What is the One Best Model of Group Coaching?

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    Group and team coaching are fast becoming a major approach in helping more organizations and individuals to benefit from the power of coaching. There are numerous benefits, including that it can spread core coaching more quickly, be less expensive than one-on-one coaching, provide more diverse perspectives in coaching, and share support and accountabilities to get things done and learn at the same time.

    However, there remain several misunderstandings about group coaching, the most common of which is that there is one way to do it, for example, that there should always be a certain number of members, they should always meet at a certain time, coaching always has to be done a certain way, and certain roles always have to be followed a certain way.

    No, there isn’t one specific design or model that is always best. The design depends on the desired outcomes for the organization that is implementing a group coaching program. Hopefully, the organization has verified that the desired outcomes will indeed benefit the organization. If, instead, the group coaching program is being organized by a coach, e.g., to further help her clients, then the design depends on the desired outcomes that the coach believes will further benefit her clients.

    There are at least 10 different outcomes from group coaching programs and each suggests a slightly different design. Progressive organizations and coaches might recognize that the best desired outcomes for each group member will emerge during the unfolding and supportive nature of the coaching within the group. Thus, outcomes can change.

    Whether for an organization or an individual coach, the considerations for success of the coaching in a group happen well before the members get together, e.g., what are the desired outcomes, how will outcomes be measured and evaluated, what cultural considerations are needed, how will the program be marketed, what technologies and facilities will be needed, how will the coaching be done, what kind of members should be in the group, how will they be trained on their roles, how will members’ learning be captured, etc.?

    If all of the members will be working on the same project (an intact team format of group coaching), then that type has special considerations, e.g., how can members be supported to be most open and honest with each other, what is the role of the project manager with the group, how will confidentially be maintained, etc.?

    Also, with an intact team, there are certain design factors that precede the coaching in the groups, too. For example, what is the purpose of the team, what are its deliverables and any deadlines, who does the team report to and how will that person understand the role of team coaching, does the team have sufficient resources to do its job, what has been the team’s performance in the past, etc.?

    A good coaching program should be able to accommodate more than one model of coaching. The design should follow from the organization’s and coach’s desired outcomes, not the other way around. A good program design should never insist on one particular way of doing things. It should adapt from the learning as the program is being implemented.

    While all of this might seem intimidating, it doesn’t have to be. Many organizational personnel and coaches have already designed some aspects of programs, e.g., a weight-loss program, training program or one-on-one coaching program.

    We have designed very successful group/team coaching programs around the world since 1995 and witnessed the thrill of watching people realize their own wisdom, of watching people count on each other to accomplish significant break-throughs in their lives. There are few experiences like that.

    For more information, see What is Group Coaching? Part 1 of 2.

    To add group/team coaching to your toolbox, see the virtual workshop Facilitating and Developing Group Coaching Programs.

    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Action Learning Source.