The world is a sideways, chaotic place with a leadership deficit. However, it is also an inspiring bastion of change and positive development, with exemplars of leadership to look toward. Both statements are true, depending on your perspective. You can very well paint a picture in your mind’s eye of one or the other, but within each, there is space for common ground.
The reality is that the world, corporate and otherwise, is increasingly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. Individuals are uncertain about the “right” things to say and do in this challenging world. How can we bridge differences; create space for belonging, connection, and understanding; and foster collective action over individualistic drive? And most importantly, how can coaching, specifically group coaching, be the catalyst for all the former?
With more than 15 years’ experience of delivering group coaching programs to thousands of leaders across a wide range of industries, I know that group coaching can be a differentiator in creating safe spaces for all, from leaders to line managers. My organization’s systems and best practices, while often used for leadership coaching, can be applied to group coaching programs in any coaching field.
As coaches, we understand the benefits of coaching — the power of having someone hold space for personal insight and reflection. This can catalyze deepened individual awareness and a heightened level of accountability and intentionality more rapidly than any training program. At the same time, one-to-one coaching is also a high-touch approach and can be cost-prohibitive for organizations or individuals.
Not to discount the benefits of one-to-one coaching; if a leader needs an intense burst of support and accountability to cause a shift, then focused coaching is the way to go. But when the goal is to drive collective growth, deepen connection, build psychological safety, and scale it within a budget, then group coaching can be a game changer.
Raising the Waterline
Knowledge and experience sharing amongst peers is often overlooked and untouched, yet it is a valuable resource available at our fingertips. This is where group coaching can shine as it shifts the focus of development from something individuals do for themselves to something done together as a shared experience.
In our experience with leadership coaching, a group coaching environment accelerates individual and collective leadership development for any organization. This can hold true for any coaching field with the right coaching program structure.
5 Best Practices for Impeccable Group Coaching
We consistently apply five group coaching approaches at my organization to shift mindsets and behaviors and cause a fundamental shift toward collective leadership.
1) Ensure Common Ground AND Diversity of Perspective
We start by forming cross-functional groups from various areas within an organization, aligned by shared needs, such as learning and development, which naturally brings multiple realities and a broad range of perspectives to the table. Coaching cohorts of cross-functional groups enable us to remove learning from its silos and take a more integrated approach. Keeping the group size between five to eight participants ensures a variety of viewpoints while creating enough space for all voices to be heard.
2) Contract, Contract, Contract
It’s important to contract and re-contract around commitment and contribution. Leaders must commit to meeting every six weeks for three hours. This cadence provides leaders with time to integrate what they’ve learned but is not so frequent that it feels like a burden. The expectation that the participants will show up and contribute to the learning of the group develops positive pressure to propel the individual forward on their own goals.
3) Trust or Bust!
Continuing the theme of contracting, it is also critical to spend a significant amount of time on confidentiality. This is not a one-time conversation; it is ongoing, as group members must feel comfortable to share ideas and experiences with candor. A group coaching environment must be grounded in psychological safety. It’s impossible to fast-forward through the trust-formation stage. Take the time to actively engender vulnerability and openness amongst all group members to build the capacity for accelerated learning and deep insight.
4) Self-Awareness Through Shared Experiences
Learning and development go well beyond skills development. It’s about helping your group members to understand their motivating internal drivers and how they show up as patterns, as well as gaining perspective from others on the same topic. Group coaching discussions that connect on a personal level allow members to access a deeper level of individual insight through collective sharing and growth.
5) Include Accountability
When it comes to achieving our goals, research shows that accountability to others increases the likelihood of success. Group coaching is a profound form of positive peer pressure. Cohort members feel accountable to do the work as the expectation is set early that this is a shared learning experience. The depth of learning and insight only comes from the diverse contribution of all participants.
We strongly believe that the future is shared. As we grapple with an increasingly polarized world, group coaching creates space for belonging, insight, and learning. Coaches have a unique opportunity to facilitate safe spaces for open dialogue, understanding, and empathy while enabling individuals to progress toward their goals.
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