The COVID pandemic has created a whole new world of working from home. Many people have had to adapt to being at home with partners and/or children around much more than they’re used to. And importantly, COVID has put many people out of work or reduced their hours, stretching the financial resources of many families.
In short, it’s been a stressful time for all as we adapt to new environments and restrictions in both our movements – and finances. People are looking for affordable support.
So, many coaches are turning their attention to expanding the coaching conversation beyond one person to coaching groups.
And while working with a group can have powerful benefits in terms of collective energy and different viewpoints—it also presents its own challenges.
So, what should you keep in mind as you create or design your first group coaching program?
In “From One to Many: Best Practices for Team and Group Coaching,” I share 12 best practices for group and team coaching. This article zooms into the 5 areas that resonate most with the coaches I train and mentor.
Here are 5 Best Practices to Harness the Power of Group Coaching
1. Keep it simple—the complexity is in the group
“Keep things simple” is a mantra of group—and team—coaching. The complexity is in the group. Any group will include people with different styles, different goals, different needs and different approaches. So the focus of the conversation should be on the people in front of you.
Groups will move through different stages of their own development, needing things at different times. With this in mind, it’s even more important to keep things simple and remember that less is more in your design and questions. This gives you plenty of time to hear from everyone, explore things in different ways and expand the learning.
Questions to consider:
- What does “Keep it simple” mean for you?
- What do you notice in your groups in terms of synergies, distinctions, connections, complexity?
- What does the group notice?
2. Bookend each session
Like bookends, the coaching conversation with groups usually starts off with an opener and check-in, and wraps up with a reflection, commitment and closeout.
The check-in provides an opportunity for people to reconnect, share, get grounded and focus. It also gives an opportunity to pause and reflect on their own accomplishments, something many clients won’t take the time to do on their own.
Questions to consider at the start:
- What successes have you had since we last met?
- What new awareness and insights have you had around your focus and/or goals?
- What do you want to focus on today?
- What will make this a valuable use of your time?
- What do you want to leave this call with? (or another variation of “What will success look like for you?”)
The wrap-up at the end of the session (often the last 10 minutes) provides an opportunity for people to reflect on their learning, identify commitments and define next steps. It also lets you identify a possible focus for the next conversations and get feedback on what people found valuable and impactful.
Questions to consider at the end:
- What was your biggest learning today?
- What became clear for you?
- What are your next steps?
- What did you find valuable in our conversation today?
3. Modularize your programming
Modules are a way to build programming in discrete packets. A module might focus on vision, values or strengths. Modules are often only 30 or 60 minutes in length, so a half-day program may consist of three or four modules. And like building bricks, modules can be recombined and reconfigured for different groups, ultimately creating entirely new programs.
As a coach you will likely have developed a selection of tools, questions and processes to draw from with core topics your clients want coaching around.
Consider a topic like VISION or STRENGTHS. What are the tools, questions and practices you explore when you look at those areas? Laying these out as different options can help you quickly prepare for the possibilities of where a conversation may take you.
Question to consider:
- What are the modules you already have?
- How can they be combined to create a new program?
- What modules shape your program?
4. Vary your approaches
Group and team coaching is a dynamic series of conversations. There’s no one roadmap or approach that will work for every group.
One of the many things that keeps our work fresh is being able to adjust the types of conversations we have. Over time you’ll notice your own preferences as a coach, and those of your clients.
Coaching conversations with groups may include:
- Larger group discussion
- Paired conversation
- Breakouts with 3 or 4 others where people can share their insights and ideas at a deeper level
- Integrating body-centred coaching, geography and somatic approaches
- Using annotation tools to poll people for their ideas
We explore most of these different approaches in the Group Coaching Essentials program.
Questions to consider:
- What do your group members value?
- What approaches will help people deepen their awareness around the issues they are exploring?
- What approaches will help people accelerate their action around the topics of focus?
- What do you want to create the space for?
5. Less is more
There’s a lot to fit into any group conversation. The number one best practice I hear from coaches is “Less is more.”
Coaching is about the conversation. It’s not about being a firehose of information or bombarding participants with questions.
So how can you distill everything down to the core elements to ensure a great conversation?
Questions to consider:
- What does “Less is more” mean to you in terms of design?
- What will you focus on?
- What framework could you use?
- What elements could be removed and set aside to provide more time for the conversation?
So, if you’re considering creating a group coaching program, these are the 5 key areas to remember:
- Keep it simple—remembering that the complexity is (and belongs to) the group and its members
- Bookend each session—for connection, focus and reflection
- Modularize your programming—for ease and flexibility
- Vary your approaches—to maintain interest and maximise positive outcomes
- Less is more—less information leaves more room for connection and transformation
Your homework question to consider:
- In light of these practices, how might you rethink your group work or any group work you are planning?
Contributing author: Jennifer Britton’s book Effective Group Coaching was the first book in the world to be published on the topic of group coaching. It is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and has been adopted as required or recommended reading by coach training schools all over the world. In 2006, Jennifer launched her evergreen coach training program, Group Coaching Essentials, which is still offered on a monthly basis. Focused on providing coaches with best practices in designing, marketing and implementing group coaching, the program has helped hundreds of coaches launch their own group and team coaching programs in a wide variety of settings. It’s approved for 8.75 CCEs with the ICF. Learn more at https://www.GroupCoachingEssentials.ca.
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