Group Coaching: How It Works and What It Can Do

Sections of this topic

    (In this Part 1 of 2, we will describe group coaching. In Part 2, we will describe some basic considerations for developing a group coaching application.)

    Group coaching is used much more often now because it often can achieve more impact, more quickly and at a lower cost. Group coaching leverages the untapped wisdom, support, and networking among clients, employees, and peers. But what do we mean by “group coaching”?

    First, What is Coaching?

    The International Coach Federation has a definition for personal and professional coaching that is widely accepted:

    “… coaching is partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential, which is particularly important in today’s uncertain and complex environment. Coaches honor the client as the expert in his or her life and work and believe every client is creative, resourceful, and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach’s responsibility is to:

    • Discover, clarify, and align with what the client wants to achieve
    • Encourage client self-discovery
    • Elicit client-generated solutions and strategies
    • Hold the client responsible and accountable

    This process helps clients dramatically improve their outlook on work and life while improving their leadership skills and unlocking their potential.”

    So What is Group Coaching?

    Simply put, group coaching is coaching in a group. However, there are many different formats for how that can be done. You could have one, some, or all of the members of the group do the coaching to one, some, or all of the group members. For example, a professional coach might coach each of the members of the group or the group members might coach each other.

    Coaching could be done in one or several group meetings. It can also be done face-to-face or by means of telecommunications, for example, over the phone or the Internet. Groups can be “externally” facilitated, that is, by someone who does not do the coaching or who does not get coached. In contrast, groups can self-facilitate, where one, some, or all of the members are responsible for the facilitation.

    Some people distinguish between group coaching and team coaching. They might define a team to be a group of people whose members all have the same purpose and goals, and work together in the same organization.

    Powerful Applications for Group Coaching

    Group coaching is very popular because it can be used for a wide variety of results and applications. Here are some of the most popular:

    Problem-solving among members

    Coaching is great for solving complex problems because it guides and supports group members to closely clarify the problems, identify powerful strategies to solve them, and specify relevant and realistic actions to implement those strategies. Members can share support and accountabilities to take those actions.

    Guarantee transfer of training

    That same support and accountabilities can be used to ensure that group members actually apply the content that they got from some form of training, for example, from lectures, book studies, and podcasts.

    Team building

    The close engagement among members and their strong focus on helping each other can quickly form a close and confidential bond in which members come to rely on each other to achieve the goal of the team.

    Deep networking

    Because members completely count on each other, they feel free to share more than business cards – they share their needs, open and honest feedback, and useful and practical resources with each other.

    Quickly spreading, low-cost core coaching skills

    Coaching has been proven to be a powerful means to cultivate change in people. Organizational change, including cultural change, requires change in people as well. In some formats of group coaching, the members not only get coached, but they practice coaching. The groups can be low-cost because the members do much of the work in the groups.

    Engagement of all employees

    We are learning that, unless a change effort has the complete buy-in, participation, and commitment of employees, then the change effort is not likely to be successful. That engagement has to start with the employees being authentic – open, honest, and direct about what they are experiencing. They need to feel listened to — and respected. That can occur in these groups.

    Support and renewal groups

    Research shows increasing burnout and cynicism among employees. Burnout is not necessarily caused by a person’s workload. It can be caused by the person’s perspective on their workload. Coaching can clarify that perspective and what can be done about it

    Core Leadership Skills

    There are many skills that group members will develop, regardless of the purpose of the group. For example, they will build skills in presenting to a group, asking for and accepting help, listening, asking good questions, action planning, and learning from reflection. A good group will also cultivate authenticity, engagement, and accountability among members. All of these skills are critical to good leadership.

    (In the upcoming Part 2, we will describe some basic considerations in developing a group coaching application.)

    For more information, see All About Coaching.

    Carter McNamara, MBA, Ph.D, is a faculty member of ActionLearningSource, which specializes in customizing high-quality Action Learning and group coaching programs for a wide variety of outcomes and applications. The firm also conducts a variety of low-cost, virtual training about Action Learning and group coaching.