Effective Group Coaching

"A leader is best
When people barely know he exists,
Not so good when people obey and acclaim him
Worse when they despise him,
But of a good leader, who talks little
When his work is done, his aim fulfilled
They will all say “We did it ourselves.” 

                                                                      — Lao Tse
Group coaching is a facilitated group process that is led by a coach and formed with the intention of maximizing the combined energy, experience, and wisdom of individuals who chose to join in order to achieve organizational objectives and/or individual goals. Group coaching often requires the coach to also play the role of a trainer, and facilitator. As we discuss Jennifer Britton's book, Effective Group Coaching, you'll find our conversation broken into 3 parts:
  1. The uniqueness of group coaching skills.
  2. Marketing group coaching opportunities.
  3. Exercises for group coaching.

Group Coaching Skills

1 | Coaches design group structure and shared outcomes yet still follow the client's lead.
  • In what ways is group coaching similar to one-on-one coaching?
  • In what ways is group coaching different than one-on-one coaching?
  • What's the difference between group and team coaching?
  • How do coaches provide direction and structure while also following the groups' lead?

2 | Coaches help groups discover, clarify, and align around their shared outcomes.
  • What role do you play in establishing the group themes and outcomes?
  • How would you help people's share their desired outcomes for the group?
  • How might you tailor the group's conversations to address people's individual outcomes?

3 | Coaches create a culture of shared wisdom and mutual accountability.
  • Would you engage individuals who are not contributing to the conversations?
  • How would you engage individuals who are not progressing toward their stated outcomes?
  • How would you follow up with individuals who appear to be disengaged?
  • What might you do between sessions to spark collaborations and ongoing learning?

4 | Coaches focus on helping the group set, celebrate and learn from their goals.
  • What norms can coaches create to ensure that groups take faithful next steps?
  • What can coaches do to help groups celebrate their wins? Learn from their results?
  • What questions might a coach ask a group if progress seems slower than anticipated?

5 | Group coaching is typically limited to no more than 12 participants.
  • What do you consider to be the ideal group size?
  • What limitations would you set for the size of our group coaching sessions?
  • If you lacked "critical mass" to support group coaching, what options would you suggest?

6 | The frequency and number of group coaching sessions can vary greatly.
  • How often do your groups typically meet? How many sessions do your groups meet?
  • What factors play a role in the frequency and duration of your groups?
  • Would the length of a group coaching initiative change if the group sessions were virtual?
  • Would the length of coaching sessions change due to the need for group formation or learning?

7 | Setting norms and expectations for group sessions is essential.
  • What are the 3-5 non-negotiable norms/guidelines you might share with your groups?
  • What additional norms/guidelines would you invite group members to consider as part of a group covenant? When would you review the norms/guidelines with members of the group?

8 | Group coaching may include training and a fair amount of group facilitation.
  • If, when, and how would you impart training information with groups?
  • If you provide pre-work for groups, how do you handle those who haven't done it?
  • What types of facilitation skills are needed to support group coaching initiatives?
  • What skills do you need to enhance as a trainer?  A facilitator?

9 | Most group coaching initiatives include time for group/team formation.
  • What does a high performing group/team look like?
  • What 3 things would you do to help your groups "form" well? 
  • What would be some reasons why a group member may leave a group?

10 | Group coaches pay attention to their client's learning styles.
  • What is your preferred learning style (visual, kinesthetic, auditory)?
  • What implications does this have for your learning? For coaching a group?
  • How will you find out what people need from you to perform at their very best?
  • How will you adapt coaching/training/facilitation styles to enhance group outcomes?

