May 09, 2023

Group coaching versus one-on-one coaching

As one of the fastest growing industries, you might wonder how one-on-one coaching versus group coaching can help grow your business. With IPEC Coaching stating in their report that surveyed companies claim an average return of $7.90 for every dollar coached, it’s worth exploring which one is for you. 

A brief overview of coaching

Coaching is a way to empower people to become the best version of themselves. Whether this is done through 1-on-1 coaching or group coaching, the aim is to enable personal growth. In short, successful coaching allows people to see themselves and the world differently to enact the change they need for their success. As a result, businesses benefit. 

Within that, there are different types of coaching. In terms of organizational focus, you have executive or business coaching, as we described in a previous blog on business coaching vs executive coaching. In addition, you have team and group coaching as well as virtual or physical delivery. It’s worth noting that you can also get a blend of approaches that merge group coaching with individual coaching. Training can also be successfully combined with coaching to further reinforce learning.

To add to the mix, there are many other types of coaching, which could also apply to the workplace. These include career, skills, personal and more, as described in this overview of the different types by the South African College of Applied Psychology. 

Regardless of the approach of one-on-one coaching versus group coaching, there are various coaching methods or styles that a coach can also adopt. Some coaches will be goal-focused which is about defining the right action plan. Others will focus on psychology and mental well-being. These coaches will use techniques such as humanist, adult developmental, cognitive or positive psychology as detailed in this article on the 7 types of coaching in the workplace

Comparing the benefits of one-on-one coaching vs. group coaching

Your first decision is whether to choose one-on-one coaching vs. group coaching. With the former, each team member experiences a tailored approach within the context of the business. On the other hand, the benefits of group coaching are that group members co-learn with their peers. This in turn expands their self-reflection and improves their communication and relationship-building. In summary, the following lists the key differences.

  • Peer exploration versus coach relationship. A group of people reflecting together, with the right coaching guidance, blend their energy and experience. They are then able to generate new beliefs and ideas within the organization. In contrast, individual coaching relies on the relationship with the coach. Although, coaches are of course trained to create the right learning conditions.  
  • Collective wisdom versus individual needs. The power of a group session comes from bringing people together in joint discovery. Through peer reflection, we are energized toward a greater goal. On the flip side, with individual coaching, coachees can focus solely on their agenda and maximize their coaching time.  
  • Group vulnerability versus deeper “closed-door” openness. A group coaching program encourages people to be vulnerable together. A different kind of vulnerability is required in a closed-door one-on-one session but generally, coachees open up more deeply. Such a level would not be appropriate in group settings and can particularly help those who are stuck somewhere. 

One-on-one coaching vs. group coaching for businesses

One of the major advantages of group coaching sessions is that members feel heard. Furthermore, their issues are normalized, making them feel less insurmountable. As we explained in our article on group coaching activities, a group setting also provides people with the opportunity to expand their collaborative and listening skills. 

Nevertheless, effective one-on-one coaching sessions provide coachees with a safe space in which to explore their inner thoughts and feelings. As mentioned, it’s more difficult to get to such depth with group coaching clients. Some coachees will need that depth to gain the awareness they require to change their behaviors. 

Of course, group coaching also enables a change of behavior. When structuring a group coaching session, the top leadership coaches will first connect with members individually. Once they know each person’s aspirations, they can guide the group sessions. Essentially, through group exercises group coaches ensure both the individual and the group benefit.

As you can further see in our previous blog on the top five use cases for group coaching, such an approach can improve conflict resolution, organizational effectiveness and more. In short, the difference between one-on-one coaching vs. group coaching lies in how you impact the system. Either you fix a small cog within or you improve a greater section of gears with all its moving parts.

Other improvements businesses can expect with one-on-one coaching vs. group coaching:

  • More reflective leaders versus improved team performance. Effective communication is a common skill that individual and group coaching focuses on. With the former, leaders can test new approaches safely before applying them in the workplace. Alternatively, with group coaching, leaders test and apply those skills within the safety of the group for improved team behaviors. 
  • Individual focus area versus greater organizational knowledge. A cohort model is particularly useful if you need your teams to better understand the wider context. Of course, they can still explore organizational interactions with an individual coach. Nevertheless, the group approach is more experiential whereas the other is perhaps more reflective.
  • Greater well-being versus reduced workplace conflict. Individually coached people can usually be more focused on their agenda. Overall, this can give them a greater sense of control and ease, along with increased awareness. Conversely, a membership model offers coachees a support group and a common language for when they’re back in the workplace. This work can be boosted by collaborating with a language coach for those who need further reinforcement of new language and new behaviors. 

How to choose the best coaching option for your business 

Good coaching always gets results but when it comes to choosing between one-on-one coaching and group coaching, you’ll need to understand your skills gap. If you find that your employees struggle with their accountability and execution, perhaps individual coaching is ideal.  On the flip side, group coaching might be for you if you need to focus on improving your team’s performance or organizational engagement. Often, group members come from different departments which gives members exposure to various viewpoints. This is the basis for developing empathy and mutual understanding.

Aside from one-on-one coaching versus group coaching, you also have team coaching for specific team growth. The approach is very similar to the group coaching model but there are existing relationships or a specific team skill or goal that the coach needs to manage. 

Either way, as we detailed in our blog on outsourcing leadership coaching, one of the greatest advantages of working with external coaches is that you get an industry view of how your teams are doing. Moreover, each person feels safe in the knowledge that an external provider isn’t biased by internal demands. 

In terms of choosing your provider, make sure they can show you how they measure success. It’s also critical that they can demonstrate how they choose their coaches and that those coaches are varied in terms of skills and backgrounds. 

When it comes to one-on-one coaching versus group coaching, a top provider can talk you through the benefits of each as applied to your case. You might then also want to consider online group coaching programs. Online has proven itself successful and it supports coachee’s psychological safety because they can do their sessions from the comfort of their own home.

When you review potential vendors, these questions can help you differentiate between them:

  • How do you ensure your coaches are aligned with our business goals?
  • What can one-on-one coaching versus group coaching deliver for our teams? 
  • How do you vet your coaches and what backgrounds do they have?
  • What metrics or tracking systems do you use to determine ROI? 

Optimizing coaching solutions for your business 

To develop today’s and tomorrow’s leaders, you need coaching to help them see beyond their views so they can understand what’s holding them back. Regardless of which type of coaching is provided, coaches will improve leaders’ self-awareness and many other skills. 

Choosing an external coaching provider offers you a way to benchmark your teams as well as a tried and tested approach to measuring success. Talk to your provider about how they might apply individual versus group coaching to your particular case. 

Of course, in terms of time versus money, group coaching has a slight advantage. Although, don’t forget that ROI exists for individual and group coaching. What matters is what you need. So, let the top coaching providers walk you through how they can answer those needs and close your teams’ gaps. 

Then watch as coaching ignites previously unknown potential and an inner motivation that makes great things happen.  


Career, Coaching, Company Culture, Leadership, People, Skills-Based Coaching

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