Effective Group Coaching

By Jim LaDoux
"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.


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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Shannon Guse - April 22nd, 2023 at 1:26pm

As of today, I have only coached cohorts with a specific focus. After they sign up to participate, I ask them to share their ministry context and what they hope to gain from being a part of this cohort. This occurs before our first meeting. I also use this as a strategy for introducing themselves to see and hear what they have in common. Often this guides the conversation into next steps.

In our first meeting, we also discuss our shared values or covenant and ask what it is we need from this time and one another to feel safe and as if we can share openly with one another.

The first session often determines the next several sessions. We brainstorm barriers to achieving our goals and what it would feel like to reach our goals or when we have experienced success. Tapping into their experience and knowledge, we pinpoint areas of focus for the next several sessions.

At the end of each session, we identify collective and individual goals and report back at the beginning of the next session. This allows the coach to see if the time was effective. Part of our "homework" in the first few meetings is to share resources. This knowledge sharing is an important time for the cohort to learn from one another and affirms that all members of the cohort are experts.

After each session, I take notes on who talked, who was more quiet, and why. This allows me to prepare for the next session and work creatively to get the quiet members to engage in the process and vision sharing that we do together.

Julie Gvillo - April 24th, 2023 at 11:47pm

This h helpful, Shannon. Thank you! I took notes. 😊 I particularly like the question you ask at the beginning about what is needed from the time together and from one another to feel safe. Thank you for sharing that!

Julie Gvillo - April 24th, 2023 at 11:46pm

How do you tap into the wisdom, expertise, and insights from the group?

I have found that asking questions about past or present successes ignites a spark of energy and offers opportunities not only to tap into the wisdom, insights, and experience of the group, but also sets the stage for future success by building confidence.

When and how do you discuss group norms and ensure buy in from participants?

I discuss group norms and expectations and ask for agreement fully at the first session and then review and ask if we can still commit to the covenant briefly at each follow up session. The norms and expectations are on slides people can read.

What lenses do you use to evaluate a session and improve the next one?

I try to look at each session through the lenses of each participant and from my own point of view as coach following each session.

How do people's learning styles shape your group coaching conversations?

Learning styles are such an important consideration so that people find entry points. I’m always thinking not only about the audio/visual/kinesthetic learning styles but also the Howard Gardner multiple intelligences in order to draw everyone in to a learning opportunity.

In what ways can you help group members savor the process as well as the outcomes?

Pausing to reflect on the journey, how it changes us whether or not we achieve the goals, and how those changes impact the world around us is a great way to help group meme era savor the coaching process. These conversations can be short and part of the weekly introductory check-in.

What does good group facilitation look like?

Like an orchestra director drawing in the various parts, cutting them off cleanly and harmoniously when it’s time, managing the rhythm and tempo, and balancing the whole with the parts. 😉

What skills do you need to improve?

I need a firmer grasp of the variety of questions to ask and practice using them appropriately. I want to improve on AI and QT particularly. I also need to dust off my “baton” in order to direct more efficiently. 😊

D Matty - April 25th, 2023 at 7:43pm

- How do you tap into the wisdom, expertise, and insights from the group?

- Meeting with team members individually ahead of time and asking questions, looking for threads and themes. Asking key questions in the first meeting.

- When and how do you discuss group norms and ensure buy-in from participants?

- In the individual meetings, asking what the individuals are looking to get out of the group coaching, and by setting norms and guidelines in the first meeting, reiterating those norms from time to time in subsequent sessions.

- What lenses do you use to evaluate a session and improve the next one?

- Individual and group participation, the energy in the room. For example, I'd rather have to interrupt good conversation than prod people for interaction.

- How do people's learning styles shape your group coaching conversations?

- It's helpful to understand personality types and learning styles and to, as the author suggests, mix it up with different cooperative learning and interactive exercises.

- In what ways can you help group members savor the process as well as the outcomes?

- I'm a fan of the debrief—having people reflect and restate, in writing or speaking, what they've experienced in the session.

- What does good group facilitation look like? What skills do you need to improve?

- Remaining neutral and positive no matter what comes out of people; the artful skill of intentional curiosity.

Becky D'Angelo-Veitch - May 2nd, 2023 at 4:43pm

The most interesting questions for me were these two:

What lenses do you use to evaluate a session and improve the next one?

