Jun 15, 2023

The six skills categories for effective group coaching

An African proverb says that “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” While we tend to focus our younger years on becoming independent, the wisdom of age tells us that we can achieve more with others. Similarly, effective group coaching can kickstart organizational change.

The transformative power of group coaching

With today’s complexity and uncertainty, personal and professional development is at the top of everyone’s mind. On the one hand, businesses are trying to stay ahead of the competition. On the other, people expect more from their lives and want to feel content and fulfilled. 

Many people are reaching out to individual coaches to get guidance and clarity for managing life’s problems. Moreover, multiple studies show the effectiveness of such interactions, as summarized in this Forbes article on how coaching helps leaders. Nevertheless, there are many ways to get a coaching experience, including within a group. 

As we explained in our previous blog on group coaching versus one-on-one coaching, the benefits of working with small groups are slightly different. In essence, the learning process shifts from the coach-to-coachee relationship to one with peers. 

The experience of exploring soft skills and behaviors with peers is both humbling and empowering. This is because people can be vulnerable together which also allows them to normalize their experience. The simple act of witnessing that everyone is struggling in some way motivates coachees such that nothing is insurmountable.

Effective group coaching is a balance between leveraging the collective wisdom of the group and the coach’s skills. For true transformation, the non-negotiable coaching skills are empathy, active listening and rapport building. Although, group coaching skills need to include a few more fundamental traits to maximize the outputs of a group coaching program. 

Fundamental traits of top group coaches

As you can imagine, coaches can only achieve an effective group dynamic if everyone feels heard and valued. So, they have to ensure no one takes over by being too verbose. A useful technique many coaches use is the bottom-lining approach, as international coach and group expert Jennifer Britton explains in her book Effective Group Coaching.  

In short, bottom-lining is the process of focusing on the core of a message rather than the story. This structures participants to avoid getting lost in their narratives. 

Other critical traits to maximize group success are for coaches to have an understanding of how groups and adults learn as well as how to apply experiential education. On top of that, group facilitation skills are key to ensuring effective group coaching. 

With those traits, the best coaches can get the most out of these 6 skills categories for businesses:

1. Leadership growth: All coaching starts with raising awareness through self-reflection but effective group coaching can also leverage peer interaction. For example, role-play can encourage participants to explore how leadership archetypes impact group dynamics and overall success. 

As this HBR article on the eight archetypes of leadership demonstrates, leadership growth is a combination of life experiences, the inner world and exposure to role models. A group coach can help surface all this for leaders to be in control of their impact on others. 

2. Psychological safety: Naturally, all group members need to feel empowered to talk and share thoughts and ideas for any form of skill-building to happen. Coaches create such an environment by ensuring everyone is heard equally and by making sure all comments are welcome. In some cases, a group coach might recommend specific 1 on 1 language coaching to close any major gaps. 

3. Effective team building: The great advantage of group coaching is that people have a safe place in which to practice collaboration and communication skills. Role-playing real scenarios is particularly useful and so is sharing ideas to overcome team tensions. Most importantly, group coaching provides multiple viewpoints from which to explore team dynamics. 

4. Managing group dynamics: One of the major core skills that group discussion often focuses on is conflict resolution. A coach might start by facilitating a discussion about what barriers everyone faces when it comes to dealing with conflict. 

As we further detailed in a previous blog on difficult conversations, managing these means also understanding our perspectives, beliefs and values. From there, people are in a better position to use conflict as a positive way to co-create more innovative solutions. 

5. Cross-functional networking: Effective group coaching naturally brings people together from across the organization. The process in itself supports diversity and inclusion because everyone gets to know each other beyond the normal confines of work interactions. Moreover, healthy peer pressure boosts motivation all around for participants to aim for their stretched personal goals.

6. Engaging teams at the systemic level: Even after the coaching program is finished, the connection remains and people have strong support networks to refer back to. On one level, this supports their resilience because they have people around them to go to for emotional support. On another level, they feel more included in the organization and with greater emotional connectivity.

What does the group coaching model look like?

Effective group coaching is about building common ground with goals that everyone can relate to. Naturally, there will be different personality styles but group coaching techniques ensure that everyone can come together such that there’s both accountability and trust-building. 

In terms of process, the coaching profession teaches coaches to apply goal-setting and action-planning tools. When it comes to the practice of working with a group, coaches apply their unique styles and leverage a range of different models in order to introduce various exercises, simulations, role-play and more experiential moments. 

In our blog on what to expect in group coaching activities, we detailed examples of such exercises. 

For example, a coaching group might explore the principles of Flow, according to Positive Psychology. They might also review what their shadow part looks like, as inspired by Carl Jung in the Humanist movement. Another example from Carl Rogers, also a humanistic psychologist, would be to draw pictures of their ideal versus real self. Coachees would then reflect back with the group on what that means for their leadership style. 

The coaching profession teaches many models to coaches so a group might experience a variety of models. Where coaching circles perhaps stand out is that there is a common process. Overall, there will be pre-planning 1 on 1 session, a set number of group sessions with a plan and finally, feedback check-ins and evaluation at the end. 

Most importantly, effective group coaching provides people with a new support group where they can continue to bounce ideas after group coaching ends. This is also a powerful support network for people back in the office. Essentially, peer-led reflection can continue for the long-term making group coaching a long-lasting experience. 

In more detail, an effective group coaching process involves:

  • Individual kick-off sessions: Most group coaching programs start with 1-on-1s so that the coach has a better understanding of each person’s goals and roadblocks. With that knowledge, they can better guide the various personalities.
  • Group sessions: As mentioned, there is a multitude of exercises that coaches can use to honor everyone’s learning style, including auditory, visual and kinesthetic, among others. In addition, case studies can be highly valuable to spark new ideas. The number and frequency of these sessions are usually agreed on and scheduled upfront.
  • Individual feedback sessions: It’s important for group coaches to have individual check-ins with participants to ensure effective group coaching. This is partly to give everyone a chance to provide feedback and evaluation but it’s also to ensure outcomes and learnings are being implemented. For some people, this is also an opportunity to explore if they need leadership coaching for extra help and support.
  • Program deliverable: Every group coaching session will have a mini-goal that supports the overall group goals. Those goals need to be tracked, measured and evaluated throughout both for the sake of the individuals and the business. Moreover, certain group coaching platforms give you both group and individual insights. Last but not least, every coach will also tell you the importance of the final step of celebrations and recognition. That’s how we all stay motivated to keep building on success. 

Effective group coaching to amplify 6 core business skills

Both corporate and public group coaching can transform people. Either they want to be more effective leaders at work or in better control of their personal lives. In short, we can all be leaders in our sphere of influence and effective group coaching lets everyone up their game. And one of the greatest group coaching tips we can give you is to trust the wisdom of the process. 

At the organizational level, the 6 skills to work on with group coaching are leadership growth, psychological safety, team building, conflict management, cross-functional networking and employee engagement. With these, you’ll enhance your business culture but most importantly, you’ll empower your people to take the business to the next level. 

Or, as American author and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar would say, “you don’t build a business, you build people, then people build the business.”


Coaching, Leadership, Skills-Based Coaching

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