11 | Develop your list of best practices for group coaching.
A few best practices highlighted in the book include:
  • Less is more. Avoid squeezing in too much content into the sessions. 
  • Adapt to people's varied learning styles. Mix up your training and facilitation approaches.
  • Assign work between sessions. This will allow more time to engage and apply the learnings.
  • Meet with participants before the start of group coaching. Learn more about who they are and what they want to takeaway from the coaching experience.
  • Leverage your content. Create content that can be used in more than one type of group coaching program.
  • Align programs with your passions. Be paid to do things you're already excited about.
  • Create evaluation feedback loops. Invest time for self-evaluation and to gather input from participants.
  • Follow up as a Value added service. Find ways to support the client beyond the group coaching experience.
"A group coach is more than a facilitator—she/he becomes the coach for both the group and the individuals. A group coach creates an environment of confidentiality and trust where group members are open to being coached. Learning and champion for interaction starts from a place of acceptance and values."
                                          —Ginger Cockerham, MCC

Marketing Group Coaching

What types of programs do you wish to deliver? Will your group sessions focus on leadership development, navigating transitions, creating a ministry road map,  becoming a better communicator, or something else?  What's the niche you're passionate about, good at, and people are interested in? How will you communicate the pros and cons of individual VS group coaching. The author highlights the following benefits of Group Coaching:
  • It is more affordable for the client and more lucrative per hour for the coach.
  • Group members receive support from the coach AND other members of the group.
  • Groups often increase motivation for forward movement
  • Groups often exhibit a bigger vision for what is possible.
  • Participants experience collegial relationships with people who have the similar goals.
  • Group coaching allows the client to see the material, hear it, speak about it, demonstrate it with others and get feedback, and be held accountable for their results.

Clients are the focus and starting point for any group coaching process. Knowing your client as well as you can will help you CreatE and deliver meaningful programs, address the themes and topics that are of greatest importance and priority for clients, offer programs at the most convenient time and in the most convenient format; and provide resources that are most helpful to your clients.  Students who go through Vibrant Faith's Coaching School are encourage to create some form of a client intake form.  Listed below are suggestions for what types of information you may wish to gather.
  • What are the key goals your clients have?
  • What are the key challenges they are facing?
  • What is their availability? During the week/weekend/or across the year?
  • What are their preferences regarding undertaking session. In person? Phone? Zoom?
  • What are their spending/budgeting patterns (when do they have funds for coaching)?
  • What do they read, view, or listen to?
  • What other types of learning, personal, or professional development are they involved in?
  • What are some of their personal and professional goals?
  • Where do they currently feel stuck, stalled, for frustrated by?
  • What they want to be different in their life 1-3 years from now?

Take 90 minutes to write a 1-2 paragraph description of your product that describes the coaching process, the desired outcomes, when sessions would begin, how long they'd last, and how the client would benefit from their participation. Set prices for your services, and then outline where this content will be made available (website, LinkedIn, postcard, flier, etc.). Invest another 90-minutes listing ways you to reach your target audience. Select 3 of your best options and develop a basic plan for getting the word out. Consider who else you could collaborate with or who could be a co-sponsor.  

Group Coaching Exercises

Group coaching exercises provide a framework for clients to explore major themes and topics, deepen their learning, make connections with what they already know, and reflect on their experiences, knowledge, and feelings. When creating exercises for a group, ask yourself: 
  • What is the theme you are currently working around?
  • What stage of development is the group in (form, norm, storm, perform)?
  •  What does the group need at this stage?
  •  What is the message/learning you want to create as a result of the exercise?
  • How will this exercise support different learning styles?
  • What risks are associated with this exercise?
  • When would this exercise be most suited in terms of placement—i.e., icebreaker, closure, etc.
  • What types of debriefing questions should follow or be part of this exercise?

A few exercises I've found helpful when coaching groups, particularly in a retreat setting that are mentioned in this book include:
  • Replace: This involves taking a situation and replacing certain elements of the situation such as replacing who the leader is, where the situation occurs, what language is used to describe a problem or opportunity, an approach that's different that what's currently being used, etc.
  • Metaphors: You may ask group members to come up with a metaphor describing what it is like to be in the group, share a word/image that describes what being "stressed out" looks like, or a weather metaphor suggesting what their current business climate looks like.

Book Discussion Questions

Questions addressed (but not limited to) during the online book discussion, include:
  • How do you tap into the wisdom, expertise, and insights from the group?
  • When and how do you discuss group norms and ensure buy in from participants?
  • What lenses do you use to evaluate a session and improve the next one?
  • How do people's learning styles shape your group coaching conversations?
  • In what ways can you help group members savor the process as well as the outcomes?
  • What does good group facilitation look like? What skills do you need to improve?
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