This is one I am constantly seeking to get better at doing. I use PowerPoint to keep myself on track when I coach, even if I don't show all the slides (and often I don't). So for me, I usually try to duplicate my slides from the session as a template for the next session immediately after our meeting. I keep things we haven't gotten to, adapt the homework one with reflection questions, and make note of the different topics that came up so I don't miss anything. IN my closing check-in question, "are we still going in the right direction?", I can hear feedback and try to hit areas where people seem to have interest or curiosity on during an upcoming session.

How do people's learning styles shape your group coaching conversations?

A simple way is through the mediums I use for homework. In a recent cohort, a participant specifically requested variety of platforms, so we used an article, a podcast and a youtube video as different homework options.

In addition, I am really thinking about client intake and how to make that useful. I right now link to a vibrant faith pdf, but I don't love that one--the idea of a pdf is not really user friendly, so a goal I have in the next week or so is to work on a google doc with some of those questions above on it,

Kim - May 3rd, 2023 at 12:39pm

I love the power of a group to bring about transformation. Clients benefit from the powerful questions asked by the coach, the insights and stories shared by other clients. Even more so than individual coaching, setting group norms and having clear expectations can make or break a group. You want honesty, full participation, shared time, and openness from the group members. You want to address and eliminate (if possible) power dynamics so all members feel comfortable sharing. A brief pre-conversation with each member and intake form can really help to make sure the coach is aware of specific wants and needs, as well as any potential red flags. This pre-work can also help the quiet, reserved members who might need more time to reflect on the upcoming group work. The coach can offer encouragement and develop a system for how best to make sure their voices is heard - using chat, asking everyone to share one word, polls, having written questions. Group coaching is not the right choice for every person and every situation, but when done well, I think it gives you the best bang for you buck!

Tony Myles - May 4th, 2023 at 2:21am

As I've coached groups, I try to make sure...

- Everyone is able to share their role and experience. I believe everyone, regardless of position, has something to say to someone else, regardless of position.

- I do this by asking people to celebrate what they admire in one another. In this way the wisdom is recognized by the participants.

- I find it helpful on the front end and back end to discuss group norms so everyone can get the result they need.

- The lenses come from the group as a whole, I do believe in asking this collectively, but also individually.

- I am actually working with someone who is dyslexic and feels "stupid." I hear that phrase often and am not too crazy about it, and yet it's his language. So I step into that with him and then walk out of it with baby steps.

- I like metaphors, and cooking is a good one. Most people know the difference between cooking food in a microwave versus marinating it. We step into that concept together and don't rush through things.

- I feel like I facilitate group conversations well, but where I get stuck is when emotions heat up and people become combative.

Melonee Tubb - May 12th, 2023 at 3:15pm

How do you tap into the wisdom, expertise, and insights from the group?

-One important thing I've found is to make sure to leave space for people with different learning and communication styles. Giving time for introverts to think and process a question before group processing starts can make a huge difference in their ability to participate. Also break out groups that give time for one on one processing can help as well.

When and how do you discuss group norms and ensure buy in from participants?

--The first session for setting group norms and then revisiting it every meeting.

What lenses do you use to evaluate a session and improve the next one?

--Participation is one... was everyone invited and given space to engage in a way that worked for them? I also use simple very short post meeting surveys.

What does good group facilitation look like? What skills do you need to improve?

--Good group facilitation looks easy. There is a trust that the space is being held with respect and there are clearly defined roles. There is laughter and people are able to show up with their full selves. I need to improve on planning and thinking ahead.

Nicole - May 16th, 2023 at 4:27pm

Discussing norms needs to happen twice in my opinion -- once with the leader or team who is bringing in the coach so that they understand the setup and expectations from the beginning, and then with the entire team at the first meeting so that we can build and agree to a covenant that we will all adhere to for the duration of the relationship.

charity - June 20th, 2023 at 9:54pm

I haven't had the chance to coach a team yet. But I liked how Felix hears from each person on the team individually to know where they are and get a sense of where the team is.

Madeline Madeline Alvarez - August 8th, 2023 at 11:27am

I haven’t had the chance to coach a group yet. From Felix’s presentation I clearly recall he said we are to treat the group as individual. It is important to listen to all opinions and try to see through other people's eyes.