at that time.
  • Ask for help if you get stuck, even if you have made a commitment to deliver alone. This shows you care about the outcome, but also that you can be a bit vulnerable; this disclosure encourages others to do the same.


  • Share a little about yourself that displays what and who you care about.
  • Think about the purpose you have in your work, what is important to you about what you do. This uncovers your values and intentions.
  • Share with your team members, what you see as your role in the team and why it is important to you.
  • Avoid gossip or being roped into disclosing information shared in confidence.

Care for your team colleagues

  • Proactively offer your support to your colleagues – and not just when you need something directly in return. This carries with it an intrinsic reward – it will make you feel better and others will appreciate it.

A final word

Trust is something that is built over time, so patience is required if you are really keen on building lasting trust. Take the care that is needed and your team will flourish.

References and a quote from the journal article:

Dirks, K.T. (1999) The effects of interpersonal trust on workgroup performance. Journal of Applied Psychology. 84. 3. 445-455. “Most operational definitions examine trust as a belief about whether a partner is dependable (e.g., McAllister, 1995), cares for your interests (e.g., Cook & Wall, 1980), is competent (e.g., Mishra, 1993), and/or will act with integrity (e.g., Robinson, 1996)”

Where is the Psychology in Coaching? Part 1


I recently took part in a panel discussion at Kingston Business School, Surrey‘ as part of their ‘Engaging with the Profession; Evening Coaching Conference Series’ at Kingston University. An enjoyable evening, it allowed me to ‘understand what I think’ as I extemporized in public. My colleague Lauren Hogg has written thoughts about the discussion which we shall post shortly, but in the meantime… is my prepared opening 3 minute ‘introduction of myself and my position on the question ‘where is the psychology in coaching?’

“Good evening. I am David Webster. I run a coaching psychology practice called Centre for Teams. Our purpose is to help client create a sea change in sustainable team performance, engagement and wellbeing. We do that using a good understanding of coaching, and of the psychology of people at work and increasingly draw upon coaching psychology as a field of inquiry.

Where is the psychology in coaching?

It’s like oxygen in the air…my initial reaction to the question is that ‘psychology’ is everywhere in coaching. That is to say everything the coach does or could do has its basis in some form of psychological theory. It’s rather like asking ‘where is the oxygen in the air?’ it is everywhere – whether you notice it or not. By implication, as coaches, we need to discover how to use it well; what works and what doesn’t; how we can continually refine our ability to help.

And now a more personal reponse: I was a coach and then a trainer of coaches in the mid 1990s and what I was doing seemed to be working well. The basic idea that supporting leaders to learn and perform to their best by the creation of a coaching relationship and use of robust coaching skill was attractive to me and worked for clients. It also worked for them when they used the same principles and skills with their clients – improved relationship, better decision-making, quicker problem solving, more staff engagement…I drew upon ideas colleagues and luminaries Myles Downey, John Whitmore, Judith Firman (former psychotherapist), Tim Gallwey (the inner game) and read voraciously – one example was Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, which I still think is one of the greatest popular psychology books ever written – and mainly because it tells us something about the human condition, not just how to be happy.

Yet that was not enough. I needed to understand more about the body of knowledge from which we as coaches were drawing – why some things worked and others didn’t, how we could improve them, how we could measure or impact more clearly. So I started studying, and many years later I became an occupational psychologist. And I am still studying, still learning, still trying to make connections between the art and the science, what we know and how it is applied, what client need and how we can support them.

So I knew that goals were important for example but now know why they are important, and how to help leaders and teams create meaningful goals that they have a better chance of reaching. (Locke & Latham’ Goal Setting Theory)

I knew that confidence is important but how does it work in a team? What happens when you don’t have it? How might a team go about building its confidence? (Bandura’s Social Learning Theory; Social Identity Theory – Tajfel & Turner).

And I knew that the coaching relationship is important but how de we create one that was high functioning? So I looked at Jung and Freud and Rogers, Lewin, Egan, Heron…

And many other strands of research on trust, learning, systems theory, leadership, change, happiness, wellbeing…and I continue to understand more – the Everest film recently released where a number of climbers died on the 1996 expeditions has huge implications for small team leadership and team learning – and I would be unaware of that if I had not been researching team for my MSc. and come across the case study in the Human Relations Journal.

Coaching Psychology’s lead role. I think the profession of coaching psychology is in a similar spot now. Coaching is mainstream. Everybody coaches. Some learn it in a weekend, for others it is an on going development of a craft. And the need therefore for a body of knowledge to feed us all as craftsmen and women is great. Clients demand it and we, as coaches need it. And I think coaching psychologists can take a lead role in engaging in the on going inquiry of what works and why.

Above all, do no harm? I had a great friend and colleague who used to say to those he trained ‘don’t mess about in their psychology’. It was his version of ‘above all do no harm’, a critical watchword for us all. But actually, we all need to be aware that we are all students of psychology – we are all interested in the science and the art of the human mind, so lets be good students and seek out what works and keep on improving our ability to help clients create sustainable performance and stay well while they are doing it.

You can watch the video of the event here.